A rare 1991 BMW Z1 is set to be sold in an online auction through Car & Classic. Owned from new by a BMW dealership in La Spezia, Italy, it was sold in 2021 to its current owner who has kept this beautiful vehicle’s originality – amazingly, this includes the Z1’s original Pirelli tyres! The car has been used sparingly throughout its life and has covered just 5,800 miles.
The BMW Z1 was something of a renegade sports car during its brief production run from 1988 to 1991. In response to a growing demand for open-top sports cars, the Z1 was a highly recognisable addition to BMW’s lineup. What really set the Z1 apart was its innovative design, in particular, its futuristic vertically sliding doors. These doors, which were unlike anything seen before, not only added to the car’s eye-catching appearance but also served a practical purpose, making getting in and out easy, even in tight parking spaces.
Beneath its innovative exterior, the Z1 featured a front-mid engine layout and near-perfect 50-50 weight distribution (49/51). The revolutionary new ‘Z Axle’ technology was introduced on the Z1 and went on to be used on the E36 Three Series. Powering the Z1 is a 2.5-litre M20 straight-six engine mated to a Getrag five-speed manual gearbox, delivering 168bhp and a top speed of 140mph.
1991 BMW Z1
Far beyond being merely ‘the BMW with unconventional doors,’ this car represents a significant milestone as BMW’s first open-top sports car in decades, following the discontinuation of the 507 in 1960. Emerging from BMW’s new ‘Technik’ division, the Z1 was unveiled as a concept in 1986, initially not destined for production. However, in 1987, BMW surprised everyone by confirming its market debut, resulting in a reported 35,000 preorders! Due to its unconventional design and handcrafted construction, production of the Z1 was slow, to say the least. This, coupled with the huge popularity of Mazda’s newly introduced, mass-produced MK1 MX-5, played a role in the Z1 project’s ultimate demise after just three years, ending the production run of just 8,000 units.
Despite modest sales figures, the Z1 received critical acclaim, with LJK Setright praising its “marvellous balance in everything from chassis dynamics to control-matching,”
While some of the Z1’s 278 Traumschwarz thermoplastic body panels may require minor repairs for cracks and scuffs, its overall condition remains very good. The interior features camouflage-patterned materials and a period-correct radio. Both major moving body parts—the roof and doors—operate exactly as they should and the vehicle also comes with its original Italian user manual, service documentation, Italian registration, and toolkit.
Car & Classic’s auction for the 1991 BMW Z1 is scheduled to go live on October 1st and will run until October 8th. A previous Z1 sold on Car & Classic for just under £50,000. With that in mind, it is expected that this example will likely sell for somewhere between £50,000 and £60,000.