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Mileage: 8,100 kilometers (5,033 Miles)
Engine: M20B25 Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual Getrag G260 Transmission
Exterior color: Top Red Exterior
Interior: Dark Grey / Textured Alcantara Interior
Black Convertible Top
1 of 3012 Top Red Z1s Worldwide
1 of 8000 Total Z1s Worldwide
Z-Axle Multi-Link Rear Suspension
3:64 Limited-Slip Differential
Dual-Tip Z1 Stainless Steel BTB Exhaust
Power Retractable Doors
3-Spoke Z1 Steering Wheel
Alcantara Sport Seats w/ Color-Matched Backs
Period-Correct Blaupunkt Stereo
Original (INOP) Stereo Included
Molded Plastic (Xenoy) and GRP Body Panels
Rear Diffuser Incorporated into Rear Bumper and Exhaust
7-Spoke 15” x 7” Wheels
The BMW Z1 was the first BMW Z car and one of the most unique BMWs ever produced. The Z1 was a technological demonstration of sorts, where Z stood for Zukunft—future in German. The design was focused on aerodynamics and employed lightweight plastic molded body panels that BMW claimed could be changed completely in forty minutes, although it reportedly takes closer to six hours. Futuristic electronic doors that retracted into the body were mounted and augmented by an integrated roll hoop / grab handle behind the low-slung windscreen. The engine was angled laterally to fit under the sleek hood and an underbody tray and rear diffuser were incorporated to give a drag coefficient of only 0.36. Projector headlights that look more appropriate on a modern car were standard kit. The engine was the venerable 168-horsepower M20 2.5-liter 6-cylinder powerplant from the E30 3 Series, but the final drive was changed to a 3:64 limited-slip differential which allowed a top speed of 140 miles per hour. The rear suspension was BMW’s first multi-link design, the Z Axle, which would find its way into the E36 and would contribute greatly to the latter’s success in motorsports. Inside, the dashboard, steering wheel, instrument cluster, and stereo were unique from any other BMW, as were alcantara seats with body-color matched backs. The Z1 was a rare example of when BMW showed its commitment to pushing design and technology by merging both into reality in a car that was decades ahead of its time (think i8 of the 1980s). In total, 8,000 were produced through 1991, but very few of them made it the United States.
This 1989 BMW Z1, with only 8,100 kilometers (5,033 miles) and finished in Top Red over Black Alcantara, has a story that is unique as the Z1 itself. It’s a long one, so brew a pot of coffee and sit down for a spell…
BMW utilized a General Electric (GE) thermoplastic called Xenoy, (a polyester and polycarbonate blend) in the doors and side panels of the Z1 that is more resilient than the glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) used elsewhere. This particular Z1 was given to GE by BMW, and subsequently used as a promotional vehicle (most notably at GE’s Horizon Pavilion Epcot Center in Disneyworld. GE went through the arduous and expensive process of legalizing it, and put 3,000 kilometers on it throughout its tenure. When GE ended its corporate sponsorship of Epcot Center and the Horizons Pavilion closed, the Z1 found its way to Pittsfield, MA with the head of GE’s plastics division. In 1999, that gentleman had a broker contact the then Executive Director of the BMW Car Club of America, Mark Luckman, who was located down the road in Cambridge, MA. The current owner had just set up the BMW CCA loyalty program with Luckman, and had expressed to Luckman his enthusiasm for the Z1. He did not believe that one was actually for sale in the United States, and it took Luckman several attempts to convince the current owner that it wasn’t a practical joke.
To ensure that the Z1’s story checked out, the current owner enlisted the help of our own CCA Roundel Magazine columnist—the legendary Hack Mechanic himself, Rob Siegel—who also needed serious convincing that it wasn’t some elaborate practical joke. Here’s an excerpt from Rob’s experience in Chapter 18 of his book, Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic:
The Z1 is the predecessor of the BMW Z3 roadster, but unlike the Z3, it has doors that drop down into the sills, and a multi-link rear suspension. Only 8000 Z1s were built, and none were commercially imported by BMW into this country. However, _______ had stumbled across one that was here legally. Apparently the Z1’s plastic body panels were sourced from General Electric, and for this reason a seldom-driven Z1 had been on display for many years at the GE pavilion at Epcot Center in Disney World. The display was being retired and the car wound up in the hands of a broker in the Boston area. At least that was the story.
Initially when _______ asked me if I’d check the car out, I was concerned that he wanted me to certify a full mechanic’s bill of health, but really all he wanted was to know if the condition of the car jibed with the story – did it look like it was a Z1 with only 3000 km on it that had spent its life under glass? I looked at the car, it did check out, and I relayed that information (and the handful of flaws I found) to_______. And I got to drive a Z1; it was only a two-minute trip around the block, but bragging rights are bragging rights. _______ was grateful. He apparently made an offer, it was apparently rejected, and that was, apparently, that.
But that wasn’t that. Eventually his offer was accepted and, with the help of Siegel and then Roundel Editor-in-Chief Yale Rachlin, the car’s purchase was completed. Tomfoolery ensued as Siegel and Rachlin took videos pretending to play with the electric doors and did a victory lap around the streets of Boston to prove that the Z1 was indeed roadworthy. In actuality, the Z1 couldn’t have been in better hands, and Rachlin safely stored the Z1 until it was shipped to Colorado just in time for the current owner’s 40th birthday. It was, and is, an example of how wonderful the BMW CCA community is; the stars aligned and with a little bit of luck (and a little bit of timing) this very special Z1 found its home for the next two decades. Once in Colorado, the Z1 continued its legacy including being featured (in trade for a few laps in a McLaren F1) by BMW North America at the Colorado Festorics event at Pikes Peak International Raceway and in several videos featuring the Z1. It has also been featured in several Colorado Concours events and been a prominent car within the Colorado car show circuit.
After arriving in Colorado, the current owner set about fixing a few squawks. The original Blaupunkt stereo was no longer operative, but he sourced a period-correct aftermarket replacement that looks more at home than the original did (the original stereo is included). The original exhaust was rusted from water condensation. After reaching out to BMW DE, the owner was assigned a dedicated concierge based on the Z1’s prominence. From there he was put in contact with BTB, an exhaust manufacturer that had designed a dual-tip stainless steel exhaust system to be fit to the Z1. A dual outlet exhaust was not used in production as a last minute beuracratic discussion with TÜV caused BMW to have to remove the the second exhaust outlet from the original muffler design. Owners of some of the first Z1’s with original exhausts can see the welded on plate on the muffler where the second original exhaust tip/outlet was planned, that was the case with this car. He was also able to source a speedometer in miles-per-hour that is included in the spare parts bundle. Throughout his tenure, maintenance has been performed by Dave Stackhouse at Colorado independent specialists Bimmerwerks (which later became Autosport Werks) and Bob Tunnell at Bimmerhaus. In preparation for sale, we reset the maintenance clock on routine items, including the timing belt, cam seal, water pump, cooling system hoses, throttle body gasket, drive belts, and rubber fuel lines. We also gave it a valve adjustment, spark plugs, an air filter, and an oil change. The end result is one of the lowest mileage and most impeccably preserved Z1s in the United States, with an equally impressive story to match. It is a known car within the BMW CCA community, and beyond. It comes with a clean Colorado title. We look forward to finding a new owner who will continue the next chapter of its story.
The Z1’s exterior design was beyond its time, and this example looks fantastic in Toprot over the Black interior, with the quintessentially 80’s seat inserts. The Z1’s styling is very unique and has aged gracefully. Overall the exterior presents very well; the paint is glossy with just a few scratches. Being hand-assembled adds to its charm, but also makes seeing assembly imperfections more common. For example, there is a faint crack in the hood in an oddly central location; rumor has it that Hans did not trim the front engine lift point enough for clearance… rumor also has it that Hans was no longer employed after that incident. There is a 1” long deeper scratch near the roundel on the hood, and a roughly 2” long scratch that has been touched up on the passenger side rocker cover; there are a handful of deeper scratches on front corner of the passenger fender, but they do not catch the eye and are below the typical line of sight. The front clip has some minor pitting from driving to and from shows, along with the leading edges of the rocker panels; there are no notable paint chips. There are no cracks in the plastic body panels. Underneath there is some surface browning on some of the hardware on the suspension components, but no rust. The convertible top has no tears or failed stitching, and the rear window is clear and not creased. The windshield is OEM and has very minor pitting. The headlights, trim, taillights, and markers are all in fantastic condition. The 7-spoke wheels are nearly perfect with no curb rash, only the occasional light scratch. The tires are Dunlops with lots of tread remaining, as should be expected of a car with this kind of mileage.
The Black interior is likewise in excellent condition. The alcantara / microsuede trim is in very nice shape, not being greasy or matted down like those materials are prone to when not cleaned regularly. It presents exactly as you would expect an 8100-kilometer collector car’s interior to. There is no bolster wear on either seat; all of their stitching is intact. There is minor creasing in the centers. The driver’s doorsill has some minor scuffing from ingress and egress. The shifter and center console are immaculate, as is the stereo and HVAC panel. The stereo tape deck functions correctly, but the radio is not connected to the diversity antenna. The BMW motorcycle-inspired gauges look fantastic. The dash has no cracks or imperfections. The trunk carpet has some wear, but it is livable. The carpets are free of stains, tears, and wear; they have been protected by factory carpeted floor mats. The steering wheel is very clean, and unique to the Z1—it looks fantastic; it is now one of our favorites! The heat blows warm and the blower works at all speeds. All Z1’s came optioned with no air-conditioning. There are several keys, along with an all-weather car cover and convertible top cover.
There is little to mechanically fail when cars like this Z1 have such low mileage. However, when we received it, it was due for a round of routine maintenance based on of the age of some of the components. As detailed in the summary, it got the timing belt replaced, along with the cam seal, water pump, cooling system hoses, expansion tank, throttle body gasket, drive belts, and rubber fuel lines. We also gave it a valve adjustment, spark plugs, an air filter, and a fresh oil change. The result is a mechanically perfect Z1; the M20 is smooth as silk, fires up on command, and pulls strongly. It is the smoothest M20 we (who are all E30 fanatics) have ever seen! The shifter and transmission are also indicative of their milage; the clutch take-up is correct and does not slip. The suspension is tight, and there is no driveline vibrations. The brakes are firm and the tires are worn evenly with healthy tread remaining. We ensure it passes and pay for emissions in the State of Colorado. We look forward to meeting the next owner who will begin the next chapter of its unique story.
- VIN: WBABA91030AL00678
- Production Date: 21.06.1989
- Model: Z1
- Series: Z1
- Generation: E30
- Body Type: Roadster
- Generation: E30
- Body Type: Roadster
- Type Code: BA91
- Engine Code: M20
- Power: 168
- Fuel Type: Gas
- Displacement: 2.50
- Drive Type: RWD
- Steering Side: Left
- Color: TOP-ROT (L0257)
- Interior: Grau/Dunkelgrau Volleder (P0300)
- Transmission: Manual
- 282 Light alloy wheels sports spoke stying II
- 283 Light alloy wheels BMW styling II
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