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Only some days do you find a vehicle that starts with a 9 on the odometer. A BMW Z1 appeared at a recent RM Sotheby’s auction in Paris, France. The 1990 BMW is already a rare bird on its own, but the odometer of this car reads 999,997 kilometers. RM Sotheby’s auction is one of the only places to find the world’s rarest race and road-going vehicles. The auction house began in 1976 and now has offices in several countries. Not only do they auction these rare vehicles, but they have restoration services as well. However, the recently sold BMW Z1 won’t need any restoration.

What is a BMW Z1?

1991 BMW Z1 Green
1991 BMW Z1 | BMW

The BMW Z1 is the first model to be produced in the automaker’s line of Z series roadsters. Only 8,000 Z1s were said to be made, making them a very rare part of BMW history. The biggest allure of the roadster is its unique plastic body panels and vertically sliding doors that drop into the door sills. It is also one of the first BMWs to use a multi-link rear suspension setup. There is only one drivetrain option for the Z1, a 2.5-liter straight-six engine paired with a five-speed manual transmission. 

A unique door setup that retracts vertically, instead of a standard design that swings outward, gives the roadster a distinct party trick. Other innovations include a flat undertray, removable plastic body panels, a roll-hoop integrated into the windshield frame, and continuously zinc-welded seams for the unibody. In addition, the car is painted in a special flexible lacquer because the plastic body can bend, which would crack traditional paint. These unique features make the Z1 very popular among enthusiasts and collectors.

What engine is in the BMW Z1?

1990 BMW Z1 Black
1990 BMW Z1 | BMW

The unique BMW roadster took the drivetrain from an E30 325i. A straight-six engine with 168 horsepower and 159 pound-feet of torque pushed the Z1. Strictly paired with a manual transmission, the car was aimed at enthusiasts looking for a sophisticated roadster. Most likely, the Z1’s biggest downfall, however, is its lack of power. If BMW had given the roadster the higher output E30 M3 engine, it would have made for fewer customers canceling due to the price tag.

How much is a BMW Z1?

1989 BMW Z1 Red
1989 BMW Z1 | BMW

With just 8,000 BMW Z1s said to be made, the rarity of these cars has drastically increased their value. Initially sold for $49,357, the Z1 was heavily priced, considering it was pretty slow. You got a fun BMW roadster for the money, but it lacked power from its straight-six engine. The automaker was set to make 15,000 units of the Z1, but when they announced the pricing, many orders for the roadster were canceled. Since they are so limited, the roadster has soared in value. The recent example at Sotheby’s is a particular case, but it sold for €86,250 or $92,596. 

Over double the original price, this Z1 is said to only have delivery mileage on the odometer. BMW had a tendency to set the mileage to a point where it could roll over during delivery driving. Doing so would mean the customer receives their vehicle with a flat 0 miles on the clock. The example sold at Sotheby’s is just 3 kilometers away, showing it has never been driven. A pure time capsule of a collector’s car, never seeing the road.

Would you buy a BMW Z1?

Potential buyers of a front-engine, rear-wheel drive roadster aren’t going to spring for the BMW Z1 immediately. It is even harder to grasp because the car’s limited production was never sold in the US. These cars are becoming collector’s items quickly, but their design is unique. Falling in love with the collapsing doors and funky shape could set you on a path to hunt one down. Just be prepared to pay a six-figure price tag when you do find one.


Throwback Thursday: The BMW Z1, a Roadster With a Party Trick