The BMW Z1 is a collectible modern classic
Life is Beautiful

THE 1989 BMW Z1

By Sotheby's
Rev up a timeless classic with this thrilling example of BMW engineering

D ue to low production volumes and limited availability, the rarely-seen BMW Z1 convertible has gained something of a reputation among car enthusiasts as a highly-collectable example of a modern classic. Manufactured by the German marque for only two years, only an estimated 8,000 examples of the Z1 were made between 1989 and 1991, making this one of the most covetable examples of Bavarian motor engineering.

The model inspired the basis of BMW’s Z-series, evolving into more widely available Z3s and Z4s, as well as the high-performance Z8. (Incidentally, the “Z” refers to zukunft, (or future), something immediately apparent in Dutch designer Harm Lagaay's game-changing vision. Lagaay himself would later work at Porsche, refining the Boxster, Cayenne and other iconic speedsters.

As the pinnacle of BMW’s cabriolet production in the late 1980s, the Z1 incorporated some especially notable features, which set the bar for future innovations whilst defining the car’s vivid character. The model’s barchetta shape is augmented by side doors that slide up and down, while BMW claimed that removable, thermoplastic body panels, constructed by GE, allowed the entire body to be swapped over within 40 minutes.

The headlights are hidden behind a screen cover to maintain the smooth profile, flanking BMW’s signature “kidney bean” front grille and the dynamic silhouette forces wing mirrors to hug the A-pillars tightly, minimising drag and contributing to the overall impression of sleek, low-slung stealth. The elevated profile at the rear meanwhile, accommodates stowage space for the convertible roof. The 2.5-litre engine kicks out 168 horsepower, a fiery furnace of power that lends weight to BMW's claim that the Z1 can corner with an awesome 1G of force on standard tyres, the first production car to do so.

This particular example of the Z1 - finished in the distinctive BMW colour Toprot, was manufactured in 1989. Originally road registered with temporary German number plates, the car's history is obscure, having only been discovered in storage in London at the start of 2021 with a mere 189 kilometres on the clock. However, the car has since received a major service and was road registered in the Netherlands. The odometer reading is 191 kilometres at the time of cataloguing. The car retains its original cassette deck, the manufacturer-supplied tool kit is in the boot, as well as the spare wheel and period-printed literature by BMW, comprising instruction manuals and service booklets.

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

More from Sotheby's