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BMW's first Two-seater roadster since the 507 in 1959, using the engine and transmission from the E30 325ix, mounted in a specially designed chassis made from galvanised steel. The sports body is made from various types of composite resin panels also bolted to the chassis. The front suspension uses mainly 325i components but with a wider track. A multi-link axle comprising two transverse control arms and one longitudinal control arm, dubbed the 'Z-axle', shorthand for 'centrally guided, spherical double-wishbone axle' rather than a reference to the new name. The kinematic arrangement of the three control arms ensured excellent directional stability as well as effective anti-squat and anti-dive, endowed the Z1 with go-kart-like handling.The most distinctive features of the body are the electrically powered doors, which in the open position drop down into the side sills, this creating the ultimate 'open car' when the soft top is lowered underneath its' flat cover.

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Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean):

"It has doors that do not open, they simply disappear. You press a button on the outside (it is very stiff, and a nightmare for anyone with nails), and the window and door sink down into the bodywork. You then clamber in over the high sill, (very difficult with a raised hood, and extremely undignified for anyone with a skirt) and pull a handle on the inside, the door and window rise. It really is very impressive."

The chassis is made from hot dip galvanised steel. The seams are all continuous zinc welded, and with the addition of its composite undertray, endows the Z1 with exceptional torsional rigidity.
THE NAKED ONE. At the launch, BMW suggested that owners might like to buy a spare set of body panels to change the colour of the car from time to time.
THE ULTIMATE KIT CAR. It was suggested that it would take a skilled mechanic 40mins to remove the body panels, but in reality this is more likely to be two day's work.
SAFETY. The Z1 is equipped with a front and rear reversible bumper safety system, in speeds up to 2.5MPH at maximum impact angles of 30deg, no damage will occur as the elasticity of the panels will mitigate this, flexing between 40-45-mm. This was highlighted at the launch by the then Director Ulrich Bez, who gave a demonstration of the benefits of the plastic panelling, he jumped with both feet onto a vehicle wing lying on the floor, which promptly buckled and sprang back to its original shape when he stepped off.
The Bumper system was developed in collaboration with MBB and assembled by coachbuilder Bauer, it consists of a highly elastic thermoplastic made skin with reinforced fibreglass (GRP), plastic support rings and fibreglasss springs as a damper. The front indicators are integrated into the front bumper and protected against collision damage.
The steel monocoque had especially strong side sills to compensate the loss of roof. Furthermore, the composite undertray and the strong torque tube (linking between the transmission and the rear differential) also strengthened the chassis.

Contrary to popular belief, whilst the Z1 shares it suspension DNA with the E30, the components and setup are different, the later cars are basically an E30 up front and an E36 in the rear.