The BMW Technik GmbH
On the 1st of January 1985 BMW AG founded the subsidiary company 'BMW Technology GmbH'. Internally the company was known as ZT. The mission statement of the company was 'to execute and enable developments in the area of automobile technology that reset or modify the basics of automobile design. Therefore, enable trend setting'. These revolutionary technologies and techniques were to be developed without commercial influences, that is, without the requirement that they be used in production at some later date. Ulrich Bez was the first director of BMW Technology GmbH.
Here Harm M. Lagaay, who was the first Chief of Design at 'Technik GmbH' and later held the same position at Porsche reflects on the year 1985: "At the beginning of 1985 Ulrich Bez offered me the position of Chief of Design. Indeed, the first few employees were already there and the first theme decided upon : 'Freedom on four wheels'
The BMW Z1 was a result of this project and was only ever intended as a concept car that was never to go into production. Correspondingly, it's design was very unconventional. During his first visit to Technik GmbH on 2nd August, 1985, Eberhard von Kuenheim, the chairman of BMW AG, was shown the first sketches of a roadster with the theme 'freedom on four wheels'. At that time, almost no other car manufacturer had a roadster on their program. He considered various possibilities and decided to continue the project. At the next meeting on 26th November, 1985, von Kuenheim considered the outcome and spontaneously declared that a functional prototype should be completed. This prototype was completed in July 1986.
The first story in the 16/1986 edition of the Magazine 'Auto Motor und Sport' hit like a bomb. On 22nd July, as a result of this, it was decided that four more prototypes would be built. When the first prototypes were built, no one thought that the car would be put into production. The 22nd July, 1986 was also the beginning of construction proper. On the 18th December the CEO decided to put the Z1 into production. " See how the realisation of such a concept can be carried out in minimal quantities, say between 1 and 5 cars per day". Mission accomplished! The Z1 was presented at the IAA in Frankfurt in 1987.
Production:Production proportioned to colours
Production- and registration numbers
The success of the BMW Z1 paved the way for the future of the roadster. The Z1 was a concept car and was never intended to go into production. Accordingly, its production was not cost effective to bring about. Therefore a conventional construction was needed to make use of cost effective and well known production methods. For that reason the Z3 was developed using the basis of the 3 series. In the meantime almost every manufacturer has jumped on the train and now offers a roadster.