Buyers Guide to:
1987 to 1991
The BMW Car Club
Thanks to unusual styling and rather eye-catching sliding doors, the quirky BMW Z1 certainly drew plenty of attention when it was launched at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show. Featuring a galvanised steel chassis and plastic panels that could supposedly be swapped in around 40 minutes according to BMW (though hours or days were more like it), it was those doors that captured most attention. Belt-driven, they slid down into the sills which looked great but made entry and exit slightly undignified. Powered by the 170bhp straight-six engine from the 325i saloon, performance was useful rather than outstanding but it was the looks that counted most. Around 8000 were built (just 86 came to the UK, all in left-hand drive) and production ended in 1991.
- See checklist below.
- The chassis for rust. It was galvanised so corrosion is rarely an issue, but it could be a sign of previous accident damage
- The condition of the thermoplastic panels, along with their mounting points ensuring the areas around fixings aren’t cracked or missing the washers. Cracks or damage to panels can be costly to repair, and it’s worth examining the alignment, too; it’s not easy to get right so misalignment could point to previous repair or removal
- That the doors operate smoothly, release via both internal and external handles, and align correctly with other panels. Repairs to the belts and electrical mechanism aren’t as dif cult as you’d think, but it’s a good haggling point if work is needed. Scratched paintwork on the doors points to alignment issues
- The condition of the light units. Many parts are unique to the Z1 making them harder to source and often expensive
- The engine for oil leaks; signs of overheating or head gasket failure; noisy valve-gear; and issues with the engine electronics
- For evidence of regular servicing. Regular oil and filter changes are needed for longevity and you’ll want to be sure that the cam belt has been changed on time
- The exhaust system for damage or corrosion. The rearmost silencer is unique to the Z1 and a replacement is around £1000 for an original part
- That the gearbox doesn’t exhibit any whines or crunching from worn synchromesh. It’s not known to give problems, though, unless abused. Likewise, the clutch should be trouble-free but replacing it is quite involved so be wary if it’s noisy or slipping
- For worn suspension or brake components; an overhaul isn’t prohibitively expensive but budget accordingly. The steering rack is unique to the Z1, and can suffer from wear in the universal joint, so ensure the steering is free of play on the test drive
- The interior and boot for signs of water leaks caused by perished seals
- The cabin for scuffed leather seats and for damage to trim and interior panels caused by clumsy entry and exit. And electrical issues aren’t unknown so it’s worth checking that everything works
- That the hood and rear window are undamaged, making sure you see them in operation when you view the car
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