Tag Archives: Roadster

The First Z: BMW Z1

7 Jun

The BMW Z1: Photo courtesy BMW Group

Unless your an avid follower, enthusiast or historian of BMW chances are you would think the E36/4 Z3, produced between 1996 and 2002 was the first roadster to be built by the Bavarian automaker in the modern era. However that is not the case. Unbenounced to many is the Z3’s predecessor, a futuristic and technologically-forward two-door roadster that paved the way for the successors that have followed, the BMW Z1.

Back in 1985, when BMW conjured up the idea of creating the company’s first two-door sports car in 30 years they wanted to design and build something revolutionary. Much like the Z1’s ancestor the 507, built during the late 1950s, the Z1 was meant to be a pinnacle of automotive design, engineering and forward-thinking. In order the achieve this harmony BMW gathered 60 of its best and brightest and created a think-tank completely separate from the rest of the company called BMW Technik GmbH.

With a strong group of talented individuals at its core it didn’t take long for the masterminds at BMW Technik to form sketches and preliminary designs for what would eventually become the Z1. The BMW to brass signed off on the initial renderings and just 12 months later the first prototype Z1 hit the streets.

The BMW Z1 with its vertical sliding doors down: Photo courtesy BMW Group

As soon as it took to the road BMW knew they were onto something special. The two-seat roadster was far more that just another vehicle designed to capture people’s attention while driving with your significant other at the beach. The Z1, with excellent weight distribution, a front mid-engine setup, low weight and center of gravity made it a driving enthusiasts wet dream. Sure, it wasn’t the most powerful thing to take to the road, but it didn’t need to be. A 2.5-liter inline six-cylinder engine with a peak of 170 horsepower made the Z1 more than capable of holding its own.

At the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show the Z1 made its world debut with massive amounts of interest and fan-fare from both the automotive press and the public. And how could it not? The Z1 was light years ahead of it time, not only in its design but in it technology.

The most striking and awe-inspiring aspect of the Z1 was undoubtably its vertical sliding doors. If you think Lamborghini thought of a cool way to enter and exit a vehicle, just take a look at these (video below). By pressing the key hole located on the side of the Z1 the doors would retract into the side sills. Not only did this allow for easy access into and out-of the vehicle, but it enabled the driver and their passenger to drive with no doors. Now how cool is that?

The BMW Z1: Photo courtesy BMW Group

The frame of the Z1 was made from a self-supporting monocoque made of individual sheet-steel that was galvanised in an immersion bath to give the structure added rigidity and torsional strength. The floor of the vehicle was comprised of two layers of glass fibre-reinforced epoxy resin with polyurethane foam. This plastic concoction was not only lightweight, weighing in at just 33 pounds, but it was immune to corrosion and produced smooth underbody contours, making the vehicle that much more aerodynamic in the process. And no, not just the floor was made from plastic. Rather, the vast majority of the Z1 was made up of different types of the material. The front and rear sidewalls, the doors and the side sill covers were made from a high-tech thermoplastic with high impact strength. On the complete opposite end of the plastic spectrum was the front and rear bumpers, made from a highly flexible and elastic plastic that could return to it original shape following collisions of up to two and a half miles-per-hour.

While the extensive use of plastics made the Z1 stand out, it wasn’t the only part of the vehicle that made the Z1 one-of-a-kind. The four exterior colors available; Green metallic, Dream Black metallic, Fun Yellow and Top Red was specially designed to adhere to the variations of plastic used on the body.

BMW Z1 Interior: Photo courtesy BMW Group

Despite a hefty sticker price of 83,000 German Marks (approximately $53,000) the demand for the Z1 was immediate and pronounced. When the first production models rolled off the assembly line in 1989 4,000 of the eventual 8,000 Z1 to be produced already had been purchased, causing the vehicle to be sold out until the end of the following year.

Unlike its two successors, no M variant of the Z1 was ever put into production. BMW Motorsport did produce a one-off Z1 M prototype, with a wider sport chassis a more powerful engine, larger wheel arches, a low-slung front end and twin headlights. Two air scoops arched behind the head restraints, and sitting atop either side of the deep rear apron were two pairs of circular rear lights.

Although the production run of the hand-built Z1 was short (1989-1991) the two-door roadster had created a new segment for BMW, and would pave the way for the Z3 and Z4 to follow. It might not be the more widely known BMW ever made, but it is one of the most important.

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Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster: New Details and Photos Released

28 May

By Matt McCarron

MY2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster in Sepang Bronze: Courtesy MB North America

On Thursday, May 5, Mercedes-Benz released its first details on their upcoming SLS AMG Roadster. Now Mercedes has released more information on the specifics of the vehicles as well as new photos. The car, which is the soft top version of the SLS AMG, is scheduled to make its world premiere at the 2011 Frankfurt International Auto Show in September.

Powered by a 6.2-liter front-mid engine producing 563 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque enables the SLS AMG Roadster to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 3.7 seconds. The engine is mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transaxle transmission and the new Adaptive AMG Sport Suspension with aluminum double wishbones.

The body and chassis of the SLS AMG Roadster is primarily comprised of aluminum. Fifty percent of the weight-optimized aluminum spaceframe is made of aluminum sections, 26 percent of sheet aluminum, 18 percent of cast aluminum and 6 percent of steel. The aluminum frame only weighs 536 pounds, 4.5 pounds more than the Gullwing, and results in the roadster weighing in an estimated 3,661 pounds, just 88 more than the Gullwing Coupe.

A new piece of technology to be featured on the SLS AMG Roadster is the AMG Drive Unit. Located in the center console The AMG Drive Unit is the central control for the vehicle and allows the driver to choose personal driving setups, including three suspension modes: “Comfort”, “Sport” and “Sport plus.”

The SLS AMG Roadster also employs the new “AMG Performance Media,” a motorsport-inspired multimedia system that offers  numerous telemetric displays such as lateral and linear acceleration, various engine data and lap times on a racetrack. AMG Performance Media is activated by pressing the AMG key in the AMG Drive Unit. It also allows the driver to keep track on vital engine and transmission temperatures, output, torque and acceleration data and individual tire pressures.

This high-tech blend technology and raw power give the SLS AMG Roadster characteristics that will please even the most discerning enthusiasts.

Designo Leather Interior: Courtesy MB North America

The interior of the SLS AMG roadster is just as inspired and technologically as the exterior. Taking many cues from the aviation industry, the interior features a dashboard in the shape of a wing, the air vents resembling jet engines and the new E-SELECT lever is in the shape of an aircraft’s thrust control. Some of the standard options for the interior are heated AMG sports seats, COMAND with Navigation and DVD player, anti-theft alarm system with tow-away protection and interior monitoring and dual-zone automatic climate control. The interior is available in eight colors with the standard being black designo leather. Single-tone or two-tone designo leather in espresso brown is available as a new interior color too. To accompany the designo leather interior, various trim finishes including leather, matte-finished solid metal or carbon-fiber are available.

After hearing about all of these new details the anticipation continues to mount. If the SLS AMG Roadster is anything like the Gullwing Coupe then it will surely be something worth waiting for. September can not come soon enough.

MY2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster: Courtesy MB North America

© 2011 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com