BMW has a penchant for roadsters. It may not be immediately obvious to the average 3 Series or X5 driver, and even your M aficionados may not immediately recognize it, but it’s true. Trace the brand’s lineage back to before the prewar period, and you’ll find a strong theme of open-air performance. There are significant gaps in terms of production, but it remains clear that the roadster is a thing for BMW in a way few other brands carry forward today—just ask Satch.
The 328 is credited with starting this tradition thanks to its racing success during the second half of the 1930s. The exquisite aluminum-bodied 507 brought the company to the brink of financial ruin, but today, there’s no other BMW model more valuable. Thirty years later, BMW picked things up again with the Z1, which subsequently launched the modern BMW roadster into existence, a bloodline that also includes the likes of the compelling Z8, and others like the Z3 and Z4 M, and of course, the current Z4.
Few other companies have maintained such dedication to such a niche automotive segment. Sure, the 1,000,000th Mazda Miata was built back in 2016, but when if you’re looking for something with a true open-top design and an exceptional driving experience, there are very few modern vehicles to choose from, and even fewer of these actually satisfy the true definition of a roadster. BMW makes one of them, and it all started three decades ago with the Z1, and then a few years later, the Z3. In the latest episode of Inside BMW Group Classic on YouTube, the beginnings of the modern BMW roadster are highlighted, starting those two models. We all know the Z1 is built using interchangeable plastic panels and features incredible disappearing doors, but did you know the car was designing to be low enough that a driver could extinguish a cigarette on the pavement while at speed? We didn’t.—Alex Tock
[Photo and video courtesy BMW AG.]