BMW’s illustrious history began during World War I when the now-successful luxury car-builder developed fighter aircraft-engine. At the end of the WWI it switched to developing motorcycles, then in 1929, BMW bought its way into the car industry when it purchased the Dixi Car factory and started developing automobiles — some of its best were elegant roadsters.
The first roadster to roll out of Bimmer’s factory was the 315/1, which was based on the 315 saloon. From here, things evolved to the 328, which was one of the most successful roadster ever developed by BM and won the Mille Miglia in many times and the 1939 24 Hours of Le Mans .
After the WWII, BMW was in great trouble and it needed a car to rescue it, and BMW thought that car was the 507. It was indeed a great car, with one of the most gorgeous design languages in the era and a powerful engine under the hood. However, because of its high price — $10,500 — the 507 was almost responsible for putting the BMW into bankruptcy. Only 252 units were ever developed, despite BMW’s 5,000-units-per-year projection.
Next BMW started to develop the Z series, with the Z1 being the first model. What is very cool about the Z1 is that the doors drop down into the door sills so you can drive it with no doors. Next we had the Z3 , Z8 and the current Z4 . The black sheep of the family was the Z3 , which never really looked or felt like a BMW.
Check out the video (above) to get a closer look at Bimmer’s history of roadsters.
Building a roadster can give car manufacturers some unique opportunities. These types of vehicles typically have a devoted following and create their own rules outside of the constraints of many mainstream companies’ core product lines. They are able to test new technology and bend the rules of design in order to make a roadster look and feel like it belongs with everything else.
Roadsters are also a very specific formula of two-doors, lightweight components, and the thrill of open air driving. In a way, the first cars ever built were roadsters and the trend has continued throughout time with legendary models from Ford , Chrysler , and BMW. German brands were the last to catch on to the glory days of the roadster from the 1950s and BMW began producing its first back in 1989 with the Z1.
Many BMW fans may look at this moniker and thing, “does he mean M1?” No, we don’t mean the fantastic supercar that BMW built around the same time and has yet to be resurrected. The Z1 was the first in a line of two-seat roadsters that BMW produced and it proved a worthy test-bed for some BMW technology still used today.