Driven - - THE LAST WORD -

Much like its lat­est road­ster of­fer­ing, the new Z4 to be un­veiled this month, BMW’s first-ever Road­ster was a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort with an­other mo­tor man­u­fac­turer.

You see, in the lat­ter 1920s BMW started its car pro­duc­tion by build­ing the Austin Seven (known as the Dixi or 3/15 in BMW-speak) un­der li­cence, and in 1930 the Ger­man man­u­fac­turer in­tro­duced the 3/15 DA-3 Wart­burg, the first sports road­ster ver­sion of the orig­i­nal 3/15, and thus also BMW’s first sports car.

The 3/15 was fol­lowed by Mu­nich’s first be­spoke road­ster, the 315/1, in 1934, and three years later by the revered 328, of which only 464 were pro­duced. In 1955 the at­trac­tive 507, devel­oped specif­i­cally for the US mar­ket, was un­veiled. While de­lec­ta­ble (Elvis Pres­ley owned two) it was too ex­pen­sive, and only 252 were built.

It took 29 years be­fore the next road­ster bear­ing the white-and-blue logo – the clas­sic Z1 – en­tered the mar­ket in 1988. It proved to be a break­through model, and in re­sponse BMW launched the game-chang­ing Z3 in 1995, fol­lowed by the lim­ited num­bers James Bond Z8 and the Z3’s suc­ces­sor, the Z4 in 2002. Re­mark­ably, the re­vised E89 Z4, re­leased in 2009, was the first BMW ve­hi­cle de­signed en­tirely by a team of fe­male de­sign­ers.

It is also in­ter­est­ing that BMW opted to call its open-top i8 a road­ster, as strictly speak­ing it does not fol­low the tra­di­tional Mu­nich road­ster lay­out… Now the sixth gen­er­a­tion Z-car from BMW, the G29 Z4 devel­oped in con­junc­tion with Toy­ota and shar­ing its plat­form with the Supra Coupe, is ready for launch.

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