(from BMW Press Release)
The spectacular 507 roadster, built during 1956-59 in only 253 examples,
is considered by many enthusiasts and collectors to be one of the most
beautiful cars ever built. In developing the Z8, BMW designers
were challenged to imagine what the original 507 would be like if it had
ceased production and had evolved over four decades. The result of this
creative direction is a thoroughly contemporary interpretation of that
famous and coveted roadster – a car that is truly a perfect blend of
performance and sensuality; of modern technology and classic elegance.
The world’s first look at the Z8 concept was the Z07 design study
displayed at the 1997 Tokyo Auto Show and shortly thereafter at the1998
North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Again encouraged by
favorable public reaction, BMW decided to build the Z8 in limited
BMW 507 designer Count Albrecht Goertz has paid the Z8 the ultimate
compliment: “If I were to design the 507 today, it would look like the
Z8.” Vastly different from the esthetic of current exclusive
high-performance cars, the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car
features a long hood, tapered overhangs, a cockpit positioned toward the
rear, and a low beltline. The front-fender air vents or “gills,” here
with integrated fiber-optic turn signal lights, are a design element
usually associated with the classic 507 even though the concept dates
from earlier BMWs. In a world of sharp-edged, angular sports cars, the
Z8 is romantically curvaceous.
The roadster’s advanced lighting technology includes Xenon lowbeam
headlights with dynamic auto-leveling and, concealed in the leading
edges of the headlamp covers, high-intensity washers. The Z8 is the first car
ever with neon turn signals and brake lights that illuminate ten times faster
than conventional bulbs, giving other drivers more time to react.
Another example of the attention to detail the designers lavished on
the Z8 is the two round red lenses bracketing the rear license plate. The left
one is a rear foglight; the right one is a backup light that, despite its red
lens, illuminates white for reversing.
Building the Z8 in Germany is as unique a process as is the car itself.
Z8 bodies are constructed and painted at BMW’s Dingolfing plant,
approximately 60 miles northeast of Munich; the front and rear bumpers are
manufactured at the nearby Landshut facility. Completed bodies are then
shipped to the former pilot-plant area of the company’s Munich factory for
final assembly. There, a small team of highly skilled craftspeople largely
hand-build Z8s in 31 assembly steps. The complete construction and
finishing process takes about 10 times as long as that for a 3 Series sedan.
The Z8 cockpit continues the theme of a modern re-creation of the
Thus in the tradition of great sports cars, the Z8 has a pushbutton
starter for its engine.
The ignition switch is mounted on the dash, just above the starter
button instead of in the traditional steering-column location. A new
electronic steering lock, along with BMW’s Coded Driveaway Protection, helps
Other standard equipment includes heated leather seats, a power
roadster top and a removable aluminum hardtop with heated rear window.
The extensive Nappa leather upholstery and trim is accented with
body-color painted surfaces and aluminum control knobs, all connoting
astounding attention to detail. Interior trim consists of aluminum and colorkeyed
painted surfaces; among the few changes for ’02 are new choices for
combining trim colors with the four available upholstery schemes.
There was never any question about what engine should power the
Z8. The 3.2-liter aluminum V8 that powered the original 507 was, at the
time, BMW’s most powerful engine. For a car that personifies BMW’s
passion for driving, only the most powerful road engine in BMW history, the
S62 5-liter V-8 - also found in the M5 sedan - would do. Delivering 394
horsepower and 368 lb-ft. of torque, the Z8’s aluminum engine is completely
civilized in traffic and around town, thanks in part to its infinitely adjustable,
electronically controlled valve-timing system.
Called High-Pressure Double VANOS 1, the system varies valve timing on the intake and exhaust valves of
both cylinder heads – thus on all four camshafts – helping optimize power,
torque and emission control. The “high-pressure” designation signifies the
fact that this engine, like other BMW M engines but distinct from regular production
BMW powerplants, includes a dedicated oil pump for the
The engine’s “drive-by-wire” throttle system operates eight individual
intake throttles and includes M Driving Dynamics Control, which allows the
driver to select between Normal and quicker Sport response characteristics.
A unique g-sensitive engine-lubrication system automatically ensures proper
oil circulation in hard cornering situations. Because a V-8 engine’s cylinder
heads are canted at a 45° angle, there could be insufficient natural oil flow
out of the heads under extreme cornering loads. In addition to the usual
pressure pump, there are two scavenging pumps, one for each cylinder
bank. In straight-ahead driving, these pumps pick up oil from the rear of the
1 – VANOS = VAriable NOckenwellen Steuerung = variable camshaft control, or variable
engine and return it to the sump. In hard cornering (0.9g or more), the Dynamic
Stability Control system’s lateral-g sensor switches magnetic valves to
different pickup points, at the curve-outer side of each head and the
The original 507’s body was aluminum. Taking up that tradition in a
21st-century form, all the Z8’s body panels, except its bumpers and door
hinges, are aluminum. Here BMW has taken the use of this lightweight alloy
a step further and designed an entire space frame in aluminum. This
concept combines moderate weight with body rigidity that is unparalleled by
any other open sports car in this category.
The monocoque frame is made of extrusion-pressed beams much like
the trusses of a timber house. Nearly 1,000 rivets and 190 ft. of fused
welding seam (MIG) hold the frame and body panels together. The frame is
made largely in-house at BMW’s Dingolfing plant, where the existing
aluminum processing center also makes the 3 Series convertible hardtop,
M3 hood and 7 Series hood and front fenders.
The space frame, which is 30 percent lighter than if it were made of
steel, provides exceptional torsional rigidity to eliminate most of the body or
“cowl” shake usually associated with an open-top car: “The chassis is rigid
enough,” commented Car and Driver in April 2001, “to harness [the engine’s]
thrust without any creaks or groans.” This also provides an extremely stable
platform for precise suspension tuning, and contributes to excellent driver
feedback. The central frame’s stiffness also allows much lower side sills
than is normally the case for a roadster.
Pairs of unique aluminum “Y” arms that connect the Z8’s front and rear
sections to its space frame provide much of the torsional rigidity and
accident protection. In a crash, the arms are designed to crumple,
absorbing energy and transferring forces to the sturdy center floor pan.
In simulations of the rigorous European Union’s 40-mph offset crash
test, the Z8’s passenger cell remained completely intact. “Smart” 2-stage
airbags, safety belts with force limiters and automatic tensioners, twin
Rollover Protection hoops behind the seats, and a reinforced windshield
frame provide additional protection.
The Z8’s impressive technology also includes Dynamic Stability
Control (DSC), one of the most advanced vehicle control systems in the
industry. Scenarios where DSC could help “save the day” include those
where the driver might have misjudged a traffic situation; failed to match
speed to road conditions; had a lapse of attention; or been confronted with
an unavoidable or critical situation.
With wheel-speed sensors and a powerful microprocessor at its heart,
DSC incorporates a range of functions that facilitate full and effective use of
the Z8’s immense performance and handing capabilities with an added
measure of safety. It incorporates all-speed traction control; electronic brake
proportioning for always-optimum distribution of brake force among the four
wheels; antilock braking; Dynamic Brake Control, which assists the driver in
obtaining the shortest stopping distance in an emergency; and enhancement
of vehicle stability during hard cornering and accident-avoidance
In this last function, figuratively speaking, DCS could be described as a “giant
hand” gently exerting its influence on a car to help stabilize it when
the driver’s abilities or actions might not be able to do so. DSC
employs its highly sophisticated technology of sensors, computing power
and actuating systems to achieve stabilizing effects that can be likened
to such a “hand.”
Ordering and taking delivery of a car as exclusive as the Z8 should be
a memorable experience; BMW has taken steps to ensure that it is just that.
Owners awaiting delivery of their roadster will be offered a high-quality scale
model of the Z8. A handmade book will be presented to the owner of each Z8
upon delivery, including photographs of his or her car in production and
actual paint and upholstery samples from the car. Z8 owners are offered
the opportunity to take delivery of their roadster at BMW headquarters
in Munich, Germany, where they may even watch the final assembly of
their roadster. Munich delivery also includes a tour of the Z8 assembly
area, and an optional European tour is offered. Alternatively, delivery
is also possible at the BMW Performance Center at Spartanburg, South
Carolina. The purchase of a Z8 includes a special driving course at the
BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina.