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Throughout its history, BMW has designed and produced limited-production automobiles that are quintessential expressions of the passion for driving that is the company's soul. The legendary 328 roadster made its 1937 debut as a race car at Germany's famous Nürburgring. 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. A sensation on the road and on the race track, the mid-engine M1 coupe, built in 1980-1982, newly defined the term "exotic car." And in 1987, prompted by an enthusiastic public response to spy photos of a car built primarily as an engineering concept project, BMW unveiled the Z1 roadster as a production model. (This lovely fiberglass-bodied 2-seater with electric doors was never officially imported into the U.S.) The Z8 roadster, introduced at the 1999 Frankfurt Auto Show, is a continuation of this tradition. In developing the Z8, BMW designers were challenged to imagine what the original 507 would be like if it had never 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 the 1998 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Again encouraged by favorable public reaction, BMW decided to build the Z8 in limited numbers.

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, BMW's currently most powerful engine was chosen. 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, 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. "High-pressure" signifies the fact that this engine, as in other BMW M engines but distinct from regular-production BMW units, has a dedicated oil pump for the VANOS system. The engine's "drive-by-wire" throttle system operates eight individual intake throttles and includes the M Dynamic Driving Control, which allows the driver to select between Normal and quicker Sport response characteristics. A unique g-sensitive engine-lubrication system ensures proper oil circulation in hard cornering situations. A V-8 engine's cylinder heads are canted at a 45° angle; to ensure adequate oil flow out of the heads under extreme cornering loads there are two scavenging pumps, one for each cylinder bank. In straight-ahead driving, these pumps pick up oil from the rear of the 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 pickup points at the curve-outer side of each head and the pan. The most visible component of the engine compartment, the carbon-fiber air-collector cover, bears the famous script "BMW M Power." The engine compartment itself is finished in the same high-gloss paintwork as the roadster's exterior. A Getrag 6-speed manual transmission with specially reinforced clutch, also from the M5, is mated to the Z8's engine. The net result of all this industry-leading high-performance technology is an elegant sports car that will sprint from a standstill to 60 miles-per-hour in a soul-stirring factory-tested 4.7 seconds while producing engine sounds and an exhaust note that car enthusiasts have called a "mechanical symphony." To enhance that symphony, engineers deliberately matched the exhaust note to engine load.

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. 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.

The Z8 was only meant to be produced in small quantities, and the short production run stopped in November of 2002.

Source - BMW