Like the BMW-powered McLaren F1, the Z13 had a central driver's seat.
Name: BMW Z13
Debuted: 1993 Geneva Motor Show
Specs: rear-mounted gasoline engine with 82 horsepower, Ford-sourced continuously variable transmission, 830 kilograms (1,830 pounds) weight, three seats
Why We Remember It Now:
The BMW Z13 was a quirky little hatchback with an unconventional exterior design, which might make you think of today’s i3. There were other similarities between the two, plus the concept’s unusual seat layout with the driver positioned in the middle.
In the early 1990s, BMW Group’s think tank BMW Technik GmbH was given the task to come out with a fuel-efficient city car. Thus, the Z13 was born with an exterior design significantly different than what the company was doing at the beginning of the decade. Beyond the odd shape of the body, the people behind the project decided to extend the windscreen onto the roof and also gave the Z13 wide rear fenders in the same vein as the Volvo C30 launched 13 years later.
While the original plan was to install a water-cooled four-cylinder horizontally opposed engine, Bimmer-Mag reports the concept ultimately received an inline-four borrowed from the BMW K1100 motorcycle. In the new application, the engine mounted at the back (immediately in front of the rear axle) was detuned from 100 horsepower to only 82 hp and linked to a CVT acquired from Ford.
The showcar presented in Geneva in 1993 wasn’t actually built by BMW as the company – due to cost concerns - decided to hand over the project to Italian coachbuilder Stola. It was more than just an interesting concept to put on display at auto shows as the Z13 was actually engineered to be a fully functional prototype. A second car - finished in red – was built as per the original technical specifications, with an aluminum body and frame, more powerful engine, five-speed manual gearbox, and a roomier interior.
Speaking of which, the cabin had a McLaren F1-styled arrangement with the driver sitting in the middle and flanked by two passenger seats with an ample amount of legroom. However, the BMW Z13 was first and foremost a “Personal Car” created primarily as a single seater. Like the i3 nowadays, the concept had a generous array of tech, such as an electric parking brake, satellite navigation, telephone, and even a fax machine.
Legend has it the concept was supposed to go into production, but then in 1994, BMW bought Mini via the Rover Group via the British Aerospace, so the Z13 suddenly became unnecessary.