BMW Z13

My goodness—two BMWs in a week?! But it's Friday, and so we're going to take things a little easy today. I'll start by saying this: if BMW promised to make me the perfect car after analyzing my interests, web browsing history, driving style, and day-to-day needs, I have a feeling they'd send me a dark green Z13.

Being a BMW concept car, it's been discussed at length elsewhere—though I will take exception to those who say it's like an older i3 city car. That car would be the BMW Z22 concept, not the Z13. Who is the Z13 for? Someone who needs a loaner car while his McLaren F1 is in the shop.

I'm convinced it's probably the closest idea of what would be the perfect car for me, and hits just about everything I'd want from a car… 

  • Hand-beaten aluminum panels by Stola in Italy
  • Aluminum spaceframe chassis
  • Very compact overall dimensions (about 25 cm / 10 in. shorter than a Chevrolet Spark)
  • Rear-mounted 82 horsepower, 1,200-cc engine from the K1100 motorcycle
  • Driver sits in the middle…

The first prototype seen here had a rear-mounted CVT transmission (the round dial to the right of the steering wheel is to select park, forward, reverse, etc), while the second prototype, a dark red example, had a 1,200-cc 4-cylinder motorcycle engine and a 5-speed manual transmission.

(As an aside, some publications reported that the car was front-engined with a rear-mounted CVT transmission, but they're wrong.)

It's pretty perfect, right? Well, there is one blot left on its résumé: it was fitted with a car phone and fax machine. Oh, 1994…

It makes sense: engineers at BMW had wanted to downsize the luxury of a large sedan (just look at that glass roof!) into something more fuel efficient, and the Z13—nice stereo, satellite navigation, leather seats, et al—was what resulted. And if you follow this history of what would become the company's executive express, the modern Mini lineup starts to make more sense: shortly after the Z13 was cancelled, BMW bought Rover and embarked on its plan to revitalize Mini—giving it many of the same features (but not the groundbreaking design) seen in the Z13.

The composites side of the Z-program cars of BMW Technik ended up influencing what we can now buy as the i3 and i8, decades later.

(If anyone at BMW is reading this and either of the Z13s will move under its own power, I'll gladly buy my own airfare and bring a jerry can of fuel for a test drive…)