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BMW unveils king of the roadsters

Retro style: The BMW Z8 roadster will debut in September.

BMW has lifted the lid on its Z8 roadster, which combines 1950s styling cues with aluminium construction and awesome performance

13 Jul 1999

BMW has taken the covers off its mighty Z8 roadster but Australian enthusiasts should not get too excited because there are no plans for a right-hand drive version.

The Z8 two-seater will make its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

Like the Z07 concept car which appeared at the Tokyo show in 1997, the Z8 is clearly influenced by the classic V8-powered BMW 507 from the 1950s.

Only 252 examples of that classic sports car were built and the Z8 will also be relatively scarce. BMW is not talking numbers yet but we expect it will be limited to about 5000 units a year - all left-hand drive.

If it did come to Australia, the price would be at least $300,000.

There are no plans for a coupe version but each car will be supplied with a hardtop for inclement weather.

Power comes from the same 5.0-litre V8 engine fitted to the mighty M5 sedan.

With 294kW of power - that's about 400 horsepower in the old language - and 500Nm of torque, the BMW Motorsport-developed V8 provides the roadster with awesome performance levels.

BMW will only say that the car will accelerate to 100km/h in less than five seconds but sources in Europe suggest it will actually be less than 4.5 seconds.

The time for the M5 sedan is 5.6 seconds but the roadster gains a considerable edge through its light weight.

The Z8 will already blow the Porsche 911 Cabriolet and Mercedes- Benz SL out of the water for performance but just in case a bigger engine is deemed necessary, BMW is believed to already be investigating the viability of slotting in a 6.0-litre V12 engine producing 500 horsepower.

The V8 drives through a six-speed manual or sequential gearbox to the rear wheels and it is all kept under control by BMW's third- generation electronic traction and stability control, which is linked to the engine management and anti-lock brake systems.

Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.

Extensive use of aluminium has kept the Z8 down to about 1400kg, which is 356kg less than the M5.

BMW engineers have opted for an aluminium spaceframe chassis - a first for a BMW production car - which is both glued and welded for extra rigidity.

Many of the suspension components are also made from aluminium, as is the entire front sub-frame.

Most of the smooth exterior panels are also made of aluminium, though the bumpers at both ends as well as the rear inner panels are made of polyurethane, not carbon fibre as was rumoured.

The styling of the Z07 concept car may have been criticised for being too retro but the Z8 production car is a handsome machine with a clearly modern interpretation of the old 507's style.

The slanted air vents behind the front wheels are an obvious link to the 507 but, unlike those on the smaller Z3, these actually work, venting hot air from the Z8's engine bay.

BMW's traditional kidney grille has been elongated to create a 1950s feel and incorporates the fog lights.

And check out those chrome wing mirrors ...

The rear end is somewhat Porsche-like and features ultra-slim tail-lights.

Just as the Z3 was promoted through a James Bond film, the Z8 will feature in the forthcoming 007 thriller, The World Is Not Enough.

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