The looks of a car, especially something like a sports roadster, are very important. While the ride, handling, performance and quality all have to be aligned, it is the design of the car that is going to attract the attention of the buyer. It usually isn't possible to dissociate the visual aspect of a car design from the rest. Except in the case of the Z1.
The BMW Z1 was an uncommon, untraditional roadster. A 2-seat convertible, it didn't have regular doors that swing open, but instead had very hill sills and low doors that dropped down into them. The goal with this design was to harken back to British-style roadsters with simple canvas doors, and it could actually be driven with the doors open, as the high sills offered the necessary legally-required crash protection.
Few would call the Z1 (built from 1989 until 2001) outright beautiful, even by 1989 standards. It's not really curvy, not really angular, and doesn't have a particularly graceful profile. But the beauty in this car appears when you strip it down to its birthday suit.
The Z1 chassis was a marvel of engineering at the time, and a test-bed for BMW. Lessons learned from the Z1 project would be applied to future BMWs for years to come. The body was almost an afterthought. The plastic panels could be removed, and the car could still be driven (according to BMW at the time, the whole body could be removed and replaced un under an hour). The backbone of the car was a sturdy welded steel chassis designed specifically for the Z1.
Function over form. BMWs offbeat little roadster has been forgotten by some, and those that do remember it don't do so because of its timeless beauty or elegant styling. It wasn't particularly fast, and wasn't the all-out best handling roadster of the era. It was rather expensive too, given the performance. What made this car stand out then and still does today is what you see when you undress it.
NB: I don't have any of my own pictures of the Z1 undressed, but a friend has some photos and even a video showing the prototype Z1 in all its naked glory. Check them out at: