In Reply to: Origins of the modern roadster... posted by Bruce on March 30, 1999 at 00:12:25:
The Z1 was an interesting car, and one most Americans have never seen. It is nice to remember it, as well as the 507 & pre-war 328, all of which were drawn upon in some degree by the Z3's designers.
On the other hand, it's a bit of a stretch to claim that such a pricey, limited production vehicle as the Z1-- which boasted numerous advanced/experimental features totally absent on the Z3 -- began the modern renaissance of affordable roadsters. (Yes, I know, the Z3/SLK/Boxster may not seem cheap, but by recent Euro-roadster standards all these cars classify as "affordable").
The Miata clearly demonstrated that a large, heretofore ignored market segment existed for these cars. (Incidentally, a top-of-the-line Miata now goes for $27K-plus. When you take into account the much larger dealer mark-ups on the Z3, top-of-the-line Miatas are actually as expensive as a base Z3). BMW clearly followed Mazda's lead in producing a back-to-basics car at a reasonable price. Unlike the Z1 (which pioneered a plastic-covered spaceframe construction, unusual drop-down doors, and a new mulit-link rear suspension), the Z3 is absolutely a built-to-a-price parts bin car (which not only doesn't showcase any particularly new engineering ideas but actually reverts to a prior generation 3-series rear suspension).
I'm not saying the Z3 is in any way inadequate. Everyone knows that BMW's 3-series cars are great sports sedans, and they're a worthy basis for building a roadster. BMW's platform-sharing strategy also makes the affordability of the Z3 possible, which I'm sure we all agree is a good thing.
On the other hand, whether you like the Miata or not, you gotta give Mazda credit for being willing to bring large numbers of its machines to market & thereby demonstrating that cars like the Z3 could also work.