Untouched BMW M1 is a Dream on Wheels
With only 453 examples built, it is the progenitor of the M division despite being being a commercial disappointment.
We came across this BMW M1 on Bring a Trailer and have been ogling it ever since. The bittersweet reality is that nobody can be blamed for a tear of joy when seeing one for the first time, or for a tear of sadness that the prices are as insane as its rarity. The M1 is also one of BMW’s stranger stories. Technically, it was a bit of a failure but ultimately, a tentpole in BMW folklore.
It came about as the very first M division car, which is a fact big enough to bring it into the folklore of BMW on its own. However, the M1’s road to production was rocky and its lifespan incredibly limited. It started life on Paul Bracq’s drawing board as concept car known as the BMW Turbo. It was later taken over by the patriarch of BMW’s M division, Jochen Neerpasch, to became the mid-engined supercar we now recognize. Ultimately, the engine wasn’t turbocharged but still featured one of BMW’s greatest engines to date. That 3.5 liter, 24-valve, dry sump inline-6, is still celebrated for being a race engine that’s still a joy to drive at lower speeds. The numbers aren’t spectacular today, but 266 horsepower with a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds and rolling onto 100 mph in 8 seconds was monstrous at the time.
The M1 was destined for homologation. It was to be a true race car for the road. Legendary designer Giorgetto Giugiaro and his team developed and styled the M1. However, BMW contracted Lamborghini to make 400 road cars for homologation purposes, and that’s where things started to go pear-shaped. Lamborghini was in deep financial trouble at the time and after postponing production and then the Italian firm going bankrupt, BMW had to cancel the contract. By the time they got into production with the M1, the racing series it was entering dissolved and BMW was left to try and make a whole new racing series called the BMW M1 Procar Championship.
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It didn’t work out despite the new race series promise, and the M1 ended its run with a total of 453 cars built and around 40 of them being race cars. At the time, the M1 much got brushed under the rug by BMW as a bit of a disaster. However, the story has endured as well as the original reviews by publications such as Car and Driver. It was BMW’s first mid-engined supercar and those that drove it mostly loved the BMW M1. Car and Driver even claimed the M1 “is the absolute pinnacle of hyperfast street cars.”
Now, even something like this scruffy round the edges, but well-maintained, example is a BMW most people will never lay their eyes on, let alone get to drive. When the rare occasion one comes up for sale, it’s almost enough to consider the fact that you can live in a car, but you can’t drive a house.