1981 BMW M1 - Photo by Focusatze
The star-crossed BMW M1 is a surprisingly accomplished late-1970s supercar, considering its long and difficult development. Dynamically, the M1 is excellent, with a superb chassis paired to a jewel of an engine—a powerplant that essentially founded an M-Division dynasty single-handedly, finding a home under the hood of the M635CSi, M5, and that inspired the first M3’s powerful four cylinder. BMW started with a winning design—their Paul Bracq-penned Turbo concept car—and that aforementioned M88 inline six cylinder DOHC motor, and intended to take the M1 racing in the FIA Group 5 “special production” class. But disaster tailed the M1 like a tough rival drafting behind. Lamborghini was engaged to help design the chassis, but their bankruptcy after constructing seven prototypes put a damper on BMW’s plans. The delay in finding a new constructor, Baur of Germany, meant that by the time the M1 was rolling off the production lines to homologate the car to race, Group 5’s rules had already changed. Instead of simply giving up, BMW creatively repurposed the M1 as a one-make race, Procar, and the M1 thrived under competition development to produce huge power figures from the M88 engine. Unfortunately, despite the exotic engine’s power and sound, the M1 lacked prestige in the eyes of the well-heeled buyers it was intended to appeal to, and just 456 left Baur’s Stuttgart assembly plant. What contemporary buyers missed was the M1’s poise, balance, and power—it is quite simply one of the best-driving cars of its type and vintage.