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What is the BMW M1? The rarest production BMW.

The BMW M1, the rarest production BMW ever made, and perhaps the most beautiful, that was also developed for racing in collaboration with Lamborghini.

Lamborghini has been known for creating some of the World’s most exotic and beautiful automobiles ever made for as long as it has been around. However, in the mid-1970s, Lamborghini and BMW collaborated to create a homologated factory racing that became one of BMW’s rarest and most exotic production vehicles ever produced: the BMW M1.

Between 1978 until 1981, BMW produced the BMW M1, a mid-engined sports vehicle. In addition to being one of the most outrageous production cars ever produced by the conservative German automobile manufacturer, it was also BMW’s and the World’s first mass-produced mid-engined vehicle. The second mid-engined car produced by BMW was the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, introduced in 2014.

What is the story behind BMW’s and Lamborghini’s collaboration to build the BMW M1?

Lamborghini and BMW started in the 1970s to build a homologation-ready factory racing car. However, disagreements between the two manufacturers split the partnership, prompting BMW to make the vehicle independently. From 1978 until 1981, the BMW M1 was available to the general population.

BMW M1-18

What is the production history of the BMW M1?

While most of BMW’s production vehicles were manufactured “in-house,” the BMW M1 is one of a handful of cars produced by a handful of outside vendors.

Italina Resina produced the BMW M1’s fiberglass body in Modena, Italy.  Another Modenese company, Marchesi, built the chassis. Finally, Italdesign finished the car’s body and interior in their Turin factory.

Partially completed BMW M1s were then shipped to Baur, a German specialty manufacturer, where they were hand-assembled. BMW provided the hand-built M88/1 engines for the vehicles. The automobiles were then sent to BMW Motorsport in Munich for final inspection and delivery.

The BMW M1 is one of BMW’s rarest models.  Over its three-year production run, only 453 production cars were produced. 399 of the 453 were intended for use on the road, while 53 were designed for racing.

What engine and transmission powers the BMW M1?

The BMW M1 is the company’s first automobile designed entirely by BMW Motorsports. Its 3.5 liters M88/1 six-cylinder gasoline engine with Kugelfischer-Bosch mechanical fuel injection has a Magneti-Marelli ignition system.

Producing 273 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 243 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm in the road-going version of the BMW M1 has a top speed of 162 mph.  The BMW M88/1 was not limited to just the M1.  It also powered the BMW E24 M6/M635CSi and the BMW E28 M5.

Designed by Paul Rosche, the M88/1 is not his only engineering masterpiece as he also designed the S14 inline-4 engine powering the iconic BMW E30 M3. In addition, he created the BMW S70/2 V12 engine powering the legendary McLaren F1.

Converting energy into forward motion is a ZF Friedrichshafen 5-speed manual transmission, having a 40-percent locking limited-slip differential.

BMW M1-8

What are the steering, suspension, and brakes of the BMW M1?

ZF Friedrichshafen was a significant partner in the production of the BMW M1.  They also provided the steering, suspension, and brakes for the M1.

The double-wishbone suspension system of the M1 featured adjustable coil springs, Bilstein gas-filled dampers, and unassisted rack and pinion steering. In addition, to improve ride comfort and tractability, the road-going BMW M1 had softened suspension bushings.

Bringing the BMW M1 to a stop were steel vented brakes measuring 300 mm (11.8 in) in front and 297 mm (11.7 in) in back. In addition, the M1 was equipped with custom Campagnolo alloy wheels measuring 7×16 inches in front and 8×16 inches in back, with Pirelli P7 tires measuring 205/55 VR15 in front and 225/50 VR15s in the back.

The BMW M1’s interior is half-leather and half-cloth. Because of its motorsport roots, the car’s interior was simple, with many elements taken from earlier BMW models. For example, the cabin had air conditioning, power windows, and a stereo, but the seats were not adjustable, and the vehicle was only available in left-hand drive.

What is the BMW M1’s racing background?

BMW Motorsport created a racing program around the BMW M1, which was different from how things were normally done at the time.  Jochen Neerpasch of BMW Motorsport created a one-make championship utilizing race-modified M1s in 1979. As a result, the “Procar BMW M1 Championship”  series was established to help BMW construct enough cars to qualify for the World Championship for Makes’ Group 4 classification. In addition, this new series served as a support series for Formula One, with numerous Formula One drivers driving identical vehicles.

Niki Lauda won the 1979 season, while Nelson Piquet won the 1980 season. In addition, the Procars were used by several teams in the world championship and other national championships once BMW met the requirements for group 4.

From 1981 to 1986, the M1 competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and finished second. For Le Mans purposes, the car was categorized as a Group B car, as Group B was also intended for a GT class for road races but was surpassed by Group C prototypes instead.

For the 1982 rally season, BMW France adapted an M1 Pro Car to Group B rally-spec. The car was also raced in 1983 before being entered by the Motul privateer racing team for the 1984 season. Former ERC champion Bernard Béguin won back-to-back Rallye de La Baule and Rallye de Lorraine in 1984, and even took an outright ERC podium four months later at Rallye d’Antibes. After 1984, the automobile was no longer in competition.

BMW M1-20

Wrapping it all up.

Over forty years later, it appears that the BMW M1 is gaining a legendary status for the wonder that it is.  I believe that some of this status is attributable to the rarity of the vehicle.  With only 400 ever produced, one is lucky to see one in the flesh, much less own one.  When they do come up for sale, many transactions seem to be private-party transactions.  As of the time of this writing, has an exceptional representation for purchase.  I expect the final sale to be right around $1,000,000, if not higher.

The BMW M1 also has pedigree as it was the first vehicle to be designed by BMW’s famed M Motorsport.  Additionally, the car itself is gorgeous.  I, for one have been very fortunate to have seen an M1 “in the flesh.”  It was in Mexico City in the mid-1980s.  The experience profoundly impacted me as I vividly remember every detail of my brief interaction with the BMW M1.




Posted in Canepa Motorsports, M1, M1 Procar

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