BMW M1 | Showpiece of the Week

The BMW M1 is up there with the likes of the Ferrari Dino when it comes to illustrating just how mad the exotic car market can be. Only ten years ago, a decent example of BMW's legendary homologation special could be had for as little as eighty grand. Today, you'd need about Β£400,000 to warrant even beginning a search for one. Nobody in the previous decade could have predicted such an explosion in values, but now that the M1 market has stabilised, it seems the mid-engined wedge is cemented in the upper echelons of the market for all time.

That means a large proportion of the 457 two-doors are likely to live the rest of their lives wrapped in cotton wool, if they haven't done so already. Which is a shame, because BMW's 3.5 straight-six machine ranks as a superb driver's car with proper seventies supercar pace and a soundtrack that can, nay will, stand hairs on end. Born of a skunkworks motorsport project at a time when the company was high on the sales success of its 5 and 3 Series models, the M1 was the only mid-engined BMW until the launch of the i8.

Evidence of its thoroughbred status came with the setup beneath the car's Italdesign-produced glass fibre skin. BMW's Jochen Neerpasch-led racing arm designed the M1 around a tubular steel space frame chassis, utilising prototype technology for maximum lightness and stiffness. BMW lacked the capacity to actually produce the M1, so its skeleton was made in Turin by esteemed tube manufacturer Marchetti, before being mated to the BMW-sourced motor back in Germany. In contrast to the Bavarian firm's Group 5 arch rival, Porsche and its rear-engined 935, the racing-spec 3.5 six was placed midship to improve handling balance.

The engine itself, the M88/1 developed by engineering legend Paul Rosche, was naturally-aspirated and chosen over a turbocharged alternative for reliability, following the lessons learned with the M31 in the Group 2 2002 Turbo, also developed by Rosche. But as a motor created for racing using mechanical fuel injection, it was considered advanced for the day and offered an excellent blend of usability and performance. That being said, the unit was at its best when wrung out, with its peak of 277hp arriving at 6,500rpm and the maximum 243lb ft of torque only 1,500rpm earlier. Numbers that made it well-suited to the world of motorsport.

But it was never to be. Or not quite, anyway, because by the time BMW had got the M1 production up and rolling, the FIA had changed Group 5 regulations, making it ineligible for competition in any of its classes. Not wanting its project to go unused, the brand conjured up its famed but short-lived M1 Procar class, which supported Formula 1 races and actually featured F1 drivers that would essentially 'warm up' in the morning event before jumping into their single seaters. The one-make series only ran in 1979 and 1980, but it's reputation has endured, because, well, see for yourself...

Perhaps the resurgence of clips like this, as well as an ever-increasing admiration for naturally-aspirated mid-engined sports cars, partly explains the rising values of M1 road cars in recent years. Either way, it leaves cars like today's Showpiece, a 12,000-mile-old stunner on sale at Munich Legends, looking all the more special. Unlike some of the offerings on the market in recent months, this one hasn't been stripped back and restored with all new parts, but rather returned to like-new condition while retaining as much originality as possible. While it's unlikely to fetch a record price (like the Β£600k one that sold back in 2015), you're still looking at one of the finest M1s on the market - one we'd guess is probably a half a million quid car as it stands. We dare you to find out.

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Comments (33) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Andy83n 18 Nov 2019

    Any truth that Kim Wilde had one, back in the day

  • Sandpit Steve 18 Nov 2019

    That looks lovely, but sadly the market woke up to their rarity a few years ago and there’s probably better places to put half a mil, unless that much is just loose change for you. So sadly they’ll be mostly sat in collections now, rather than used as BMW intended.

    Great to be reminded of the Procar series though, someone should send Chase Carey that video as he’s looking for ways to improve the F1 weekend. Imagine the F1 drivers lining up on Sunday morning, all in the same car for a sprint race? Preferably in something naturally aspirated with a manual ‘box - Cayman GT4? Bonus points for a reverse grid based on the actual F1 race to come.

  • Sandpit Steve 18 Nov 2019

    Andy83n said:
    Any truth that Kim Wilde had one, back in the day
    Didn’t all the cool kids in America?

  • Leftfootwonder 19 Nov 2019

    Is there another car that epitomises the 70's more than this?! A decade to forget from a design perspective imo.

  • gigglebug 19 Nov 2019

    Cool car.

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