Featured: BMW M1 Of A Kind

BMW M1 Of A Kind

By Ryan Connolly
December 23, 2014

Photography by Rémi Dargegen

This is where it all began. A naïve enthusiast may argue that M3s or M5s are the BMW M-Performance bloodline’s progenitors, but luckily for you, you’re here reading this. The same innocent enthusiast may also prematurely proclaim that this Giugiaro-designed wedge is anything but a BMW, for that matter. “You’d have to be an idiot to paint a DeLorean!” they might brusquely declare. Thank the heavens they stuck not one, but two trademark roundels on the M1’s hindquarters. No, it’s not a DeLorean, this beauty right here is the very first BMW M-Performance production car.

Up front, the classic kidney-grilles are jammed at the very tip of that gorgeous wedge shaped, with another roundel slapped firmly atop the ever-so-slightly sloped hood for good measure. BMW purists worldwide, who often partake in a perpetual shaming of the brand for “losing its way”, may very well have a personal crisis when reading the spec sheet on the M1:

Straight-six engine, displacing three-point-five liters with four valves per cylinder, producing 277 horsepower, a five-speed manual gearbox, and a partridge in a pear tree (special order only).

Built as a homologation special to go racing from the start, BMW and Lamborghini partnered on the mid-engined project, with Lambo providing the chassis development know-how. After rolling out seven prototypes, Lamborghini fell on hard times as government funding dried up (a bailout?! HUZZAH!), at which point BMW took control of the M1 project and handed it over to its racing division to pick up the pieces.

What a magnificent car they built, right into a wall. Rule and popularity changes in the racing world quickly swung this purpose built production racer into obsolescence. It simply didn’t matter anymore. Lamborghini planned to build 400 cars (430 were fashioned in total) to meet Group 4 eligibility requirements, however due to delays caused by their debacle, racing evolved into Group 5 while BMW soldiered on with the M1. When it finally went racing, it lost. A lot. Proving to be a costly mistake for its creators, the Motorsports division’s budget was slashed, and at the time, the M1 was labeled a monumental failure.

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alan miller
alan miller(@redline2k)
7 years ago

A fabulous car to drive. Docile on the street and well mannered enough to drive all day long. This is not truly a classic BMW six but substantially massaged one considering BMW sixes (M30) were single cams having 12 valves and adjustable rocker arms while M1 sixes (M88/1) are twin cam with 24 valves and shimmed bucket lifters. The most common 745i was not an M six but a normal single cam (M30) six of 3.2 liters with a turbo. Taking the 3.2 liter and multiplying by the calculated factor of turbo power enhancement of 1.4 resulted in the 4.5 liter comparison thus making a normally aspirated 732i become a 745i. Only in the South African market were a small number of BMWs badged 745i equipped with an M six (M88/3) motor.

Henry Spencer
Henry Spencer(@henry_spencer)
3 years ago
Reply to  alan miller

This engine was available on the 1984-1988 M635 csi 286 hp

anatoly arutunoff
anatoly arutunoff(@tolyarutunoff)
7 years ago

an m1 driven by my ‘nephew-in-law’ alf gebhardt won the u2.5 class in the daytona 24hr with marc surer in the late ’70s or very early ’80s.

Rich Traulsen
Rich Traulsen(@videodude1961)
7 years ago

Saw one this past summer. And a Z1 too! Would sure enjoy having one of these in my garage. Mid engine goodness. You have some wonderful photos here. Thanks for sharing them! Here’s my pic:

Ryan Corneliusen
Ryan Corneliusen(@unknxwn)
7 years ago

I actually had the pleasure of seeing one at our SIGFEST 2012 – a gathering of E30 M3’s from around the states – and this orange (hennarot?) M1 decided to show up and steal the show. It was local to me that year, only 10min away, so that was a real treat. Nice article and photos. I love BMW’s 3.5L engines…(my first car was an E34 535i).

Ayush Goyal
Ayush Goyal(@193-ayush)
7 years ago

Nice Article Ryan! Loved It!