The M1 – a simple name, a simple concept. M stood for Motorsport GmbH, BMW’s separate competition division. And the number one? Well, this was going to be a first, for this time BMW was not just going to develop capable racers from competent sedans and coupes.
It was going to build a high-profile, beat-all racer, with roadgoing versions basking in the reflected glory of on-track success. The first prototype ran in 1977, with the M1 entering production in 1978. By the end of manufacture in 1980, a mere 457 racing and road-going M1s had been built, making it one of the rarest and most desirable of modern BMWs.
Though its racing career was only briefly distinguished, it is as one of the all-time ultimate road cars that the M1 stands out, for it is not just a 160 mph (257 km/h) “autobahnstormer.” It is one of the least demanding supercars to drive, a testament to its fine engineering, and is in many ways as remarkable as the gorgeous 328 of the 1930s.
A PLEASURE TO DRIVE
The driving position in the M1 is extremely good, with adjustable steering wheel and well-placed pedals in the narrow footwells.
The M1 had widespread international influences. From a concept car created in 1972 by Frenchman Paul Bracq, the final body shape was created in Italy by Giorgio Giugiaro’s ItalDesign in Turin. Lamborghini also contributed to the engineering. Yet somehow it all comes together in a unified shape, and, with the double kidney grille, the M1 is still unmistakably a BMW.
Suspension was a mix of springs, wishbones, and telescopic shocks.
All BMW M1s were left-hand drive.
Twin tanks were filled via an orifice behind each door.
Strategically positioned air vents kept the powerful 3.5-liter engine cool. The M1 had only a vestigial lip-type front air dam.
Slatted Campagnolo wheels with five-stud fixing were unique to the M1.
The M1’s 3453cc straight-six engine uses essentially the same cast-iron cylinder block as BMW’s 635CSi coupe, but with a forged-alloy crankshaft and slightly longer connecting rods.
The cylinder head was a light-alloy casting, with two chain-driven overhead cams operating four valves per cylinder.
Big door mirrors— essential for maneuvering the M1—were electrically adjusted.
Retractable headlights were backed up by grille-mounted driving lights.
The all-black interior is somber, but fixtures are all to a high standard; unlike those of many supercars, the heating and ventilation systems actually work. However, rearward visibility through the slatted, heavily buttressed engine cover is severely restricted.
Large rear light clusters were the same as those of the 6-series coupe and 7-series sedan models.
PURE M1 RACING
BMW teamed up with FOCA (Formula One Constructors’ Association) to create the Procar series – M1 only races planned primarily as supporting events for Grand Prix meetings in 1979 and 1980.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL BMW M1 (1978–80)
BODY STYLE Two-seater mid-engined sports.
CONSTRUCTION Tubular steel space-frame with fiberglass body.
ENGINE Inline six, four valves per cylinder, dohc 3453cc.
POWER OUTPUT 277 bhp at 6500 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Combined ZF five-speed gearbox and limited slip differential.
SUSPENSION Coil springs, wishbones, and Bilstein gas-pressure telescopic shock absorbers front and rear.
BRAKES Servo-assisted ventilated discs all around.
MAXIMUM SPEED 162 mph (261 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 5.4 sec
A.F.C. 24–30 mpg (8.5–10.6 km/l)