On the road in perhaps the most blatant BMW ever
I’m wearing a fashionably questionable Hawaiian shirt. My car is pretty strong and pretty flat. And pretty white. “Magnum” is therefore out of the question. Then “Miami Vice”? Much better. Only that I don’t have one Ferrari Testarossa pilot, but a BMW M1. Today “M1ami Weiss” is the order of the day.
Hardly any other BMW is as extroverted, special and incredible as the M1. Presented in 1978, it was the most expensive German new car at that time (100,000 DM, later even 113,000 DM). In total, only 460 vehicles including all racing cars were built up to 1981, 453 according to other sources. So there is no question that there was no reason for me (also born in 1978) to ponder when BMW Classic asked me if I would like to drive an M1.
Other BMW classics in the driving report:
And so I am now standing in the courtyard of the used sheet metal division of BMW. With your mouth open. There are three M1s parked in front of me. One red, one in dark blue and “mine” in white. The M1 looks simply brilliant in every color. The wedge-shaped design comes from none other than Giorgio Giugiaro, the creator of the first VW Golf and the Fiat Uno.
At the sight of the red M1, Ferrari naturally comes to mind. In fact, the “Ikonenbrandt” discovers certain parallels to the 308 GTS in me. With this M1 I would be “Bavarian Magnum”. The Lotus Esprit may also have been inspiration, especially since Giugiaro also had his fingers in the game.
One thing is certain: the BMW M1 follows the sports car fashion of the seventies. The “BMW Turbo” study from 1972 also served as a model. There was also a mid-engine here. The development of the M1 finally began in 1976, but more on that later.
The BMW M1 is 4.36 meters long, but a whopping 1.82 meters wide and only 1.14 meters high. Caution is therefore advised on narrow country roads. Parking backwards becomes a challenge: a kind of slatted blind extends over the rear window, which limits the view. Ergo, I have to use the exterior mirrors and forcefully crank the power steering to turn the M1 off.
Important: leave space for the wide doors on the left and right! I just think to myself: If my driving instructor could see that! (At this point a warm greeting to the Kraft driving school in Bonn-Oberkassel …)
So that both I and the M1 can cool down, I look at the design language in detail: wedge shape and folding headlights, in contrast to the new BMW 4 Series, probably the smallest kidney in company history. In the back a huge hatch, including the 277 hp six-cylinder with 3.5 liter displacement and a not so small trunk. Ice cream should not be transported in it.
How did the M1 actually come about? Here, the historians are divided as to whether he should only give the brand image an impulse or whether BMW wanted to build sports cars permanently. One thing is certain: the M1 was (as the name suggests) the first production vehicle from BMW Motorsport GmbH, today M GmbH.
The low seating position and the very factual cockpit reveal that the M1 was designed as a racing car. Even the BMW copywriters had no doubt about it: “Many are racing with modified sports cars. At BMW, a modified racing car is now going into series production.”
Nevertheless, BMW planned 450 vehicles for homologation and developed the M1 together with Lamborghini. It should also be built there, but Lambo didn’t come out of the plasticine. The cooperation agreement was terminated in April 1978 because the Italians were unable to produce at least some pre-series cars on time. To save Lamborghini’s honor, it should be said that the company already went bankrupt in 1977.
But from then on, the BMW M1 was built at Baur in Stuttgart, and some fans may know its convertible conversions of the 3 Series with a fixed door frame. The M1 was finally unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in October 1978.
The problem: Some of the buyers jumped off because of the delays. And without the necessary quantities, no homologation, without homologation, no racing.
The body of the BMW M1 is built on a tubular frame, which is why I have to balance myself over a thick sill when I get in. Umberto Marchesi from the Modena region was responsible for the frames. The plastic body parts were made by TIR (Trasformazioni Italiani in Resine). Carbon fiber was still in its infancy, which is why glass fiber polyester was used.
On the other hand, many parts from the BMW car range at that time were used. The rear lights of the 6 series are a striking feature on the outside. But the M1 still had bad luck on the tire: due to changes in the regulations, it was unable to stir up motorsport as planned. But BMW was creative and launched the Procar series in 1979/80.
Here, the five fastest Formula 1 drivers from the training runs with factory vehicles of the BMW M1 competed against selected private drivers of this type of vehicle in Formula 1 races. Overall winner in 1979 was Niki Lauda, in 1980 Nelson Piquet won the laurels.
Depending on the engine, the racing versions of the M1 produced between 470/480 hp (suction) and 850 hp (turbo). An M1 racing car even became a work of art: Andy Warhol painted it brightly in 1979 and the vehicle actually raced to 6th place in Le Mans. Warhol wanted to paint in 5 minutes, but the film team present asked him to take his time . So he put the signature under his artwork after exactly 28 minutes.
Nevertheless, Warhol still had time and asked his BMW-assigned supervisor whether he should also beautify his car. But he indignantly declined, after all his company car was still brand new. Had he ever said “yes” … Warhol himself later said about his M1: “I love the car. It is better than the work of art.”
So many stories about a car, of which there are only 399 road vehicles. And each of them is a real treat. Simply because the M1 is relatively easy to drive after a little getting used to. Of course I have to do something for my money: Insert the gear lever of the ZF transmission with force, press the clutch pedal powerfully.
Long legs are pretty helpful here. And again not, because the wheel arches protrude massively into the footwell. It’s a good thing I put on sneakers.
But be careful! The first gear is at the bottom left, next to 3 and 5. But the steering is surprisingly smooth when driving slowly, and again precisely at higher speeds. Incidentally, 105 liters of fuel fit into the tank according to the advertisement. It makes sense, because the M1 likes to pull 15 liters and more from the reservoir.
M88 is the internal name of the 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine behind me. It was later modified with the BMW M635 CSi and the first M5 built-in. But similar to the operation, the unit does not rely on pure ruckus. While older Ferrari are treacherous and require a firm rein, the BMW M1 seems to be saying: Get to know me carefully and we will get along.
In Munich city traffic, the M1 can be moved surprisingly low-revving and relaxed. 260 Newton meters are available from just 2,000 rpm. However, speeds are desirable: the maximum torque of 330 Newton meters is only available at 5,000 revolutions. Not much by today’s standards, as is the acceleration from six seconds to 100 km / h. Many a diesel SUV can now cushion the M1.
But would get one BMW X5 so many thumbs up, cell phone photos and grinning faces on the highway? As I accelerate there everything seems to slow down around me. Many treat themselves to a detailed look at our M1 low-wing squadron.
The M1 remains surprisingly comfortable up to around 140 km / h, but I don’t expect it to exceed 200 km / h. Theoretically, 262 km / h would be feasible. Gert Hack wrote in the “Motor Revue” at the time: “So you can travel quickly with the M1 without being stressed too much by the dynamics of driving.” He was right …
In addition, thanks to the built-in air conditioning, I keep a cool head and listen to the engine. At low speeds, it sounds like many large-volume BMW six-cylinder engines of those days. Only above 3,000 revolutions does the orchestra give the angry overture from the golden days of BMW engine construction without particle filters, environmental aids and downsizing. Hallelujah!
But from 1980 hardly anyone wanted to buy an M1. The last cars were sold until 1981 for prices around 90,000 marks. That alone shows that the M1 was not a lucrative business. And it explains why the M GmbH like cars closer to the people in the following years M3 and M5 sat. Odd: In 1987 a Japanese company converted a Toyota to look deceptively similar to the M1. BMW goes to court and ends production.
BMW M1 tribute, BMW M1 and BMW Turbo (from left)
To date, the M1 has not received an adequate successor, even though the breathtaking M1 homage study was shown on its 30th birthday in 2008. And the BMW i8? At best, formally a little consolation. No wonder that I and “my” M1 are being rearranged by fans at the “M Movie Night” in the drive-in cinema in Aschheim near Munich. Are you aware that even an M2 now outperforms an M1 in terms of performance?
But the encounter with the M disciples shows what has remained of the BMW M1: a myth for all M fans to this day. Eye-catcher in traffic. Cult object for Warhol fans. Legend thanks to Procar races. An incredibly expensive legend: nothing runs under 600,000 euros.