Think of the builders of your favorite supercars, and BMW may not be at the top of your list. However, in the late 1970s, the German carmaker produced one of the most remarkable mid-engine performance cars of all time. BMW intended the M1 to be the pinnacle of its automotive art, and it was designed to win races as well.
Though BMW's original goal for the M1 was for racing, this never happened on a large scale. Some Group 4 vehicles were built, as planned, with 470-hp engines, stripped interiors, and lightweight plastic windows. Unfortunately, the cars were considered too heavy to be competitive, as they were based on 3,000-pound road cars.
Although BMW produced the M1, it wasn’t necessarily developed by the German company alone. One may argue that the Italians were the true designers of the M1. Lamborghini built the space frame chassis. The ultra car suspension was designed by Gian Paolo Dallara, a former Lamborghini engineer. The car's wedge-like fiberglass body was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, who had recently created Italdesign.
Lamborghini would produce 400 automobiles, allowing the concept to compete in Group 4 racing. Once homologation was complete, a turbocharged version of the CSL six-cylinder would be installed in the factory race vehicle, and the wins poured in, according to the plan.
But because Lamborghini's financial problems delayed the start of production beyond the scheduled 1977 deadline, BMW Motorsports quickly manufactured the racing 320i for Group 5 competition. Although BMW released the M1 soon after (in January 1978), Lamborghini's impending bankruptcy forced the Bavarian company to cancel the arrangement on April 20, 1978.
Nonetheless, there's so much to love about the BMW M1, and we've highlighted a few here.
The BMW M1’s Adventurous Munich-Italian Exterior Design
The M1's low center of gravity is partly due to its modest height of 1.14 meters. The most critical component, though, was the incorporation of the car's magnificent Italian lines.
Due to Lamborghini's financial problems, development came to a halt after the construction of the first prototypes. Marchesi, a Modenese chassis builder, stepped up to develop the chassis. Another Italian company built the bodywork and joined the chassis at Italdesign. Baur, a German company, oversaw the final assembly in Stuttgart. The companies hand-built each model under Group 4 requirements, resulting in 460 examples.
A dramatic outward form that is heavily influenced by BMW's own 1972 Turbo design. The M1 did not include the Turbo’s wild gullwing doors, but Giugiaro kept the same rakish design that helped define supercars of the era.
The M1's shell is an aerodynamically efficient envelope placed around the velocity-generating machinery and the needed two-passenger space. It’s executed in fiberglass to a high standard. There’s hardly a ripple or wave in any of the panels, and they fit as though lasered from a single casting.
The BMW M1’s Wonderful And Luxurious Interior
There's no denying that BMW built the M1 for the racetrack first and the road second, but comfort isn't sacrificed.
BMW nonetheless assured that it was a pleasant and comfortable place to be. The M1, for example, had sporty seats wrapped in high-quality cloth and leather, a pattern shared with the door panels.
It also had a large center console that divided the seats and housed the gear shifter, handbrake lever, and multiple switches and controls. As standard equipment, owners got air conditioning and a radio with a cassette player.
The luxurious interior is completed in muted black-checked fabric and grey wool carpeting to finish off the luxurious interior. Considering the incredibly restricted production run, this was a really sensible approach.
The BMW M1 Has A Top Tier Level Engine With An Incredible Performance
The ability to cut the wind smoothly makes an engine’s work a lot easier, but in the M1’s case, this is merely icing on an already rich cake.
A 3.5-liter straight-six engine, based on the one found in the rival CSL chassis, is mounted in the M1's tubular space frame. With a 24-valve, dual-overhead-cam design, the road going M1's engine boasts 274 horsepower, fed by a five-speed ZF gearbox.
The M1 accelerates to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and reaches a top speed of 162 mph with 273 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque, which were impressive figures at the time. The M1 was not among the top 5 fastest sports cars of the 1970s, but it was easy to drive and had excellent handling.
Despite its remarkable specific power output of 80 horsepower per liter, the M1 powertrain is quite content to meander along at moderate speeds. Despite being unbound by American emissions and fuel-economy rules, this tamed race engine beats most street engines in terms of output and attitude.
Even though the BMW M1 didn’t reach the peak that it wanted, it still had a lot to offer. For its time, the M1 was the pinnacle of hyperfast streetcars. Its power, handling, and responsiveness excesses are suitably tempered by comfortable accommodation and a civilized ride. If BMW can construct a gentled-down race vehicle this well, then all other ultra carmakers are starting from the wrong end of the spectrum. One could call it "The Fast and The Luxurious."