1980 BMW M1
Design: Giorgetto Giugiaro
Chassis no. W8500000094301080
•One of only 453 built
•One of only 98 finished in orange
•Delivered new to Belgium
•Recent recommissioning carried out by BMW Classic
•Excellent original condition
A proposed Group 5 'Silhouette Formula' for production-based cars triggered the 'M1' programme in the mid-1970s, a mid-engined concept car designed in-house at BMW by Paul Bracq providing the basis. Ex-racing driver Jochen Neerpasch was responsible for initiating this ambitious project, whose aims included taking on rivals Porsche in the World Sportscar Championship and, ultimately, victory at Le Mans. Development was contracted first to Lamborghini and then to Giorgetto Giugiaro's ItalDesign, although almost all cars ended up being finished in Germany.
Giugiaro's compact coupé bodywork in glassfibre was wrapped around a multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, while a twin-overhead-cam, four-valves-per-cylinder, race-developed version of BMW's 3.5-litre six, driving via a five-speed ZF transaxle, provided the motive power. The wedge-shaped coachwork proved highly efficient aerodynamically, needing very little in the way of additional spoilers and wings in race configuration. Lamborghini's Gianpaolo Dallara was responsible for developing the suspension, which followed racing practice by using unequal-length wishbones at front and rear. Soberly trimmed in black and grey, the interior was exceptionally well equipped for a sports car, featuring Recaro seats, air conditioning, electric windows, remotely operated door mirrors and heated rear screen.
Lamborghini's withdrawal from the project complicated the production process, which involved the space-frame being built by Marchesi and the glass-fibre-reinforced plastic body shell by TIR, both in the Italian town of Modena. ItalDesign then assembled these two units and added the interior trim and equipment. From there the car went to Stuttgart, where Karosserie Baur fitted all the mechanical systems and components.
First shown at the Paris Motor Show in 1978, the road-going version came with 277bhp and a top speed of 160mph, making it Germany's fastest production sports car. By that time the car had acquired the model designation 'M1', standing for the first car developed and built by BMW Motorsport GmbH. BMW's long awaited new supercar was rapturously received; one American enthusiast was reported to have ordered three, which was perhaps all the more surprising given the price: DM 100,000, enough to buy four BMW 323i models with enough left over for some optional extras.
Only ever intended as a limited-edition model, the M1 ceased production after only 453 examples had been built, a minimum of 400 being required for homologation. In the event, the abandonment of the Group 5 Silhouette Formula robbed the car of its raison d'être, though the M1-only Procar Series run at Formula 1 Grand Prix races provided BMW Motorsport with a valuable showcase by way of consolation, Niki Lauda winning in 1979 and Nelson Piquet in 1980. In the USA the M1 dominated the 1981 IMSA GTO Championship, Dave Cowart's example winning 12 out of the 16 races. It was a fitting sign-off at the end of the M1's final year of production.
This particular M1 was purchased new in Belgium by a British diplomat, Mr J Wolfe (invoice on file), who brought it to the UK. There is a BMW (GB) invoice on file, dated February 1981 and made out to Mr Wolfe, for unspecified repairs costing £4,238. Subsequently the car was registered in the UK (in April 1989) as 'KCH 457V', passing via Sytner of Nottingham Ltd to the second private owner, Richard Turner of Gillingham, Dorset in October 1991. The M1 then passed via Classic Automobiles Ltd of Wandsworth, South London to the previous owner in Spain in April 1994 (sales invoice on file).
The previous owner did not need to do much to the M1, confining himself to replacing the fuel lines, water hoses, and hydraulic hoses (circa 11 years ago) and replacing the steel sump with a stainless item. Otherwise un-restored and highly original, the BMW was acquired by the current owner in October 2015 and since then has benefited from the expenditure of some €60,000 with BMW Classic to bring it to absolutely top condition. Now BMW Classic Certified, the car is offered with the aforementioned bill and sales invoice from new, copies of old UK registration documents, Spanish registration papers and the full BMW Classic expertise report containing 55 pages and concluding with an overall score of 1,7 on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the maximum score possible). An important landmark in BMW's history, and in particular of its involvement with motor sport in the post-war era, the M1 is already highly collectible and is surely destined to become increasingly sought after by discerning aficionados of the marque.
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