The BMW M1 (E26) is a sports car produced by German automaker BMW from 1978 to 1981.
In the late 1970s, Italian manufacturer Lamborghini entered into an agreement with BMW to build a production racing car in sufficient quantity for homologation, but conflicts arose that prompted BMW to produce the car themselves. The result was sold to the public, from 1978 to 1981, as the BMW M1. It is the first mid-engined BMW to be mass-produced, the second is the BMW i8. It employs a twin-cam M88/1 3.5 L six-cylinder petrol engine with Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection. A version of this motor was later used in the South African version of the BMW 745i, of which 209 examples were built between 1984 and 1986, as well as the E24 BMW M6/M635CSi and E28 BMW M5. The engine has six separate throttle bodies, four valves per cylinder and produces 277 PS (204 kW; 273 hp) in the street version, giving a top speed of 260 km/h (162 mph). Turbocharged racing versions are capable of producing around 850 hp (634 kW).
BMW M1, BMW Museum, Munich, Germany
Pictured, from the BMW Museum’s own model, is the M1’s rear bonnet ornament, accompanied with the M1 label/etching.
Rear Bonnet Ornament and Iconic M1 Etching
The M1 coupe was hand-built between 1978 and 1981 under the motorsport division of BMW as a homologation special for sports car racing. The body was designed by Giugiaro, taking inspiration from the 1972 BMW Turbo show car. Originally, BMW commissioned Lamborghini to work out the details of the car’s chassis, assemble prototypes and manufacture the vehicles, but Lamborghini’s financial position meant that BMW reassumed control over the project in April 1978, after seven prototypes were built. Since the engineering of the car was still incomplete, a group of former Lamborghini engineers that had founded a company named Italengineering offered to complete the car’s design. Less than 10 miles away from the Lamborghini shop, the engineering for the M1 was finished. Only 453 production M1s were built, making it one of BMW’s rarest models. Of the 453 produced, 20 were race versions created for the BMW M1 Procar Championship.
The M1 had various successes in motorsports. In 2004, Sports Car International placed the car at number ten on their list of top sports cars of the 1970s.
The BMW M1’s existence originates from the need for a production based car for a proposed Group 5 ‘Silhouette Formula’ to compete in the World Sports Car Championship. The mid-engined concept car was designed in-house by Frenchman Paul Bracq. Ex-racing driver Jochen Neerpasch was responsible for initiating this ambitious project which was intended to take on rivals Porsche and hopefully yield a victory at Le Mans.
Internally dubbed the E26, the M1’s development was a cooperative effort with top Italian specialists. Lamborghini was initially contracted to build the car but Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Ital Design ultimately took over the project. The coach assembly was performed at Ital Design featuring a fiberglass body built by composite specialist T. I. R. on a multi tubular space frame chassis supplied by chassis specialist Marchesi & C.
Assembled bodies were shipped to BMW’s German partner Baur for the mechanical assembly, the last stop then being BMW Motorsports for final preparation and distribution. The twin-overhead-cam, four-valves-per-cylinder 3.5-liter six was all BMW with tweaks by the Motorsports division. A five-speed ZF transaxle was used to transmit power to the ground. Lamborghini’s Gian Paolo Dallara was responsible for developing the suspension, which followed racing practice by using unequal-length wishbones at front and rear. The M1’s wedge-shaped coachwork proved highly efficient aerodynamically, needing very little in the way of additional spoilers and wings, even in race configuration. The M1’s interior was exceptionally well equipped for a sports car. It featured Recaro seats in leather with fabric inserts, air conditioning, electric windows, remotely operated door mirrors and heated rear screen.
First shown at the Paris Motor Show in 1978, the road-going version came with 277bhp and a top speed of 160mph. The abandonment of the Group 5 Silhouette Formula robbed the car of its raison d’être, but production nonetheless continued. An M1-only Procar Series was run at Grand Prix races in 1980 and ‘81 provided BMW Motorsport with a valuable showcase by way of consolation. Some 453 M1s were built thereby fulfilling racing homologation requirement that400 be produced. Production ceased at 399 road cars and 54 Procars.
Completed in 1978 and finished in red over black/ grey trim leather the car was first registered to BMW themselves and German road registered M-AM 3248. It was featured in a huge cross section of magazines by the international press, making the car arguably the most well-known example in existence.
Enthusiasm for supercars for the 1980s is on a meteoric rise. There is an unprecedented demand for such memorable cars from the era as the Ferrari 512BB, Porsche 930 Turbo, and Lamborghini Countach. Significantly rarer than all of those by an order of magnitude, the M1’s styling was avant garde for its time and even today it is difficult to consider that the M1 came on stage more than three decades ago. The M1 holds a special place in the hearts of enthusiasts and will no doubt continue to rise in popularity as BMW savvy younger collectors enter the market.
10 Cars was made at the Production end
Specs and features include a 350 bhp, 3,453 cc M88 DOHC inline six-cylinder engine with Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection, five-speed manual transmission, front and rear dual A-arm independent suspension with coil springs, and four-wheel disc brakes.
What does set it apart is the exterior paint scheme because each of these 10 was apparently painted in a different color/scheme.
As to what separates ‘normal M1s’ from AHG ones, you should know that the latter category includes a racing clutch, a 350 HP engine, new front spoiler, wider front and rear fenders, new side skirts, special rear wing, height-adjustable racing suspension and 3 piece BBS wheels. Basically, it looks like a Procar version.