The Curious History of the BMW M1 Supercar

The Curious History of the BMW M1 Supercar

Many supercars exist in the world, each with a unique story that leads to their present-day superior status. However, a particular car, the BMW M1, has a strange history filled with twists and turns leading up to its unique popularity ranking. Read on to learn more about this supercar and its curious history.

What Makes the M1 Great?

The M1 had a production timeline of three years starting in 1978, but its engineering and performance still hold people’s attention today. People note that the vehicle isn’t as fast as a supercar but it’s great for fast driving on normal roads like freeways.

The unique body has angular features, with the top part of the hood protruding outward and a dip in the rear window, covered by shutters. The six-cylinder engine was an impressive feature that gave the vehicle great performance, with an estimated horsepower of 231.

This vehicle is one of the few cars that are race and road-ready, thanks to great Italian and German engineering—two of the most prominent countries of supercar production.

Inspiration for Competition

The M1’s story starts with the inspiration to challenge Porsche in 1978. The Italian car brand raced in Group 5 racing, and BMW wanted to keep up with the competition. BMW’s subsidiary group, labeled BMW M, began developing the BMW M1, the vehicle that would compete and show off the brand’s great engineering.

However, the lead developer, Jochen Neerpasch, stressed that the vehicle needed to have a mid-engine design for optimal performance. The company could not produce the 400 models that were street ready with this design due to a lack of resources. They focused on another car brand that could make up for their lack.

Combining Italian and German Engineering

BMW partnered with Lamborghini to receive help in making the prototypes they needed for the M1. Lamborghini generated designs and ideas for the chassis and manufactured the vehicles.

A tubular steel chassis implemented by Italian engineer Gian Paolo Dallara became one of the primary parts of the car that gave it great performance. The path to success looked promising with the help of Lamborghini; however, financial issues seemed to follow the Italian car brand, just like BMW.

The First Setback

Every great success story involves some setbacks. In the curious history of the BMW M1 supercar, the first setback occurred within Lamborghini as they faced bankruptcy. BMW ended the contract with Lamborghini due to their financial situation. As a result, BMW quickly put together the 320i to participate in the Group-5 race. It may have had half the horsepower as its contemporaries, but it could keep up with the competition.

Without Lamborghini’s manufacturing, BMW wouldn’t see any production until they aligned with multiple other car manufacturing companies, such as Marchese TIR and Ital Design, to make the tubular steel chassis and fiberglass body and put the parts together.

The engine came from Karosserie Baur after receiving approval from BMW M. This multiparty process took a significant amount of time, which cost BMW their chance at racing the car in Group-5. The racing series dissolved by the time the M1 was ready for release, and Neerpasch moved on to other projects.


Without Group-5, BMW needed a way to display its hard work. Procar was a one-make series developed by Neerpasch that included the BMW M1 as the only vehicle for driving. The idea behind the series was to generate enough quality feedback from drivers to help the company sell the car and kickstart more production.

The drivers included five of the best F1 qualifiers and 15 privateers. All drivers would drive the vehicle with their best skills and provide feedback to BMW. Unfortunately, the series backfired, leading to another setback for this great supercar.

The Second Setback

The overall feedback from the drivers of Procar was negative. Many complained about engine issues, such as the vehicle feeling underpowered by the lack of a turbocharger.

Some positive reviews noted the smooth ride but commented on what could improve. This setback would be a detrimental event in the curious history of the BMW M1 supercar and would change the future of this promising car.

M1 Budgeting Issues

After the effects of Procar, BMW encountered financial issues. Since there wasn’t enough money in the budget to keep BMW afloat, combined with the pressure to deliver a four-cylinder turbo for F1, Neerpasch left the car company.

BMW spent too much time and money on the M1, with each setback resulting in more money going to a failed project. Cutting their losses, the car brand shut down the project in 1980.

A Declining Market for Exotic Cars

An additional aspect caused the end of the M1 project. The automotive market shifted towards family-friendly vehicles such as sedans and vans.

Exotic cars became less popular, and more companies moved on to make vehicles to fit the public’s wants. The M1 wasn’t a popular vehicle to begin with, and without the funding or interest to promote it or improve it, the dream of the M1 speeding along the racetrack faded away.

An Uptick in Popularity

The total amount of M1 cars produced was 430, with around 40 models ready for the racetrack. The future looked bleak for this vehicle as BMW went on to make other cars. However, when the public’s interest in exotic cars rose again, the M1 caught the eyes of a few dozen people.

The desire to drive a better-performing vehicle in comfort rather than a mundane car made the M1 a gem. The vehicle received an uptick in popularity since it had a unique appearance and performance level, and because it was a rare find.

The limited availability of road-ready models made the supercar a hit with collectors and car enthusiasts. That popularity still holds, with many interested in buying it for up to $500,000.

Legacy of a Rare Car

The M1 project from 1978-1980 ended, but its legacy continued. The original models hold great value at auctions, and BMW made an M1 Homage concept in 2008 that uses the style of the original with a mid-engine design.

Despite its many setbacks, people still want to own this excellent car and admire its abilities. Many are on the lookout for this car, and a BMW body kit for sale that will improve it. The M1’s history is a story that teaches people that great things take time, and that, eventually, a well-worked project will reach success.

The Curious History of the BMW M1 Supercar

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