There are a few strange similarities between yesterday’s 1987 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V and today’s subject – the much more elusive and legendary BMW M1. Both were sporty cars developed from more pedestrian beginnings. Both featured high-revving dual-overhead cam motors. But the interesting part comes in the sublet of construction, and the design. Both have links to Giugiaro, but both also borrowed heavily from other designs.
In an article I penned for The Truth About Cars last year, I covered some of the development of the Wedge Era and how those spectacular show car designs channeled their design language down to more pedestrian models. One of the stars of that article were the cutting-edge looks from Giugiaro’s ItalDesign – the firm, and man, responsible for some of your favorites such as the basic shape for the Audi Quattro. But while the Quattro launched its brand into the luxury realm and redefined the 80s, the undisputed German star of the wedgey wonders was the BMW M1.
In an article I penned for The Truth About Cars last week, I covered some of the development of the Wedge Era and how those spectacular show car designs channeled their design language down to more pedestrian models. One of the stars of that article were the cutting-edge looks from Giugiaro’s ItalDesign – the firm, and man, responsible for some of your favorites such as the basic shape for the Audi Quattro. But while the Quattro launched its brand into the luxury realm and redefined the 80s, the undisputed German star of the wedgey wonders was the BMW M1.
Like the Quattro, the M1 redefined and refined BMW’s core mission, helping to launch the Motorsport division along with the 3.0 CSL and 2002 Turbo. While Giugiaro had also had his hand in the M1’s design, the genesis of the shape lay in the much earlier Paul Bracq designed Turbo concept. Bracq, in turn, had undoubtedly been influenced by the late 1960s creations of both Giorgetto Giugiaro (at Ghia and ItalDesign) and Marcello Gandini (Bertone), as well as the efforts and splash rival Mercedes-Benz had made in 1969 with the C111 concept and record setter.
But while Daimler was hesitant to enter serial production with such a departure from their tried and true sedan designs, the M1 proved to be just the spark BMW was looking for to ignite the fire in driving enthusiast’s minds. It was, at the time, the Ultimate Driving Machine:
One of [whatever]. We hear it quite often here at GCFSB, but we’ve also come across some quite rare machinery in our years of being involved with this site. When I saw this Polaris Silver M1 for sale in Germany, I found it hard to believe that it was one of only three manufactured in this color. Silver is such a common color, especially on our favorite German vehicles. Sure enough, however, they didn’t produce many in this hue. With under 500 built, the M1 was one of the rarest BMWs produced. This car was just the beginning in what would be a long line of high performance machines to wear the Motorsports badge, which would wind up on the posterior of everything from roadsters to Tourings.
While it’s safe to say that all of the legendary BMW M1s have an interesting history, some are a bit more traveled than others. It would be simple to suggest that modifying one of the few M1s produced would be sacrilegious, but in the 1980s anything was fair game in the tuning scene, and let’s not forget that the M1 was a bit of a flop originally. In fact, until very recently the M1 was generally overlooked as a future collectable; prices were higher considering the rarity and provenance of the original M car, but like the Audi Sport Quattro they enjoyed relative obscurity in the general public. So, it’s not much of a surprise that some were modified in period, and AHG was the most famous of the tuners of the M1. Taking the base car to the next level, they customized the interiors and upped the power nearly 30%, along with fitting aero tweaks that were a reminder that the M1 was intended for the track. Looking much like a street worthy Procar, the only thing that was missing were the celebrity race drivers and crashes. Not missing was the high price tag, something that’s back today:
After failing to sell at auction for the estimated $600,000 – $800,000 projection, the AHG Studie modified M1 is back and now on eBay. Bidding as of writing is sitting around $300,000 – a steal for even a poor condition M1 these days. While it’s not likely to remain there or meet reserve, it will be interesting to see where the pricing ends up!
The below post originally appeared on our site July 29, 2014:
I won’t bore you with an attempt to fully recount the storied history of the M1 here. But there are some interesting developments that helped create this halo car, changed its purpose and created the car that you see here. The M1 is a legendary car that, like the 959, 190E 2.3-16V Cosworth, RS200 and some other notable historic cars was born into a world that had already passed it by. It seems that often these ultimate cars have come about when the series rules have changed, and the M1 was part of that. The 959 moved from Group B to Le Mans, running high overall both attempts that it ran. The 190E took to the race track instead of rally, creating a new motorsports legend in the process – who can forget the images of Senna in the 190E? The RS200 moved towards the popular European sport of Rallycross, where it was extremely successful. And the M1? Well, the M1 was a bit lost; BMW had to build 400 of the expensive machines in a bit of a global recession, so they decided to make a one-make race series called the Procar series. Of course, it didn’t hurt that BMW was attempting to get its foot in the door with F1 management as an engine supplier, and the promise of the spectacle of F1 drivers let loose in supercars before the real race sure sounded appealing. What it was, most of the time, was a train wreck of crashes – but it was entertaining for sure, and they ended up building enough M1s to go racing where the car was intended, in Group 5 racing. While BMWs interests and technology passed by the M1 in the early 1980s, there was nevertheless a group of individuals who wanted their M1s turned up in the style of the wild winged, wide fendered and massive wheeled Procars.…
I’ve written up some cool M1s, but this one may take the cake even from the Procar-widebodies if for no other reason than this is the M1 you see in the history books. Orange on black with that badass cloth/leather interior is what the E26 is all about. Add to that the fact that it’s from the badass Canepa Collection and has just 3,300 miles, and this is a frickin’ museum piece. Or it could be… I’m a much bigger fan of cars that are used. I’d construct one of those viewing rooms which the internet has seen made for E30 M3s and Ferraris; I’d soak in the glorious orange like it was a Seasonal Affective Disorder light and bust this thing out a few times a year for some fun.
I think I need to drive an M1 some day. Is it as fast as it looks, or were the roadgoing versions all bark and no bite? Is it sharp like a supercar, or just quick like a smushed BMW sedan? I don’t think you’ll have to ask too many questions before getting in today’s example though, as it has an extremely rare modification package from AHG. Only 10 were made this way and mostly sold to BMW factory race drivers. With fender flares that don’t quite hit Procar levels and a front spoiler that nearly overdoes it, this M1 certainly has the bark but backs it up with the bite as the M88 has been massaged to 350hp, more than enough to motivate the 2,900lb wedge to scary speeds. Painted by a famous German shop in a mental so-80s-it’s-modern ombre, this is an extremely unique M1 being sold by the shop that makes all American 959s possible.
Model: M1 AHG
Engine: M88/1 tuned to 350hp
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Price: If you have to ask…
1979 BMW M1 AHG VIN: WBS00000094301094
This vehicle, number 94 of approximately 453 M1s produced from 1979-1981, was modified in Germany by AHG, formerly the largest BMW dealer in Europe and now owned by BMW. Only ten M1s ever received the treatment from the AHG M1 Studio, and most were only available to BMW’s factory racers.
According to quotes from then AHG/BMW Motorsports Division president Peter Gartemann the modifications included: The 3.5 Liter 277 HP was upgraded to 350 HP, racing clutch, special exhaust, front air dam with brake ducts, wider front and rear fenders, side skirts, special rear wing, adjustable height suspension, BBS wheels, Cibie lights, full leather seats and special paint.
The M1 was a curious car for BMW; it was unlike anything the company had ever manufactured and we haven’t seen a modern day equivalent since. To this day, it is known as one of the rarest BMW models, yet its influence throughout the lineup can be seen right up to this day. This was the car that kickstarted BMW’s Motorsport division into the mainstream, as the M88 inline six lived on in such cars as the E24 M6 and M635CSi and E28 M5. It’s uncommon to see an M1 in the wild, in fact, the only one I’ve ever seen was at the BMW Zentrum in Munich. This particular example for sale in London is originally a California car and one of the last ones off the production line.
Engine: 3.5 liter inline six
Transmission: 5-speed manual
1981 BMW M1, One of only 453 cars produced (399 Road Specification), Chassis No. 4301154
The M1 was the first car unveiled by the independent BMW Motorsport division; the M1 represented a radical departure for the famed German marque. Designed to do battle with Porsche in FIA’s Group 4 category, the mid-engine BMW supercar was developed in tandem with Lamborghini, designed by influential Italian stylist Giorgetto Giugiaro and constructed by Baur in Stuttgart. An extremely capable and well-rounded sports car, the BMW featured a Marchese-built tube-frame chassis, fiberglass construction, large vented disc brakes, a five-speed ZF transaxle and fully independent suspension as well as luxury amenities such as air-conditioning and power windows. At the heart of the state-of-the-art supercar was BMW’s magnificent M88 engine, which featured chain-driven camshafts, four valves- per-cylinder, dry-sump lubrication, steel tube headers and advanced Bosch Kugelfischer timed mechanical fuel injection. Boasting 0–60 times of 5.6 seconds and a top speed in excess of 160 mph, the car was one of the fastest production sports cars of its era.
M. It’s perhaps one of the most powerful letters in the automotive realm. With a history dating back to 1972 to edge BMW closer to the high performance market, their first vehicle to bear the M badge was this car, the M1. Revealed at the Paris Motor Show in 1978, this car came about as the result of an agreement between BMW and Lamborghini to build a car to be homologated for racing. Equipped with the M88 inline six cylinder engine, this 3.5 liter unit with Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection produced 276 horsepower.
After the production of a few prototypes, BMW took over the project from Lamborghini due to financial difficulties with the Italian manufacturer. Only 476 of these cars were built, making them the rarest M car ever. This M1 for sale in New York was produced early on in the production run and retained for promotional purposes by BMW.
Color: Blue with black leather
The Motorsport division of BMW was set up in 1972 to handle the racing activities of the company. By 1978 the division had evolved to the point where they were ready to produce their own car. The M1 became the first car developed by the M division. The intended use of the M1 was to compete in the World Sportscar Championship. It was designed specifically to be a racecar but in order to qualify for the Championship series 450 M1’s would need to be built. BMW couldn’t use 450 M1 racecars so most of them were built as street cars and sold to the public.
The car came from California where it had resided from at least 1981. It was the eleventh chassis and the 16th car built. It was completed December 21, 1978 and retained by BMW for display and promotional purposes.