I give Audi a lot of credit for bringing the R8 to market. It took a fair amount of gall for a company best known for mid-range all-wheel drive luxury sedans to up and produce a supercar-beating mid-engine road car capable of being used year-round and every day. Itâ€™s a feat nearly without precedent. Of course, I said â€œnearlyâ€.
Thatâ€™s because BMW pulled off a similar trick the best part of thirty years before Audi did it. And arguably the development of what would become BMWâ€™s fledgling Motorsports division was even more impressive than what Ingolstadt pulled off. The M1 burst onto the scene at a time of economic austerity, global oil crises and came from a company who not only didnâ€™t have a history of producing such cars, but didnâ€™t have connections to others who did (unlike Audiâ€™s corporate Lamborghini partnership).
Speaking of Lamborghini, because of BMWâ€™s lack of expertise in supercar design it was the Santâ€™Agata firm that was employed to produce the M1. But because of Lamborghiniâ€™s lack of expertise at beingâ€¦well, a company capable of producing something on a schedule, BMW engineers had to first liberate the early molds from Italy and then find someone who could produce the car. Ultimately, it was a combination of ItalDesign in Turin, Marchesi metal working in Modena to build the frames, and Karosserie Baur in Stuttgart that stuck the M1 together. Though it doesnâ€™t exactly sound like a match made in heaven, and indeed the M1 was a relative sales flop, it has nonetheless grown to cult status as one of the most user-friendly supercars of the late 1970s: