Where it All Started - BMW M1
Throughout the years, besides being utterly magnificent, M BMW cars have always been a statement. "I am the kind of person which has a an impressive annual income, a family, clout and an insatiable thirst for sideway buffoonery". Whichever M car one might choose, the perks are always going to be the same – practicality and sensibility get you trough the mazes of society while sheer power and playfulness make for a great time at the countryside. Small wonder then, that today many well dressed men consider the M batch of BMW's as a really, really good investment. But few people ask themselves, how and when did it all begin? Let's just say, that the whole practical performance, 5-door saloonishness was definitely not the case at the beginning of the M odyssey. Enter the 1978 M1 – BMW's first and only mid-engined road car.
Its birth hadn't been easy. The company had to act quickly as, at the time, the Porsche 911 was becoming increasingly dominant in the field of motor sports. Believe it or not, BMW needed help. And that help came from Lamborghini. Sort of. The Italian company was assigned to do the design, engineering and production work. Without a doubt, that sounds like a recipe for success – BMW overseering the company that brought to the world the Lamborghini Miura and the Countasch. Probably one of the most talented designers ever, Giorgetto Giugiaro, sketched the lines of the M1 with a particular signature that can be seen in other works of his, such as the Lotus Esprit. Sadly, the times were tough, an oil crisis swept the world and Lamborghini went bust. That meant that BMW had to turn to someone else to finish the job. It was a painstaking process that consumed both time and money. The end result was an overpriced, plastic car of a thing that spawned only 455 times. On top of that, by the time everything was sorted out, most of the motor sport regulations moved on and the Bavarian was left trailing behind.
The real tragedy however, is that, for its time, the M1 was a really decent car. It had the looks, it had the quintessential supercar setup (2 seats, mid-engined, rear-wheel drive), it weighed like a super car (1400 kg) and it had a wonderful 3.5 liter straight six engine that developed 273 bhp. And it wasn't some sort of an experiment power plant, but a proper one with a Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection system and DOHC operating 24 valves in total. Later on the M635Csi and the first-generation M5 would get pretty much the same engine.
And that's the thing about the M1. It died off quickly for a novel cause. Mercifully, the M badge stuck on, but now the BMW people were caught thinking - "Why don't we shove such an engine in one of our own pefectly good saloons, beef up the brakes and suspensions and see what happens?" Today the results are evident. Almost every BMW car in the conteporary line up has an M counterpart which is hugely successful on the market and almost always highly valued by critics and automotive journalists.