BMW M1: A 1970s icon

BMW’s M1 was designed to homologate the Group 4 racing car. Stunning design, famous drivers and a one-make racing series cemented this car’s place in history

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BMW and the M1

Today, the brand’s range of cars is vast and encompasses everything from the 1 Series hatchback to the forward-thinking BMW i8 hybrid sports machine. However, it still hasn’t truly replaced one of its most iconic halo models. The BMW M1 is a legend.

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Design

Its distinctive wedge profile was the responsibility of the Giugiaro design house, and featured a tapered nose, angular windows and pop-up lights. It was a fascinating design, with interesting details such as those hypnotic wheels as well as miniaturised kidney grilles.

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Bull in a china shop

Lamborghini was originally responsible for the M1, as BMW tasked it with creating a supercar that could be homologated for Group 4 racing. The Italian firm ended up in financial difficulties and, so the story goes, was reluctant to hand development back to BMW. BMW eventually got its hands on the plans and continued development of the car in-house.

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A real supercar

The M1 was fitted with a 3.5-litre six-cylinder engine that produced 270bhp – good enough for a 162mph top speed. Weight was kept to a minimum, with the new supercar tipping the scales at 1300kg.

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Talk of the town

BMW’s first mass-produced mid-engined car was launched in 1978, and received high praise from the world’s media – especially considering that this was the brand’s first supercar effort. However, the road car wasn’t BMW’s main aim…

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Motorsport ambitions

The road car ticked the homologation box, but to help develop the Group 4 racing car BMW launched a one-make racing series. These racing M1s were clad in aerodynamic bodywork, with engine power boosted to 850bhp.

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Ready to race

This racing series supported many Formula One races, and actually attracted star drivers. F1 legend Niki Lauda famously won the BMW M1 Procar championship in 1979 and Nelson Piquet in 1980. Once qualified for Group 4, these Procars were then used in various motorsport events.

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A rare breed

Just 453 BMW M1s were produced between 1978 and 1981 – 20 of which were race variants. Today it is one of the rarest BMWs in existence.

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