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BMW only ever made one proper supercar: The M1. It’s a slice of rare automotive legend and one that we had to have a deeper look at. Caution: features porno music and velvet.
When you think of 70’s supercars you tend to think of Lamborghinis and Ferraris – big, wedgy things that make a lovely noise and go very quickly indeed. You don’t tend to think of BMW, do you?
We can’t blame you for that. It’s a brand that isn’t really synonymous with supercars. Fast saloons, yes, but a supercar? Well, in the late 70’s BMW did indeed produce a supercar, the M1. Very few were made and its development is fraught with delays, financial troubles and moving goal posts.
It’s such a shame that the M1 didn’t do as well as it could and should have. It lasted from 1978 – 1981, not a huge amount of time in anyone’s book, and while it was around it was supposed to have been racing its little socks off on the track. Instead, BMW was trying to sell enough of them in order to qualify to enter the races thanks to a rule change at the last minute that meant a certain number of cars had to be sold before they could race.
It was also supposed to be around a lot sooner than it was. A deal made with Lamborghini to produce the car went more sour than a pint of double cream left in a kiln and BMW very nearly ended up without a car at all.
It’s a wonderful thing, though. The big, red monster we had created such a presence wherever it went that even though driving with the windows open was a necessity (no air con, naturally, and heat leaking into the cabin caused me to sweat so much I lost 2lbs) and the heckles, shouts and endless “Which Ferrari’s that, mate?” didn’t half drive me mad.
Driving it in the countryside was good fun, though its width and, erm, older controls made passing trucks, busses and the like a bit of a nightmare. Driving it in town, however, was a different experience. Tight London side roads and suicyclists make driving a behemoth such as the M1 a dicier proposition than it would have been when it was new.
Even though it’s giant, unknown and difficult to pilot the BMW M1 was truly special. It was a car that so few know about yet its fans utterly adore (we met a guy while shooting who went weak at the knees when he saw it), it’s a very special beast. If you see one, just remember this: It’s not a Ferrari…
Engine: 3.5-litre straight six
Torque: 243lb ft
Top speed: 163mph
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