Right Model Wrong Time

03 November 2022

There was a severe oil crisis in the early 70s and another in 1978. The same year the prepossessing M1 was introduced to the world.

The car, on paper, was fantastic; it was mid-engined, magnificently designed and able to create the heart flutter customarily reserved for the Italian car design cognoscenti.

The appearance was no surprise as Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Italian automotive designer, was responsible.

The motor was the sublime M88 in-line, six-cylinder producing 273bhp; whilst meagre by today’s standards was extremely powerful in 1978.

According to motoring records, BMW built 439 M1s, of which 399 were road cars and 40 Procars. What is astounding is that in the world of classic racing, many of these M1s are tuned to 500bhp, with the later turbo-assisted cars generating 850bhp.

FIA rules demanded BMW make 400 road-going versions sold to the public, known as homologations, enabling the M1 to race. Since the company had to rush to complete the M1, they enlisted the design genius Giorgetto Giugiaro and Lamborghini to do the engineering and production work.

However, in 1977, whilst providing engineering input for BMW, Lamborghini went bust for the second time, meaning BMW had to begin again.

There is an unconfirmed rumour that BMW had to break into the government-locked Lamborghini factory in the middle of the night to remove the body moulds. Otherwise, the receiver would have sold them for scrap.

In 1979 and 1980, the BMW Procar Series was one of the most spectacular racing series in the motorsport world. The overall winner of the first Procar season was Niki Lauda. The following year, Nelson Piquet secured first place in the standings with three wins in a row.

The Bavarian Supercar certainly was the right model at the wrong time.