BMW M1: One of the coolest cars ever made

The BMW M1 was an incredible car — created by combining a French concept car, an Italian designer and Lamborghini’s engineering. It had all the cool gear — retractable headlights, rear air vents, Campagnolo wheels. And it was one of the best-handling supercars in history, which makes it a shame only 457 ever got made.

Here is a bite-size history of the BMW M1, one of the coolest cars ever to grace our roads.


Why did BMW call it the M1?

The M stood for “motorsport” and the 1? Well, this was a first for the German firm. The M1 wasn’t wasn’t going to be just another saloon or coupé modified into something more sporty, it was a specially-built top-of-the range racer that would deliver the goods on the track and epitomise cool on the road.

What made the BMW M1 so cool?

It was based on a concept car made by Frenchman Paul Bracq in 1972, with the final design done by Italdesign‘s Giorgetto Giugiaro in Turin, Italy, whose firm is also responsible for other such iconic cars as the first-generation Volkswagen Golf and the DeLorean DMC-12 of Back to the Future fame.

Lamborghini were commissioned by BMW to work on the vehicle and contributed to its development, but after cash-strapped Lamborghini entered bankruptcy in 1978 BMW took back charge of the project.

Despite its varied heritage the BMW M1 amazingly managed to bring all the different teams’ views together without looking strange — and while remaining unmistakably a BMW. The firm’s iconic front grille helped with that, as did the use of the same rear lights used in the car’s 6-series and 7-series models.

The BMW M1 was known for its superb driving position, with well-placed pedals and adjustable steering wheel, and the moody all-black interior added to the car’s appeal.

The technology was hugely advanced for the day, and the 160mph top speed wasn’t to be sniffed at.

The BMW M1 was sadly only produced for two years from 1978 to 1980, meaning it had a very short career on the race track — but its rarity has made the car one of BMW’s most sought-after vehicles today.

The BMW M1 Homage Concept

BMW M1 Homage

In April 2008 a BMW M1 Homage concept was unveiled as a tribute to the original model on its 30th anniversary. It was again designed by Giorgio Giugiaro and featured many elements of the original styling — including similar air vents and the double BMW badge on the back.

Much was lost too though, including the retractable headlights — so it was never going to be as cool. The Homage never made it into production.


TOP SPEED: 162mph (261kph)
0-60MPH (0-96kph): 5.4seconds
ENGINE: Inline six, four valves per cylinder, double overhead camshaft, 3435cc
POWER: 273bhp at 6500rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
CONSUMPTION: 24-30mpg(8.5-10.6km/l)
BUILD: Two-seater, mid-engined two-door coupé with tubular steel frame and glass-fibre body.
SUSPENSION: Bilstein gas-pressure telescopic dampers, coil springs, wishbones
BRAKES: Servo-assisted ventilated discs
PRODUCED: 457, from 1978 to 1980

You can see a video about the BMW M1 and the BMW M1 Homage here…