In 1978, BMW introduced its first ever sports car with aspirations of keeping up with the astounding innovations that were happening around the European continent. BMW took the decision to transcend its image of producing just family oriented cars into a reputable sports car powerhouse. Enter the M1!
Throughout their history, BMW time and time again have cemented their reputation as a high end manufacturer and the M1 serves as a prime example.
“the Lamborghini influence is everywhere to be seen in the car, with its elegant curves yet aggressive profile.”
Since it was their first ever sports car, they struck a deal with Lamborghini to design and produce the M1, which also explains the Italian style the car had. This deal ended in 1981, hence the end of production for these cars but nonetheless, the Lamborghini influence is everywhere to be seen in the car, with its elegant curves yet aggressive profile.
The car had a low centre of gravity, pop-up headlights and a wedge look that was very reminiscent of Italian cars at the time. This was a car that reflected its designer’s style but also the style of its time. There was a certain style that was popular in the late 70’s, 80’s period where cars looked a bit boxy and also the head and tail lights came across cheap looking. The M1 wasn’t any different. The tail lights were on the larger side and were a bit tacky.
Unique to this BMW though were its logo placement, the rear tail lights had two BMW emblems located above them but that idea was discontinued after the end of the M1’s production.
The interior was not much to write home about either with again, it’s period style. The cabin area consisted of hard plastic which in this day and age would look very cheap. There wasn’t much space in the cabin nor did it have a trunk, which was typical of mid-engine placement that usually hindered this. The seats were both fabric and leather, contributing to its theme. A theme left in the past and rightfully so.
The inside of the bonnet also reflected its Italian precursor, featuring the modern stand of mid-mounted engines. Clearly, the M1 was designed with performance in its mind, starting with the engine at its heart. In fact, the M1 was the first car BMW conceived with a mid-mounted engine and which seemed to be the thing to do after the Miura and Dino proved it could be done. Mid-engines were the standard of race cars for years but it was thought to be too dangerous for production cars to have them.
Like many BMWs that came before and after the M1, it was exquisite to drive. The handling was brilliant and the brakes were responsive. In addition, the overall drive was pleasant. However, it wasn’t exactly thrilling, which is what a sports car is supposed to do, thrill. It certainly wasn’t slow and in fact, it was considered a fast car in that day with speeds of 264 km/h. It just didn’t quite belong with the top tier of sports cars of that decade, albeit the M1 was a fine car and certainly set a precedent for BMW to build on for years to come.
The influence of Lamborghini in the M1 is overt and conspicuous. It almost is an imposter, an actor in disguise. With its Italian influence and German roots, the M1 is an intriguing car for any enthusiast or collector. The M1 may not belong in the tier of classic greats, but despite this, it charmingly highlights the beauty of cross-continent collaboration.