Pick of the Day: 1980 BMW M1

Credit: Original article published by Classic Cars Journal.

One thing I love writing about is cars that are undervalued. Even in today’s market there are blue chip collector cars out there that should cost more than they currently do. A prime example of this is the BMW M1.

The M1 was BMWs attempt to not only dominate a race series but to show the world just how amazing a car the company could build. It was the first car to be solely developed by the BMW M/Motorsports Group and is likely the best example of a ‘Halo’ car the company has ever produced.

The story of the M1 is both crazy and fascinating because the project had may hurdles to get through for the car to become a reality.

The M1 was initially conceived as a racecar to rep­resent BMW in the new Manufactur­ers Championship, which was shifting from the cars being prototypes to being based on production cars instead. However, before the M1 even got near a track, the racing organizations decided to go back to prototypes as their top tier racecars. This left BMW with a racing car with nowhere to race.

Not to be deterred, Jochen Neerpasch, the man responsible for not only the M1 but for BMW’s racing efforts as a whole, announced in July 1978 that BMW had sold an IROC-type series, called Procar to the Formula One Constructors Association. The idea was that as an opener to each F1 race, the top-five qualifiers would each race one of the BMW-prepared M1s and compete against a field of fifteen privateer drivers also driving M1s.

The M1 carried the BMW chassis code E26 and was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro based around the company’s CSL racing engine. Due to lack of production capacity at BMW, they had the bright idea allowing Lamborghini to build 400 cars, which made the design eligible for the Group 4 racing in which they were planning to compete.

Typical of Lamborghini in the 1970s, they had some financial problems that ended in bankruptcy. This caused the production of the M1 to miss the 1977 deadline for racing and create a big problem for BMW. What BMW wisely did was cancel its contract with Lamborghini in 1978, have Marchese build the car’s tube frame, another company mold the fiberglass bodies, Ital Design then put the pieces together and added the interior. The process was not over yet, though, as then the cars were shipped from Italy to Stuttgart, where Baur installed the BMW running then shipped the cars back to BMW Motor­sports Group for the final preparations.

The cars did race but they did not meet the company’s expectations in the form of excitement or sales, and they exited the whole M1 Procar deal in 1980. By the end of 1980 a total of 399 M1 street cars and 54 racecars had been built. The fact that they built even this many with such a crazy production process is nothing short of a miracle. And you wonder why BMW have built so few Halo cars.

Our Pick of the Day is one of these amazing BMW exotic cars, a 1980 BMW M1 finished in white paint with a black interior.

Offered on ClassicCars.com by a dealer in Scotts Valley, California, they describe this M1 as a car that began its life with a single Bay Area family has remained in their possession since new. Importing the car from Germany from new was John Davila. Of the three M1s he owned throughout his life, two came to him in orange and the other in blue. This example he drove for a few years when he first acquired it before deciding to do a comprehensive and very detailed color change to white.

After John passed away, he left the M1 to his two sons who stored the car until early 2010. At this point it was completely serviced, so the two brothers could enjoy the car. In 2017 the car was given a comprehensive overlook by Canepa that included service, mechanical repair, and preservation restoration including work on the wiring harness, alternator, fuel system, suspension bushings, and brakes. The M1 was also given a sympathetic preservation of the interior, using new original carpet and black checkered cloth inserts in the seats while preserving all the original black leather.

In 2019 it returned to Canepa to complete all its mechanical servicing and refurbishment, restoring the systems as needed. This included restoring the entire exhaust system, wheels, new tires, a comprehensive engine tune up, engine reseal, new coolant hoses, new injection pump belt, exhaust gaskets, engine lid struts, air conditioning service, plug wire set, and all fluids changed for a total of more than $125,000.

The M1 should have been a million dollar plus car years ago, yet most struggle to get close to that number which makes no sense to me. From a buyer’s perspective it is a great thing as this car is being offered for a market correct asking price and represents a great deal for a car with this kind of provenance. For the price, please contact Canepa with the link in the ad to get more information. If this was a car from a certain Stuttgart firm, with this kind of rarity and style, it would easily cross the million-dollar mark, as would a Ferrari this rare. I would recommend buying this one now or you are likely to pay more later when people figure the M1 out for themselves. This BMW M1 is a perfect example of ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine.’

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.