BMWBLOG Exclusive: Unrivaled and Unveiled – BMW M8 Prototype

BMW M, Featured Posts | September 13th, 2010 by 42
bmw m8 149 750x500

It’s the early 1990’s, you’re a German executive working for BMW in the incredible 4-Cylinder tower in downtown Munich. Not far from you, a certain, …

It’s the early 1990’s, you’re a German executive working for BMW in the incredible 4-Cylinder tower in downtown Munich. Not far from you, a certain, important bright red prototype is sitting, waiting for a decision to be made – a simple yes or no as to if the car will make the leap to a production series car.

On the one hand, you’re a car enthusiast, someone who would love to green light a 500+HP grand tourer with a six speed manual, rear-wheel-drive and acres of leather to cover up the inner workings and systems of the most technically advanced road car your company has ever built.

Then there is the business side of you – the side that is more calculated and looks at the business case of such a vehicle and evaluates the pro’s and cons in a cold, harsh light with other variables surrounding this decision. The German economy has been rattled from a recent worldwide recession. The prototype in question, along with the base car on which it was built, has already cost millions upon millions of deutschmarks and the base model series has received a only lukewarm reception from your biggest market, the United States.

bmw m8 128 655x438This despite the model being both in-line with the luxurious and sporting brand image and delivering a suitable blow to fellow German rivals. However, a flagship, expensive sports car with flat sales and rising manufacturing labor costs during a recession?

No – it won’t be built – this car will not make it beyond the prototype stage.

With that, the M8 Prototype would be boxed up and tucked away for another 12 to 15 years – out of the public eye and a major piece of speculation for BMW enthusiasts around the globe for the next decade and a half.

With this decision the most powerful production BMW until the X5/6 M was relinquished to a life of ease in a complex housing other prototypes and projects that didn’t quite make it to the assembly line.

bmw m8 130 655x438

However, mystery and rumors circulated around the M8 Prototype and whether or not it ever existed and, if it did, had BMW disassembled the big 8 like it does so many test mules and prototypes? The only proof available for almost two decades were rumors of output and a handful of grainy photos showing a heavily modified 850i with a revised air dam, power bulge hood, and some specialized ducts to channel air. Aside from that, publically there was no evidence that the M8 had existed and as time marched on many enthusiasts found themselves enthralled by the idea of such a car that never made it to market despite a substantial leap forward in performance over all of the existing BMW’s of the time. For reference, the 850CSi which was a detuned M8 of sorts and carried both M-derived engine codes and VINs had to make due with only 380HP – a mind blowing 170HP less than the rumored 550HP churned out by the M8 Prototype.


Speculation of what the M8 was and what it could have been capable of grew even more with the inception of the internet and car forums. Many thought it was a fully functional model, many thought it had been destroyed and many thought it was alive and kicking but roughly a shell of an 8 Series with non-functioning headlamps, air conditioning and many onboard systems.

After nearly 20 years, BMWBlLOG’s founder and head honcho Horatiu, managed to finally see the red devil in the flesh during a press conference a few months ago when BMW nonchalantly displayed the M8 in Munich for a handful of other, more pressing projects of the company. Upon further inspection Horatiu found the M8 to be a working prototype of a car that had managed to live in the shadows of the 4-Cylinder tower and in hearts of so many BMW enthusiasts for decades.

With such an incredible revelation – more information had to be sought out. From what was learned about the M8 Prototype( as the car is officially/unofficially titled as it is not a “concept” but a working mock-up of a car nearly set for production) was that – had this car managed to reach green light status, its sheer performance on every front would have been staggering against any existing peers it may have had.


Regarding the engine, a big V12 (likely larger than 5.0L of the 850/850CSi) is nestled under the bulging hood. The engine carries with it 12 individual throttle bodies connected to the driver’s right foot via direct cable making the M8 Prototype the only non-drive-by-wire 8 Series in existence and proof of M GmbH’s dedication to providing a tactile driving experience. Interestingly, one of the biggest misconceptions of the M8 is that it shares an engine with the record shattering McLaren F1 as it was around the same time as the development of the M8 that McLaren commissioned BMW to build a very power V12 to power their supercar – after being denied by Honda.

Per our sources, the McLaren V12 (a modified S70) and the M8’s V12 were likely constructed by many of the same engineers hence a similar design and output but differed in areas such as overall length due to the horizontal intakes for a front engine layout if the 8 compared to the vertical intakes of a mid-engined car. The McLaren engine, from a design standpoint, shared quite a lot of characteristics and parts with the S50 engine of the E36 M3.

Moving to the glowing red-hot exterior, the M8 Prototype distances itself further still from fellow 8’s with styling that meshes the sleek coupe lines with purposeful yet necessary upgrades. At the wedge-shaped, near E26 M1 nose, a revised front fascia allowed for better channeling of air into the massive intakes to feed the engine.


Sitting just forward of the engine is another enlarged airbox again helping to feed the swollen V12 to send 500+ HP to the rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox. Other revisions at the nose are lightweight pop-up headlamps, modified to both reduce weight and accommodate the lack of fog lamps – sacrificed for the great good of airflow along the lower front valence.


Gliding down the flanks of the prototype the coupe carries the same wide hips of the 850CSI with a widebody kit modified to accommodate better cooling of the brakes and it’s believed to also used to channel air as a means of cooling the rear differential. Wedged underneath the flared wheel arches are 17 inch M Systems wheels with a carbon fiber overlay. While we don’t have exact figures, the rear wheels are quite wide to keep the big coupe planted in the twisties – our sources indicate that the tires are Michelin PilotSports of the period.


Speaking of carbon fiber – that brings us to the body of the M8 Prototype. Weight savings in sports cars is very commonplace these days but in the early 1990’s, only cars like the Ferrari F40 or F50 or even Porsche 959 extensively used weight savings materials throughout the body to maximize performance. Specific body panels such as the doors, arches, and ducts are constructed from carbon fiber reinforced-polymer(CFRP) which are lighter than the standard components on the E31.


Additionally, the Prototype carries lightweight Plexiglas window frames which, per BMW, bear heavily resemblance to the current E92 M3 GT’s same window frames. BMW even made the hood, with a large intake front-and-center of the engine bay out of CFRP. They even went to the trouble of installing specialized headlamps, lighter than the stock E31 headlamps, with revised functions to let the flash-to-pass headlamps act as the primary lighting. The effect of these revised headlamps is two fold: to lighten the lamps as well as provide extra room for the massive air filter boxes sitting just below the hood. Again, the design of the car is focused on performance as priority number one.


Moving to the interior of the Prototype there a several notable changes over the standard E31. The biggest divergence is the addition of the B pillar on the Prototype – something noticeably absent from the cleaner lines of the other 8 Series’ cars. As would be expected, the B pillar (along with framed doors) was a necessary addition as a means of injecting further rigidity into the big coupe to combat the natural trend of a coupe’s body to flex under heavy load.


Other interior upgrades include heavily bolstered seating to keep occupants in place as well as reduce weight through racing seats. BMW went as far as to outfit the entire cabin in suede to keep interior grip levels high. Some of the instrument cluster was modified with two VDO-manufactured pressure gauges along with a manual climate adjustments panel added to the dash.


From our pictures and onsite reports, BMW also outfitted the interior with heavy-duty set of seat belts/harnesses to further ensure that the driver doesn’t budge one centimeter from the wheel – keeping the sole focus on the driving experience.


With all of these considerations – it’s easy to say the M8 was possibly the great M car never sold.

The car was trimmed down on par with the E46 CSL, the engine was tuned to a point that it would only find rivals in its peers nearly two decades later with the X5/6M’s and potentially the F10 M5. The M8 Prototype is a car that represents BMW M at its absolute peak during the early 1990’s – M GmbH, after just a small handful of successes like the E30 M3 and E28 M5. They knew they had another success on their hands but the M8 was to become a victim of timing – a car decades ahead of its time but undeniable in its nature and potential abilities.


It’s a shame that BMW couldn’t find a means in which to bring the M8 to the masses. However, many know it would have probably gone. A global recession and the debut of the most expensive BMW ever constructed would have resulted in dismal sales figures – even for a small production run of uber-exclusive cars. After the fall of residual values and used car values to lower levels, the M8, within a matter of a few short years the M8 would be banished to the life of a garage queen – wheeled out by the anal retentive enthusiast only for the occasional car show or parade lap at a track with the secondary market returning astronomical car prices – not unlike the current state of the BMW M1.


However, what’s good to know is that, despite the ever-present influence of economic trends, BMW continues to work on cars such as the M8 that will push the envelope in terms of technology and performance which will continue to set the bar higher and higher for what M GmbH is capable of. Most important, enthusiasts are still in charge at M GmbH and with that, only good things car happen.


As the M8 Prototype was sprung on us – the video below was shot on an iPhone 4, but  hopefully gives you an idea of what the M8 is like in person – in addition to Horatiu’s photos.

(Details and technical information provided by BMW Group)

42 responses to “BMWBLOG Exclusive: Unrivaled and Unveiled – BMW M8 Prototype”

  1. 1Mc says:

    It is beautiful, whorish color tho

  2. Wooo hoo. says:

    This thing is still sweet even at almost 20 years old.

  3. Giom says:

    With out a doubt, my all time dream car.

    I do think, tho, that if BMW were to sell this car back then, it might not have made its money back, but it would have altered BMWs image considerably – which might have caused BMW to be a different company today… (for the better, that is).

    • ty says:

      It might have also caused BMW to be sold to Toyota… that would have definitely made it a different company. Otherwise – the M8 is an icon!

  4. Nick says:

    What a masterpiece, 550HP back then would make this car a monster.
    It’s a shame BMW can deliver engineering masterpieces that will set the benchmark for the rest (like the V10 M5 did) but they choose not to, especially now.

    • 1Mc says:

      well ,don’t think they ” choose not to” it is more about fear of failure, which is understandable

      • wazon8 says:

        Fear of failure? Surely, car would run in supercar’s class and would be great against its competitors. Maybe, they were afraid that car wouldn’t be popular due to recession in early nineties. They had bad experiences with popularity of BMW M1 which was launched during fuel crisis. But what I am really curious about is: at which stage developement ended and why they didn’t use this 5.0 550HP engine in other M models. They used 4.9 litre engine in M5 e39 anyway, so this 5.0 litre would be much better option, when performance is considered.

        • Look at it this way – even though the M8 didn’t make it to production, I’m sure we’ve seen a lot of insight learned from the project applied to other cars that made it to the street. Their jump into light weight materials probably helped build some of the work that went into the CSL and some of the cooling principles used helped for future M cars.

          From what my understanding of what was present at this event ( I wasn’t there) – the M8 was a fully working prototype and had the appearance of a complete car – meaning it was probably very, very far along in the development process( I would assume that if power was at 550HP in development it would be scaled back some). Also, some of the photos that circulated for years of the M8 looked like press shots. My thought would be that the car was basically ready but didn’t receie the green light due to the economy and the general reception of the 8(which did very well in Europe).

  5. T says:

    The early nineties recession killed this project as did the 8er Cabrio and another engineering solution devised by Wolfgang Reitzle – He wanted to re-engineer the car to incorporate a B-pillar because M8 proved the car could handle better with complete structural support.

    It was killed on the same day as a E34 BMW 5er Coupe and Cabrio.

  6. viper says:

    its so funny to see this bmw is actually going backwards these days .
    nice car tho.
    its like you have a chance to work in a perfect place , wife home kids 2 cars , and then you decide not to. what a bullshit.
    I have a little advice for bmw.
    cehck out the movie yes man.

  7. bob says:

    Note: It has own E code.

  8. BLAQUESOUL says:

    yo this is a dream come true….BEEMER keep it coming
    i remeber seeing Jeremy Clarkson test driving it, apperently
    the car can move from stand still on gear four….. talk of POWER
    im in love very much in love

  9. bob says:

    For a true ‘exclusive’ see:

    Includes comments/interviews with some of the people who worked on it.

  10. Bryce says:

    If the recession of the 1990’s killed this car, then why would anyone think BMW is going to introduce a supercar in the midst of the current reception?

    • That’s an excellent question – I think it has to do with where the brand was when the M8 was conceived plus a poor economy.

      If you look at the success and noteriety that Audi has received for the R8 and it was based on existing technology from both Audi and Lamborghini then it’s almost a no-brainer if you can pull together a similar car that also incorporates EfficientDynamics concepts too. Basically, if Audi can pull it off – why can’t BMW, especially with a fanatical core base?

      • Juan says:

        BMW is able to, they just choose not to. 
        Imagine a true M1 heir, with the former M5/M6 V10 screaming in the back. Well, if that is not good enough, you can just stick 2 turbos to go with the times, and increase those hp to supercar lvls.They wont sell you a 250k supercar, but they sell you a 250k RR phantom …
        BMW’s management just have no balls, they are just bean counters that dont care about making a driver’s car.Thats why today ///M stands for ///Marketing, not ///Motorsports.

    • Stefan says:

      The German Economy has the stromgest growth rates in more than 20 Years. Thats not what you would call a recession.

  11. Bryce says:

    …edit: recession

  12. well i totally agree with u about the whole recession thin….i min the M6 will hault production……

    but with that said its high time BMW realeses a super car…i min AUDI has done tht with the R8…..mercedes has done tht with the Mclaren…..the M8 it our hope to whippin the competition…..i will be more thn happy if it goes into production….as a limited edition…..maybe 10-100 of them

  13. T says:

    In order for BMW to determine whether there is a core base for a BMW Super-Sports car there has to be demand and when I say real demand we do not mean dreamers. Unfortunately there is no demand for such a car. From BMW M there is more demand for concepts like the 1M for example. M customers want more from their M3’s , M5’s and M6’s.

    How BMW are reinterpreting the Sports car concept is how well you perceive the Vision Efficient Dynamics because that is what is coming – A new type of Supersports car one that matches performance with sustainability , no V8 only a small combustion engine with power generated by electricity.

    • Beermann says:

      Actually such a car is not about demand… Alfa Romeo financed the 8C Competizione by taking away money from the marketing department. They realised a supercar has so much Halo-effect for the brand that it beats any advertisement or TV-commercial…

  14. jgs says:

    I remember to have seen those pics a few months ago.

    Or am I nuts?

  15. viper says:

    without a doubt this car is so yesterday.
    the rs6 or the old 55amg would eat this for breakfast.

  16. Luca says:

    AH..OLD SKOOL BIMMER – The good old days before i drive! Refreshing to see a classic in such gorgeous condition! Too bad BMW left it’s roots, they may have actually made a car to compare with Porsche – well I guess back to the boring 4 door family sedan with curvy headlights……with an M if you want a little bit of kick….I guess…..

  17. Darcy says:

    I love how the ///M division used to care about weight back then. They really were at the top of their game before they became BMW’s ///Marketing division by slapping the once glorious ///M on glorified minivans like the X5 and reborn Pontiac Azteks like the X6.

  18. Nikko says:

    Well even if this at was made I doubt it wouldn’t came to the US. I mean come on… Look at the e36 m3 we got. No way the M8 wouldve made it here

  19. sabelo says:

    BEAUTIFUL!!! So its true… BMW is THE ULTIMATE DRIVING MACHINE. I wish I owned one.

  20. may says:

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  21. Anao says:

    It’s very nice .the BMW are Usually peoples loved! It shows a person noble and fashion! just like your Wearing a moncler jackets:

    all about this make your fashion!

  22. Anao says:

    by the way! I like BMW!

  23. bimmerguy says:

    WOW i didnt know about this prototype before, nice looking bmw.

  24. nicky says:

    Viper, The M8 was designed years before an AMG car or the “RS” existed on the market. Back then, If you had more than 400hp or 0-60 MPH in under 6 seconds, you drove a super car.

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