Last month, BMW M celebrated its 40th anniversary and to properly celebrate the occasion has put together an exclusive event at Nurburgring. For a couple of days, journalists from around the world had the unique opportunity to drive the most iconic M cars ever built, from the legendary M1 and 3.0 CSL to the E30 M3, M3 CSL and M3 GTS.
Car and Driver takes us behind the scenes of this event and share with us their stories:
1973 BMW 3.0CSL “Batmobile”
As good to drive as it is to look at, even after forty years. Lithe, light (2567 pounds) and fast, even with just 206 hp. Not an M car, but set the tone with its fabulously linear straight-six, faithful front-engined, rear-drive handling and motorsport intent. The final racing versions had 800-hp turbo engines, or as much power as today’s F1 cars.
1978 BMW M1
Csaba Csere loved it when C/D first drove it, but BMW’s ill-fated and only (until the forthcoming hybrid i8) mid-engined supercar hasn’t worn well. A collaboration between BMW and Lamborghini that became BMW’s project when Lamborghini went bankrupt, the M1’s Italian supercar influence shows in the madly offset pedals and the fact that, at under six feet tall, my head is nevertheless hard against the roof. It has the same linear power from CSL-derived engine and is still good to drive, but the M1 wasn’t M’s finest hour.
2003 BMW M3 CSL (E46)
Return of the CSL name. No motorsport intent this time, as the race-prep has been done elsewhere since ’96. But it’s amazing how more than 350 hp and a curb weight reduced by almost 400 pounds conspire to make this car sensationally exciting to drive. I was blown away by it as a junior road tester when this car originally debuted, and it feels just as dynamic and rewarding nearly a decade on.