Fans of the Bavarian brand know the BMW M1 well. It was BMW’s lone supercar, a car for fans to dream of BMW creating again. The M1 was a mid-engined masterpiece that almost didn’t happen to begin with, then was created and no one wanted it only to be shut down by the suits at BMW headquarters. However, the M1 almost had a second chance, unbeknownst to most fans.
Unfortunately, that never happened, either. It seems as though the M1 was doomed from the get go.
When BMW first came up with the idea for the M1, it was entirely based on a plan for racing. The M1 was the brainchild of BMW Motorsport director, Jochen Neerpasch, who originally greenlit the idea. BMW then went to Lamborghini to build the car, which was probably a bad idea in hindsight as Lamborghini is as unreliable as a company as its cars are. While Lamborghini was still in works to create the car, Giorgetto Giurgiaro was hired to design it and he created one of the most beautiful cars of the era. However, Lamborghini then had to back out of the project, due to financial issues, so BMW had to hire Marchesi to build the frame and T.I.R to build the body, then ship those Giugiaro’s Italdesign to assemble them, which would then be shipped to a Stuttgart-based coach builder, Baur, to install the engine and rest of the mechanical bits.
So right off the bat, the BMW M1 was already a mess. It’s astonishing that the final product was such a good car because the creation of it was a disaster. And that’s the real tragedy, that the M1 was actually a fantastic car once it was all built. But, as fate would have it, disaster struck again.
The racing competition that BMW had meant to enter with the M1 had dissolved, leaving BMW with a race car and no race. So BMW then created its own race, Procar. However, it turns out that it didn’t really get a following and eventually collapsed. So now BMW was really in the gutter with the M1. The car’s only chance was to be an excellent road car and sell well so that BMW could justify its existence. Unfortunately, it didn’t do that either.
At a smooth 100,000 German marks, it was more expensive than the already very expensive Porsche 930 911 Turbo and not much better. Because of this, and its lack of any real creature comforts, BMW only sold 450 units worldwide. This caused the suits at BMW to shut the M1 down for good, as it simple wasn’t a viable business option to continue it.
Now, that’s where most people think that the story ends and it basically does. However, it was almost given a second chance by a company we all know and love — Alpina. Burkard Bovensiepen, founder of Alpina, was given the opportunity by BMW to continue creating the M1. Having created numerous Alpina BMWs by that time, BMW trusted Bovensiepen to do a good job. However, it wasn’t a viable business option for Alpina, either.
“When BMW stopped its production, they asked us whether we would be interested to continue making it,” said Bovensiepen, but after looking at the M1 and the sort of changes required, he realized it just wasn’t a realistic option. “We couldn’t have continued as it was,” to which he continued, “It didn’t really take the passengers’ requirements and everyday driveability into account. We would have needed to increase the wheelbase,” which would alter the fantastic Giugiaro-design looks. Alpina would also have had to change the engine and cooling which would require too much alteration to the car. In the end, it just wasn’t worth it.
The M1 wasn’t the only BMW supercar to be given to Alpina for building, as the Fabrizio Giugiaro-designed Nazca C2 supercar was also offered to Alpina. Ultimately, Alpina declined once again, claiming it to be too expensive and difficult. It would have cost over 600,000 German Marks and “Nobody would have paid that much even then,” according to Bovensiepen.
It seems as if BMW supercars just aren’t meant to be. The BMW M1 is beloved by all of Bavarian fans and is probably the car we’d all wish for BMW to bring back over anything else. However, fate would have to disagree as the M1 had many chances and it just never came to be. It’s unfortunate, as it was such a good car and the few 450 owners are some of the luckiest car enthusiasts on the planet.