We all know of BMW’s M Division quite well, as it’s the division that pumps out our favorite vehicles each and every year. The BMW M3 and M5 have been the defining cars in each of their segments for decades not. In fact, they are the cars that invented their segments, so all other competitors are just playing in BMW M’s field. However, BMW’s M Division didn’t always exist and it took some people from Ford to make it happen.
Back in the late 1960’s, Ford was dominating the entire field of motorsport. Whether it be at Le Mans, in Formula One or even in Rally racing, Ford was a dominant force in the late sixties. Each division of Ford, from the US, UK and German divisions, was doing its part to provide superb racecars. But it was Ford’s German division that would eventually change the shape of BMW, and in turn the auto industry, forever.
A man by the name of Jochen Neerpasch was the Head of Ford’s Motorsport division and had created racing versions of the beautiful Ford Capri, the Capri RS 2600. The RS 2600 debuted in 1970 and absolutely dominated everything in its path. Neerpasch had stripped the car of anything superfluous, gave it lightweight fiberglass doors and hood and pumped up the horsepower of its 2.9 liter V6 to 280 hp. With the car only weighing 950 kg (2094 lbs), the Capri RS 2600 was virtually unstoppable. BMW, on the other hand, was not fairing so well with its 2800CS and needed a change. In 1972, BMW stole Neerpasch away from Ford and with him came the rest of his team.
When Neerpasch got there, he turned the 2800CS into the magnificent BMW 3.0 CSL that we all know and love today. This started BMW’s M Division and with the M Division came the dominant era of BMW. The 3.0 CSL crushed everything else in its path and became famous for being the best Touring car of the time, with pro racers from all over the world of Motorsport, including Jackie Stewart, Jacky Ickx, James Hunt and Niki Lauda, having been behind the wheel at some point. It was an incredible car and the beginning of a legend. From there, the rest is history.
Eventually, Neerpasch would be fired over the failure of his brainchild, the BMW M1, but the M Division would live on to create the incredible cars we all love. The E28 M5 was the first genuine production M Division product and it was revolutionary, giving the world a saloon car (sedan in America) that could keep up with Porsche 911 Carreras. The original M5 created the fast luxury sedan segment. After that, BMW would go racing again in the World Touring Car Championship with the E30 BMW M3 which would later become the basis for one of the most famous sports car model lines of all time.
The BMW M Division is one of the most widely known performance divisions in all of automotive history and it all started with a man from Ford and his team of brilliant engineers. The entire success of the M Division can almost be credited to one man, Jochen Neerpasch, as without his expertise we would have never had the brilliant M cars we have today.