Long before the BMW i8 or the upcoming BMW M8, there was a moment when BMW had a genuine, real-deal supercar, though that moment was, unfortunately, fleeting. The BMW M1 was the brand’s only true mid-engine supercar and it’s one of the most iconic cars in the history of the automotive world. It’s also one of those rare cars that actually has a great story behind it, rather than just being another pretty exotic. So driving a BMW M1 must be an absolute dream. At least, according to Alex Sobran, it is.
In this recent article from Petrolicious, Sobran recounts his experience driving an M1 for the day in Germany and if you even remotely like cars, it’s a good read. Sobran was able to borrow the M1 for the day from BMW Classic, so it’s a historical car with few miles on it and in near-mint condition. Despite my strong desire to drive an M1, I might have been too nervous to actually drive this specific M1. Sobran was nervous too but, thankfully, he mustered up the courage to set off.
What’s interesting about the M1 is that it’s a bit of a Frankenstein car, with the engine being developed by BMW but its chassis and body was originally supposed to be designed by Lamborghini. Unfortunately, Lamborghini was facing bankruptcy, so it had to back out. At the last minute, BMW had to find new partners to help develop the M1 and had to sort of mix and match. Marchese designed the tube frame, Giugiaro designed the body but TIR would actually make the fiberglass body. Italdesign then mated the two together and installed the interior. That complete body was then sent to BMW for that magnificent engine, as well as the other mechanicals, to be installed.
You’d think that a car developed by so many different companies at the last minute would feel sloppy. However, it doesn’t. It feels wonderfully cohesive and well put together. What’s remarkable, though, is that it seems to bring so many different styles to its driving experience, while making them all work together. Its styling is straight out of Italy, looking more like a classic Lamborghini than a BMW. It’s low, wide, wedge-shaped and incredibly exciting looking, far more so than anything from Germany at the time. Yet, open the door and it’s complete German sensibility. A black and grey interior is a stark contrast to the bright red body of the M1.
But the best part about the M1 seems to be the way it drives. That 3.5 liter M88 I6 engine is a masterpiece, revving out beautifully and making wonderful noises. Wondering how much power it makes? It doesn’t matter. The BMW M1 is about the experience, not the power. But it’s about 270 hp if you’re asking. It also rides and handles beautifully, far better than you’d expect from a car from its era.
Sobran’s review of the BMW M1 is a good read and you should check it out. The M1 is such a special car that has its place in automotive history. I wish I had the courage, and opportunity, to drive one.