The BMW M1 is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, an important milestone for BMW’s sole supercar so far. Even though it was built four decades ago, the M1 is still adored around the world and its popularity is seemingly only going up these days, with pristine models asking close to 7 figures to take them home. To celebrate this important moment, BMW Classic had a sit down with a living legend, the man behind the M1, Mr. Jochen Neerpasch.
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Back the 1970s, Mr. Neerpasch was the head of the BMW Motorsport division, a standalone company he founded and raised from the ground up. As Touring car competitions were extremely popular back there, even attracting crowds bigger than those from Formula 1 events, BMW knew this had to be capitalized on and decided to start developing more race cars. Back then, the regulations asked for a certain number of road cars to be built and sold before any new model would be homologated to race in FIA-backed events.
Therefore, BMW set out to develop the M1 and the basically went about it the other way around compared to what manufacturers do these days. They created the race car and then diluted it to make it road legal. That was what BMW did back then and that’s why the M1 is still a great car to drive today. To save costs, they wanted to have Lamborghini assemble the 1,000 cars needed to be sold for homologation, so that they needn’t change one of their plants just for this.
Lamborghini had some serious financial issues back then though and the whole plan was dropped, with BMW taking its prototypes back and even pondering whether to buy out the Italian company or not. The rest is history and the M1 became the legend we all know today. In the footage below, Mr. Neerpasch also tells the story of how the Art Cars came to be and it truly is an interesting one, involving Renault for some reason. If you want to check out Mr. Neerpasch’s history in deeper detail, you should check out the ‘Blue Hero’ art installation which will be arriving at BMW CCA in Spartanburg later this year.