Clas­sic: BMW M1 & 333i

We get be­hind the wheel of two very spe­cial lim­ited-edi­tion BMWS

Car (South Africa) - - CREDITS - BMW M1

BMW may have pro­duced many ac­claimed per­for­mance sedans, coupés and road­sters, but mid-en­gined BMW sportscars are no­table by their ab­sence. Prior to the i8 hy­brid, you would have to go back to the late 1970s for a sim­i­lar model: the now leg­endary M1. Ar­guably BMW’S rst real sportscar, its gen­e­sis came about in 1975 when the Bavar­ian com­pany de­cided to com­pete in the Group 5-based World Cham­pi­onship of Makes for cars with pro­duc­tion sil­hou­ettes.

With the 3.0 CSL “Bat­mo­bile” now ob­so­lete and out of pro­duc­tion, the de­ci­sion was taken to de­velop and ho­molo­gate a mid-en­gined road car. Gior­getto Gi­u­giaro was com­mis­sioned to re­work the 1972 BMW Turbo con­cept car and none other than Lam­borgh­ini was tasked to build it. Un­for­tu­nately, nan­cial dif cul­ties saw the Ital­ian mar­que go into re­ceiver­ship, forc­ing BMW to cancel the con­tract and con­struct the car it­self. That meant by the time pro­duc­tion nally be­gan in 1978, the World Cham­pi­onship of Makes for­mula al­ready folded. BMW then launched its own one-make se­ries, called Pro­car, which was canned af­ter just two sea­sons.

The pris­tine ex­am­ple you see here is owned by BMW SA and, hav­ing spent part of its life tucked away in Ross­lyn, the car was re­cently given a full restora­tion. The Gi­u­gia­ropenned shape is a stun­ner and, in the esh, the M1 is even more low-slung than pic­tures show. At just over 1,1 me­tres in height, you re­ally have to drop down and into the driver’s chair. The in­te­rior is pure retro with barely a curve in sight, and fab­ric­cov­ered seats that wouldn’t look out of place in a lounge.

M1s are LHD only and, as is typ­i­cal of the era, the ped­als are heav­ily off­set to­wards the cen­tre of the car. As ex­pected, the view rear­wards is nearly non-ex­is­tent and the slim side

mir­rors are more of a nod to safety reg­u­la­tions than ac­tual func­tional items.

If there is one car cred­ited for cre­at­ing the signature BMW in­line-six sound­track, the M1 is it. The multi-valve M88 lump mounted be­hind the cabin features six in­di­vid­ual throt­tle bod­ies and its sound­track is the stuff of petrol­head heaven. Af­ter fir­ing with a re­as­sur­ing me­chan­i­cal whirr, the M88 idles in­nocu­ously and the noises that em­anate from the en­gine bay belie the per­for­mance po­ten­tial that it pos­sessed in its day.

Set­ting off, I am im­me­di­ately struck by the hefti­ness of the con­trols; they en­dow the M1 with a real plugged-in feel. There is a creami­ness to the au­dio de­liv­ery in mid-range that turns into a won­der­ful, hard-edged but muted race­car-like howl as the rev nee­dle climbs to the red­line. Dur­ing my time be­hind the wheel, I make sev­eral gra­tu­itous up­shifts just to down­shift and make the mo­tor sing its tune­ful song again and again.

Hardly quick by mod­ern stan­dards, with its 204 kw com­pa­ra­ble to that of a mod­ern hot hatch, the M1 would have felt plenty quick in the early 1980s, es­pe­cially given that it could top 260 km/h. The ride qual­ity is far bet­ter than I had an­tic­i­pated, a pli­ancy that I did not ex­pect of the mid-en­gined su­per­car; by to­day’s stan­dards it feels more like a GT car. The steer­ing ac­tion is ex­tremely heavy with plenty of armtwirling needed from the slow rack. In fact, all the driv­ing con­trols are hefty, from the meaty, long-throw gearshift to the ca­ble-linked throt­tle.

With only 450-odd built by the firm’s M Divi­sion, M1s are highly prized and are cur­rently be­ing of­fered for any­where be­tween €300-600 000. BMW SA has in­sured its M1 for just over R4,5 mil­lion.

clock­wise from be­low The rear view, with two BMW roundels on either end, is un­mis­take­able as an M1; the pop-up head­lamps are seen here in their less com­mon open po­si­tion; all M1 mod­els are LHD and fea­ture a slab-faced dash­board.

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