BMW 1M

Bal­anc­ing work and play can be tricky. But if you’re like Max Mar­shall and mak­ing fast cars faster is your bread and but­ter, there’s no need to com­pro­mise…

Fast Car - - Contents -

The BMW 1M is an awe­some car in stan­dard guise, so can you imag­ine how good this MMR tuned one is? You don’t have to…

Some­times when we talk to fea­ture car own­ers, there’s one key phrase that re­ally sticks in the mind, serv­ing to char­ac­terise the whole think­ing be­hind the project. When speak­ing to Max Mar­shall, di­rec­tor of MMR Per­for­mance, about the com­pany’s rather ag­gres­sive BMW 1M project demon­stra­tor, such a phrase presents it­self: “We’re just about to fit the 16th set of rear tyres in 20,000 miles.”

Any sus­pi­cion that this is a trailer queen which gets wheeled about to events to show off its shiny parts is blown out of the wa­ter by that one sim­ple sen­tence. This thing gets used, and used hard.

The fact that MMR chose a 1M as a base is in­ter­est­ing in it­self, as this niche M-car is an ob­scure lit­tle thing. You see, back when the fresh new 1 Se­ries was launched in 2004, the bean coun­ters clearly hadn’t en­vis­aged a halo per­for­mance vari­ant in the vein of the M3, M5, et al, as the M1 name had al­ready been taken back in the sev­en­ties (re­mem­ber that wedgy su­per­car that was meant to be built by Lam­borgh­ini but then wasn’t – it was the first M car).

So there were pre­sum­ably one or two scratched heads in the prod­uct plan­ning meet­ings, with clearly many forms to fill out and pen­cils to sharpen and what have you, but by late 2010 BMW were ready to an­nounce a bona fide M-de­vel­oped vari­ant of the 1 Se­ries, which would go by the natty name 1 Se­ries M Coupé. Tricky, as it didn’t quite fit in with the M nam­ing struc­ture. But then they couldn’t have peo­ple con­fus­ing it with a 1970s su­per­car, could they?

Don’t lose any sleep over it though, as ev­ery­one just calls it ‘1M’ now. So what ex­actly was the 1M? Well, it was a car orig­i­nally lim­ited to a global pro­duc­tion run of 2,700. But peo­ple seemed to quite like it, so when pro­duc­tion ended in 2012 they’d sold 6,309.

The prin­ci­ple was sim­ple: take an E82 coupé shell and sig­nif­i­cantly widen the track. Bulk out the wings to match, and shove on a set of wide, stag­gered 19-inch wheels. Throw in a tweaked ver­sion of the proven N54 twin-turbo mo­tor (OK, an M car would nor­mally have a be­spoke en­gine rather than a re­worked unit from else­where in the model range, but let’s not split hairs), and bolt it to the only true trans­mis­sion to ap­peal to the dis­cern­ing petrol­head: a six-speed man­ual with an LSD out back. Paint it in a fash­ion-for­ward shade and the job’s a good ’un.

The plan worked too, as the 1M has be­come a gen­uinely sought-af­ter, as­pi­ra­tional model. Its lim­ited-run sta­tus – there were just 450 built for the UK mar­ket – mean­ing as many are be­ing bought for in­vest­ment pur­poses as are out hav­ing their necks wrung on road and track.

Its £40k re­tail price made it ex­pen­sive for a 1 Se­ries, but re­ally quite cheap com­pared to a Porsche Cay­man S, which it could hap­pily run rings around in the right hands. 335bhp was pretty handy in a car that weighed just 1,495kg, al­low­ing it to hit 60 in 4.8 sec­onds. And you got all sorts of fun toys, like the MDM but­ton (for the sta­bil­ity and trac­tion sys­tems) and the M but­ton (for throt­tle re­sponse). Gam­i­fied, next-gen stuff.

What’s also in­ter­est­ing to note is that MMR didn’t ac­tu­ally choose a 1M as a com­pany demon­stra­tor at all. This is Max’s own car, which he pur­chased for his per­sonal col­lec­tion and had ab­so­lutely no in­ten­tion of mod­i­fy­ing. “But hav­ing a BMW tun­ing com­pany and know­ing the po­ten­tial of the N54 en­gine and the 1M plat­form, it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore it started,” he grins. “The more heav­ily in­volved I’ve be­come with the BMW tun­ing, the more likely this was to hap­pen. I never plan to sell it any­way, so I just de­cided not to worry about its re­sale value.”

Ad­mirable sen­ti­ment in­deed, and it’s al­lowed Max the free­dom to stretch the 1M’s po­ten­tial way beyond its al­ready for­mi­da­ble fac­tory spec. Af­ter all, with even the most ca­pa­ble pro­duc­tion car, there will be main­stream tol­er­ances and com­pro­mises to iron out. And just look at the thing. It’s mean, isn’t it? At first glance it ap­pears close to stock (ish). But the more you look, the more you can see it’s been tweaked for max­i­mum at­tack. Par­tic­u­larly when Max screams past you side­ways with the ham­mer down, bon­fir­ing the rears and laugh­ing like a de­mented hyena.

The fact the 1M is quite rare means it’s a fairly mad thing to run as a tuner demo any­way, does it not? The pool of po­ten­tial buy­ers is al­ways go­ing to be pretty small. Ah, but that’s where Max has been clever: “Al­though I wouldn’t say there’s a huge mar­ket for tun­ing 1Ms due to the lim­ited num­ber that were pro­duced, many of the parts carry across to the E-se­ries 135i/335i and so on, so it was still worth de­vel­op­ing parts to fill the gaps in what we were lack­ing for our car,” he ex­plains. “These up­grades also com­ple­ment the other

BMW parts we have in de­vel­op­ment or on the shelves; in­ter­cool­ers, charge pipes, and so on. So we’ve spent many hours test­ing and com­par­ing our prod­ucts on our own car in day-to-day en­vi­ron­ments and on the track.

“It was a fairly log­i­cal build,” he con­tin­ues, “and it helps shar­ing the sus­pen­sion with the E92 M3. Bits have just been added as and when parts have been avail­able, or depend­ing what shows the car has been to – and which of our sup­pli­ers have wanted to use it for test­ing!”

The lat­est up­grade is the Al­con brakes, fea­tur­ing forged cal­lipers (6-pot front, 4-pot rear) which work in con­junc­tion with MMR’s own braided lines, for real bite on track. The sus­pen­sion is up­graded with Bil­stein B8 dampers and Eibach Pro Kit springs, a forth­right and con­sid­ered pair­ing in a world of off-the-shelf coilover op­tions, and Eibach also pro­vided the thicker anti-roll bars.

In terms of power, that shiny new car­bon fi­bre en­gine cover hides a host of well thought-out tweaks to the bru­tal N54. Here it’s been mas­saged by MMR’s Stage 2 soft­ware, along with an MMR in­ter­cooler and charge pipes, an Arma/Piper­cross V1 car­bon fi­bre in­take sys­tem, and a valved Akrapovic ex­haust with de­cat down­pipes which makes all the right noises. The up­shot of all of this is some­where in the re­gion of 420bhp, which tells you why Max is smil­ing quite so widely.

“All of the work was done at ‘The Power House’ – MMR HQ at Brunt­ingth­orpe,” he says. Yep, their head­quar­ters has a for­mer US air base as its prov­ing ground, which ex­plains a few things. “The 1M gets used at a lot of track events at Brunt­ingth­orpe, like VMAX and so on, and it’s been on a few road trips to Le Mans, Can­non­ball Ire­land and such­like. I plan to use it on more track days.”

And that sums up the point of this car. OK, it’s os­ten­si­bly a demo piece for MMR Per­for­mance, but in re­al­ity it’s just a project car for a true-blue petrol­head which just also hap­pens to have a lit­tle work to do on the PR cir­cuit. Max may have bought this with the idea of keep­ing it stock and pam­per­ing it, but that was never go­ing to fly. With his com­pany’s know-how, cou­pled with his heavy right foot, we’ll ex­pect the 17th set of tyres to be ar­riv­ing soon.

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