In the late 1970s, BMW was still in its growing pains in the United States. The favored quirky rally car of the 1960s was becoming the favored fast luxury transport of young professionals.
Between the two eras of Bayerische Motoren Werke, there was the M1, which remains the most exotic street car that the company ever built. It was essentially a road-going Procar and Group 5 racer, built to homologize the cars for the track.
Hand-built in limited numbers, it combined a tubular frame, utilizing state-of-the-art technology with gorgeous Giugiaro-designed wedge bodywork. The chassis was fitted with unequal-length lateral links, alloy uprights, concentric coil springs and anti-roll bars in the front and rear. The mid-mounted, fuel-injected, 277-horsepower, double-overhead-cam 6-cylinder engine reached top speeds in excess of 160 mph, thanks to the M1’s outstanding power-to-weight ratio. Such numbers should not be regarded as surprising, as early development of the M1 was in partnership with Lamborghini.
Only 455 M1s were produced between 1978 and 1981, which breaks down to 399 road and 56 race cars. Relatively few examples were imported into the United States, and as such, they have always remained somewhat elusive on these shores.