Courtesy of Silverstone Auctions
In 1977, BMW found an unlikely partner in Lamborghini and started to design a mid-engine supercar featuring their strong 3.5-liter, 24-valve, straight-6 engine, which would be primarily used in sports-car racing. In order to homologate the car, 400 road cars had to be built, and an initial tubular chassis design was drawn by Giampaolo Dallara of Lamborghini Design. However, in April 1978, Lamborghini’s financial situation was less than secure, so BMW took the production of the road car back in-house, and the car was hand-built by their Motorsport Division, a separate factory located next to the volume-car factory in Munich. The fiberglass body retained the original Giorgetto Giugiaro design and the engine was breathed on by BMW’s first head of Motorsport, Paul Rosche, who developed six separate throttle bodies for the 24-valve base 3.5 engine and combined those with Kugelfischer Bosch mechanical fuel injection and a Magneti Marelli-developed ignition system. Producing no less than 277 horsepower and 243 foot-pounds of torque, it propelled the car through a 5-speed ZF transmission and a limited-slip differential to a top speed of 162 miles per hour. Of the 453 cars produced, all of which were hand-finished by Baur, just 53 were made for motorsport, and the remaining 400 cars — all left-hand drive — have become icons of the BMW brand and are now highly collectible and sought after. This particular BMW M1 road car was supplied new in February 1980 to Mr. Franz Reuther of Berlin, who is better known as “Frank Farian,” the German record producer and founding member/voice of 1980s pop band Boney M. It was to remain in his ownership for the next decade, and during this time he decided that the look of the M1 race car, known as the “BMW Procar M1,” was an improvement on the more-conservative narrower original bodywork of the standard road car. At considerable expense, he had his road car modified by BMW Motorsport to incorporate the wider, more-aggressive look of the M1 Procar, and the car retains this unique look to the current day. In September 2020, it was exhibited at Salon Privé and presented in their concours event. Significantly, the car won two awards, one for second place in the 1970s category, but more significantly, it won the “Owners Choice Award” for Best in Show.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1980 BMW M1
Years Produced:1978–81
Number Produced:399 (road version)
SCM Valuation:$390,000
Tune Up Cost:$500
Chassis Number Location:Engine compartment (factory); door jamb and bottom of windshield (U.S. import)
Engine Number Location:On top of block
Club Info:BMW Car Club of America
Alternatives:1976–2004 Lotus Esprit, 1991–2005 Acura NSX, 1991–93 Jaguar XJ220
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 450, sold for $503,912 (£382,500), including buyer’s premium, at Silverstone Auctions’ NEC Classic Live Online Auction on November 14, 2020.

Back in the late 1980s, I was giving a speech about collecting cars at a local Rotary Club. Afterwards, a member mentioned that a friend had a BMW for sale and asked if I would help him determine a value. I wasn’t interested in a sedan, but I said I’d call the gentleman and give him my opinion. When he answered the phone and told me the car he was selling was an M1, the game changed.

I bought the car sight unseen and flew to Virginia the next week to drive it back to Jacksonville, FL. To say the car was run hard and put up wet was an understatement.

The fact that I picked it up on a rainy night didn’t help matters. I had never paid that much — $65,000 — for any car in my life, but I figured it was rare enough that I could always get out of it. M1s were not built to sell in the U.S. due to DOT and EPA regulations at the time.

What had I bought?

My excitement led to a sleepless night, so I got up at 4 a.m. and headed south. Once the sun came up, I pulled off in a rest area to see just what I had bought. I was underwhelmed.

When I got home, I went by to see my friendly banker (remember them?) and as I pulled up to the bank in this white M1, some guy asked, “Is that a Ferrari?” I answered politely, “No. It is a BMW.” He answered, “I’ve never seen one like that,” to which I replied, “They are pretty rare.”

I went to lunch that day, pulling into a sandwich shop, and another man asked me, “Is that a Lotus?” To which I repeated, “No. It is a BMW.” Again, “I’ve never seen one like that,” was the reply. To which I answered, “They are pretty rare.”

Driving home, a guy pulled up at the light next to me and asked, “Is that a Pantera?” To which I answered, “No, it is a BMW.” For the third time, the reply was, “I’ve never seen one like that,” followed by me with, “They are pretty rare.”

Now, by this time, I was getting pretty tired of the question concerning just what this car was. That evening, my wife, the ever-patient Ms. Jane, and I decided to get a hamburger at a nearby Hooters. When I pulled up to the restaurant, one of the Hooters girls looked at the car and said, “Wow, an M1!”

Still a teenager, she knew exactly what it was. She had a poster tacked up on her bedroom wall at home.

You just can’t win

My white car had originally been red, but the previous owner must have got tired of saying, “No, it is not a Ferrari.” In restoring the car, I put it back to red. Shortly thereafter, while fueling at a local Shell station, the attendant walked out and asked why my Ferrari had BMW medallions on it. Sometimes, you just can’t win.

The M1 was sort of a sophisticated kit car. Gauges, door handles and taillight assemblies all came off of other production BMWs. The car was to be built by Lamborghini for BMW, but financial problems led to Baur assembling the car. The result was an Italian/German conglomeration of parts with a wonderful 3.5-liter straight 6. It only had 277 hp, but 0–60 mph in 5.5 seconds was possible, as the gearbox was pretty slick.

It had a trunk that was fairly large, and because it was located over the muffler, your shaving cream would get to a nice, warm level, while everything else just got cooked.

The assembly, fit and finish were not so hot. I had the only fiberglass door that showed rust. The steel door frames were bonded to the fiberglass door skin, which would catch water and rot out from the inside. The rusted door frame would then push its way through the fiberglass.

The leather-covered dash panels would shrink and tear, but worst of all were the Magneti Marelli electrics. If the ignition boxes went out, you had to ship them to Italy for repair. And the car ate distributor caps like candy. Never buy a German car with Italian electrics.

Parts arbitrage

I also had problems with the M1-only water pumps, which would seize up. I kept two spares on the shelf. Prices for parts here in the U.S. were astronomical, as the distributor knew you had an M1 by the part numbers and you got hosed. If I bought a water pump from a U.S. source (which I will not name to protect the guilty), it was $1,300. Yet I found a shop in Germany that would sell me one for $235. Air filters were a hundred dollars or more, and the oil filter, though similar to a Porsche 930 unit, was also pricey.

They built a lot of toe in the rear to give the car some directional stability, but this led to the M1 eating tires like a fat man eating doughnuts at a Krispy Kreme.

The air-conditioner condensation pan was centrally located under the dash and was prone to fill up with cool water, which would pour on the driver’s right foot on right-hand turns, or on the passenger’s left foot on left-hand turns.

Taking my bath

Despite all this, the car was reasonably comfortable for road trips. Jane and I drove it all over Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. The sound of the inline 6 was really solid, all the way up to the redline. BMW has always made good motors.

I kept the car about 10 years and sold it to my friend (I think he is still my friend) Kelly Marsh at Kelly BMW in Columbus, OH. This is after I had spent an additional $60,000 in restoration costs. The M1 was one of the few cars I took a financial bath on. It was fun to have such a rare car, but it came at a price. C’est la vie.

At $504k, this one sold on the high side of the market. But by all accounts, it was a terrific example. Best of luck to the new owner in explaining what his new “Lamborghini” really is. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Silverstone Auctions.)

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