This was an extraordinary result, greater than the next highest street M1 sale on record by nearly 50%
A proposed Group 5 "Silhouette Formula" for production-based cars triggered the M1 program in the mid-1970s, a mid-engined concept car designed in-house at BMW by Paul Bracq providing the basis. Ex-racing driver Jochen Neerpasch was responsible for initiating this ambitious project, whose aims included taking on rival Porsche in the World Sports Car Championship and, ultimately, victory at Le Mans.
M1 development was contracted first to Lamborghini and then to Giorgetto Giugiaro's Italdesign, although almost all cars ended up being built by BMW in Germany.
Giugiaro's compact coupe bodywork in fiberglass was wrapped around a multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, while a twin-overhead-cam, 4-valve version of BMW's 3.5-liter six, driving via a 5-speed ZF transaxle, provided the motive power. The M1's wedge-shaped coachwork proved highly efficient aerodynamically, needing very little in the way of additional spoilers and wings in race configuration.
Lamborghini's Gianpaolo Dallara was responsible for developing the suspension, which followed racing practice by using unequal-length wishbones at front and rear. Soberly trimmed in black and gray, the M1's interior was exceptionally well equipped for a sports car, featuring Recaro seats, air conditioning, electric windows, power door mirrors, and heated rear screen.
First shown at the Paris Motor Show in 1978, the roadgoing version came with 277 hp and a top speed of 160 mph. Only ever intended as a limited-edition model, the M1 ceased production after just 456 examples had been built, a minimum of 400 being required for homologation. In the event, the abandonment of the Group 5 Silhouette Formula robbed the car of its raison d'être, though the M1-only Procar Series run at Grand Prix races in 1980 and '81 provided BMW Motorsport with a valuable showcase by way of consolation.
This 1980 BMW M1 Coupe was sold new in England to its first owner, who kept it for 20 years, and was registered by the current (second) owner in Monaco on April 26, 2000. Serviced in Cannes (no invoice), the car boasts a beautiful black leather interior and will be delivered with its Monaco papers and owner's handbook. An important landmark in BMW's history, and in particular of its involvement with motorsport in the post-war era, the M1 is already highly collectible and is surely destined to become increasingly sought after by discerning aficionados of the marque.
|1980 BMW M1
|456 (including 56 race cars)
|Original List Price:
|Chassis Number Location:
|Engine compartment (factory); door jamb and bottom of windshield (U.S. import)
|Engine Number Location:
|On top of block
|BMWCCA 345 Harvard St. Cambridge, MA 02138
This 1980 BMW M1 Coupe sold for $186,300 at Bonhams’s Les Grandes Marques à Monaco sale on May 18, 2009.
The M1 has long been viewed by collectors as neither fish nor fowl-neither an Italian exotic nor a traditional BMW. To make matters worse, Italdesign and Gianpaolo Dallara heritage notwithstanding, many collectors considered the car insufferably bland-not unlike a 1980s Honda NSX.
It didn’t help that the car built to slay Porsche 911s on track wasn’t the least bit competitive and instead wound up in the meaningless single-marque Procar series of 1979-80. At least the drivers were first-rate, with Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet the winners in 1979 and 1980, respectively.
Consequently, post-1991, M1 prices languished for a very long time in the $65,000 to $95,000 range. Slowly, the M1, along with other long unloved mid-engine cars like the Maserati Bora and Ferrari 308 GT4, are starting to have their day in the sun, but none to the extent of the M1, which is perceived to be more tractable and more reliable than any Italian exotic. In the last several years, good examples of street M1s have begun to break six figures.
Indicates a change in market priorities
Even with that in mind, this was an extraordinary result, greater than the next highest street M1 sale on record by nearly 50%. The two-owner history and great colors surely account for much of this, but also perhaps the change in priorities of the market; the M1 is a car that can be used without the fear that goes along with operating a vintage Ferrari or Maserati. With the exception of the Kugelfischer injection, there is little exotic about the BMW M1 Coupe.
Because of its relatively recent manufacture, the 1980 BMW M1 Coupe is eligible for few top-tier events in street form. Nevertheless, that hasn’t deterred buyers at auction recently. What should, however, give them pause is the fact that no M1 was ever legally sold in the U.S. and the years 1979-81 are still heavily scrutinized by the smog police in many states. Without proper EPA and DOT clearances and without emissions equipment in place, an unwary owner of an M1 can find himself in quite a pickle.
As SCM often reminds its readers, a single sale does not a market make. For now, this sale appears unrepeatable, and the M1 looks fully priced in the $125,000 to $135,000 range. We’d have to call it better sold than bought, but only by a small margin given this car’s condition and two-owner history.