Build-A-Beast: BMW M1 Replica Kit Car

The world of replicas, or replicars, is vast and curious. How many legendary sports cars have ended up with a fiberglass mold made of it, built on the chassis of mundane vehicles like old Beetles and Fieros? Some of them are impressive while others are laughably bad; however, I’ve not ever seen a replica of BMW’s limited-production supercar, the M1. This example popped up here on eBay-kleinanzeigen.de, and it appears to be a fairly sympathetic homage to the original. I can find very little information about it, but there’s some evidence that this kit never made it to large-scale production. 

Although it is a true exotic worth significant money, the design of the M1 was not necessarily what you’d call complex. There aren’t a lot of scoops and wings and flares; in fact, at the time, I believe there was some blowback from consumers that it wasn’t exotic enough. Even the powerplant was typical BMW, with a buttery inline-six mounted midship. The mid-engined layout was a major curveball from BMW, which had primarily relied on front-engined, rear-wheel drive cars up to this point. With only 453 built, you needed to have deep pockets then and deeper pockets now if you wished to own one; to this day, they rarely appear for sale.

From what I can find, a German company began making the replica kits but was forced to stop when BMW’s lawyers got involved. And you can potentially see why – they even have the cut-outs for the original’s dual rear roundels on the back hatch! Mounting this body with a modern chassis and a turbocharged BMW V8 seems like an awful lot of fun, and it looks like there may have been a cage installed in this particular car at one point. Owners of the original M1 that took their cars to the track found turbocharging the M88 made for an absolutely bonkers performer, and it seems fitting to build a similar powerplant for this kit.

Underneath, the replica M1 looks quite solid. I found one YouTube clip of a rolling example (man, does it look good) and this website which seems to be that of a German company that builds M1 kits (or at least did at one time). I have no aversion to kit cars, especially of something as rare as an M1 where owning the genuine article is impossible for most of us. Buying a kit of a model you could buy with a modest outlay of cash? Different story. While it’s doubtful this M1 replica will ever make its way to the U.S., a fiberglass body like this one would certainly be possible to ship via ocean liner.

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Comments

  1. james sterrey

    Looks like a Range Rover Classic door handle, I’m in!

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Or, they could be off the ultra-desirable Morris Marina..!

      • Scott Tait

        Re: range rover morris marina door handles they are one in the same …all from the BRITISH LEYLAND parts bin

    • Doc

      I believe that’s the door handle used on the Lanica Stratos, Ferrari 308, and Fiat/Bertone X1/9.

  2. david nieuwenhuis

    The real deal is a very nice balanced and good driving car, much like a Honda NSX, I owned both at different times.
    The problem with most replicas is that most builders care about the esthetics (with various succes…) but not care about the weight, power to weight ratio, driveability and so on. This body looks to be “sagging”

    • reholmes

      Could this be a Saier? They were droopy by design.

  3. Dolphin Member

    I don’t want to be snobby here about replicas, but the (real) cars I like, I like a lot.

    I would rather save up and get the best real example of a car that I can afford. If I can’t afford a real M1, there are lots of other great driving cars to choose from. A good M1 goes for about $440K these days, so I can’t afford one.

    But I can afford an old M3, and to me, driving a good older M3 is more satisfying than driving a fake M1. And a large part of reason for that was mentioned just above by david nieuwenhuis.

    Like 1
  4. Mr Firth

    Mundane ? the Fiero was a great little car GM gave up on it …

  5. Wayne Thomas

    Fiero chassis with BMW V12 swap.

    • reholmes

      There are plenty out there with a SBC or N*

  6. rancher

    It would be a quick car with a 2276cc VW engine w/dual Webers in it. Turbos are also used extensively by VW speed freaks.

  7. scottymac

    Never was wowed by the looks of the M1, the wheels were especially ugly. A set of BBSs helped immensely. Expected more from BMW.

    Like 1
  8. TriPowerVette

    In the early 1980’s, I was completing my degree at ASU, and working my way through as a security guard in a guard house at an upscale residential community.

    I had the midnight to eight shift, since my courses occupied most daylight hours.

    Part of the guard’s duties was to observe a car entering the driveway, and determine whether it were a resident or visitor. If a visitor, then they were to be greeted, their destination determined, authorization for same, and (if approved) raise the gate arm for admission, and note the license plate.

    If a resident, raise the arm and waive a friendly greeting as they passed.

    Every week or so, around 2 or 3 a.m., I could hear a banshee approaching up the street. I knew by the sound what (and who) it was. On the sign-in sheet, it was listed as a Pantera (because Security Guards are not a notoriously well-informed lot). Of course, I recognized it immediately as a BMW M1, knew virtually every component it contained and its performance parameters (thanks to Road & Track Magazine for its excellent exploded view diagrams, and to other publications for their tests and reviews).

    It was always a stupid game of Chicken, because the resident never lifted as his expensive, rare exotic, rapidly approached congress with the gate arm. I always got it raised in time, but the sight of his stupid, grinning, drunken countenance staring right at the guard house as he sped by always caused me to ponder the cosmic comedy that unfolded in such a way that someone (like me), who deeply appreciated such a fine machine, could not hope to afford one, while a complete a**hole, the resident – for instance – who probably drank fine wine from a paper cup (with an ice cube), bought them, used them up and cast them aside for next year’s cool car, as he would yesterday’s newspaper.

    Lotta miles, lotta cool cars have come and gone since that time in my life. An M1 would have been nice.

    It would have been glad I owned it.

    Sigh.

  9. Skip

    The whole car appears to be crabbing front and rear. That wide body-line indentation along the side is almost prefectly straight on the real M1. Kind of a shame that the builder wasn’t a little more considerate when choosing parts. The door handles, for example, were shared among BMW cars, are not expensive and are still available. With, say, an E30 donor, you could have used real BMW engine and suspension.

    The most interesting thing about it in my mind, though, is …what the heck is it sitting on? A sign? Really? This must be a European example of when somebody takes an old car and sticks it on a roof or sign to create a landmark.

  10. Wayne

    I recall drooling over one in the Barington Il. BMW dealer showroom. And then drooling again watching them at the Daytona 24 hour race.
    I am not a fan of the original wheels. Buy love the car.

  11. Tom S.

    This car needs a 4×4 pickup chassis.

    Like 1
  12. Bill McCoskey

    Having lived in Germany many years ago, I still have gearhead friends over there. One of my friends lives in Hannover-Nordstadt, not far from where this body shell is located. I emailed him about this M1 Body shell. His comments are quite interesting! Here is what he had to say:

    This has been on display for many years, and has slowly drooped at the front & rear from lack of body support. As I remember, it had wooden blocks instead of the original rubber mounts between the chassis and glassfibre body, and the wooden blocks rotted away completely, permitting the body ends to slowly deform and drop down onto the chassis.

    I am pretty sure this was a location where they either built the rolling chassis M1 cars for BMW, or the location for making the bodies. M1 bodies were a combination of plastic resin panels and glassfibre main shell. When it was first put up there on the post, this body had most of the exterior trim pieces and wheels/tyres, but I do not believe it was a complete car, no interior or drive train. Directly above the body was the sign advertising the place where the work was created.

    I do believe, based on the complexity of the chassis used on this example, that this is probably a real M1 body & chassis, but will not have a chassis number assigned to it. The Federal TUV [ German safety inspection – Bill] would not allow this car to be constructed for road use. We would also need to compare the chassis to a known BMW M1 car to see if it is a real M1 chassis.

    I believe the chassis is steel with Zinc coated, I think in English that is called Galvanizing. The chassis should be in good nick. I think it would be difficult to form up the body to the correct original condition without much work, maybe taking years to correct the sag. If you want to make this into a running original M1,I cannot think an assembly book would be included! And you would still have NO CHASSIS NUMBER!

    -Hans

    • Pete

      Thank you Hans that explains perfectly what it really is, as well as what it would take to allow the body to reform to the frame. Although if it was located in the Southern USA it wouldn’t take more than two years for it to settle back to it’s original shape. It is hotter longer here.

    • david nieuwenhuis

      I don’t believe this is an original body, because the front and rear bumpers were not in one piece with the main body. Maybe a mould was taken from an original car.

  13. JagManBill

    If I remember correctly, Field stuffed an SBC in one of these for Danny O in the early 80’s. Make a nice racer?

  14. robbie

    you can call it a rolling car on utube if you want . the car never moves and they never run the engine. cool looking but does it roll

  15. Robert G

    I am with Bill on this one. As soon as I saw the chassis I felt that this was no kit car.
    That chassis looks looks like it is the correct chassis for the car. If it is not, then it was a very good chassis match up selection.

    Even without the vin number, it is still a valuable car as it sits, it could have be intended as a race car from an independent team.
    It is possible that the body was released as an uncompleted race car. That would make this vehicle very valuable.

  16. Bill McCoskey

    Update: My friend in Germany Visited the location this weekend. He started asking questions in a local Gasthaus [pub or bar]. Ended up making contact with a guy who said he knows the story. The story continues:

    Bill – Hr. P’s story is interesting a bit; He says that Lamborghini was selected to build the M1 series of cars, however before they began construction, lambo had financial problems, so BMW removed the project from them. This body/chassis is one of several “test-rig” prototypes made for various testing requirements. These tests were needed to obtain the many governments approvals to sell the cars. The company doing the testing was located in the Industrial Estate nearby. When they were finished with testing, the chassis/body was not in original specification, so it was said to be destroyed. Of course it was not destroyed, and years later, after the testing company moved or closed, with leaving the chassis/body in a storage yard, the property owner put the car up as you see it now.

    [This is Bill again] If this is a prototype test rig, and no longer in spec, The company probably tested various points until failure, or movement out of spec. This car might be worth more exactly as it is, than finishing it as a running M1.
    What needs to be done is the research to establish this unusual chassis/body provenance.

    I looked up BMW M1 on Wikipedia, and it mentions 7 prototypes made before Lambo stopped, however it also indicated development work continued under former Lambo employees at a different facility, still in Italy. Perhaps this chassis was the one used to provide the German/European government required testing for road certification.

    It also might explain why the car has integral front & rear bumpers, as it was a testing prototype, and it was never expected to be a production vehicle or even roadworthy. Or perhaps they considered making the bumpers as part of the body shell at the beginning.

    • TriPowerVette

      Really solid information. Thank you.

  17. Wayne

    Wow!
    Neat story Bill.
    Thanks for the history lesson. The truth is always more interesting than assumptions and fabrications.

  18. alan

    This car was designed to be mated to the Matra Simca Murena chassis. These were stuffed with a little Simca 4 cylinder with twin double Weber downdraft carbs.

    • Bobinott

      I think Alan may be on to it. I followed a few links from the M1 replica info, and several led to Matra Mureno or Bagheera platforms. Those were fiberglass bodies too, and I think you can see some cross-over elements.

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