Street Parked: Former BMW-Autogas M1 Racer

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

The BMW M1 is perhaps the company’s most well-known and sought-after supercar. After all, BMW may routinely produce performance cars as part of its standard likeup but mid-engined supercars come along rarely. This particular M1 had fallen off the radar of many collectors and enthusiasts after a high-profile stint as an LPG-powered land speed record holder at the hands of a well-known Austrian driver. Find its story and fascinating history here on Petrolicious.

The driver, Harald Ertl, had enjoyed a career of isolated successes: he was a regular fixture on the world’s best circuits, including Formula 1, the European Touring Car Championship, and Group 5 racing series, often at the wheel of a BMW. With his career beginning to fade as it approached the 1980s. Ertl decided to embark on a new goal of setting a land-speed record. Cleverly, they identified the BMW M1 as the supercar of choice and then secured a corporate sponsor in BP, which was looking to promote its liquid-petroleum gas as an alternative to traditional pump fuel.

In order to make the record attainable, the M1’s legendary M88 straight-six was modified with a pair of K26 turbochargers from well-known boost expert KKK. While official figures aren’t available, the output was just over 400 b.h.p., but according to Petrolicious’ interviewee accounts, the output may have been closer to 500. After the M1 was retired, its complicated LPG-powered M88 was removed and a standard replacement M88 was installed. While certainly far less raucous, the original twin-turbo kit is still with the car and an Alpina-branded boost controller is still dead-center in the dash.

After a series of ownership changes, the M1 ended up with an enthusiast in the U.K. who had an eye for special cars but no place to store them. The M1 for years sat parked on the street, playing bumper cars with other commuter vehicles and trucks. It’s a strange fate for such a special vehicle, and now the son of the last owner is faced with the challenge of a costly restoration, both to preserve his father’s passions and what is undoubtedly a special and unique car. While it seems a GoFundMe is necessary to make that vision a reality, it’s clear that if the M1 has survived this long, it has luck on its side.

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Comments

  1. Scott

    I wonder what the former owner thought was worth parking inside and off the street.




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  2. UK Paul

    Strange fate befell it. Hopefully now it will be looked after as it is deserved.
    Unusual to see cars like that treated so badly.
    Reminds me of another abused car I saw myself about 3 years ago …. it was a battered and abused 1960’s Aston Martin DB6 Convertible driving down the M4 motorway.
    It was dented all over and really tatty with stickers all over the boot. Surreal




    14
  3. Jim

    Looks like BMW stole of it’s design cue’s from Detomaso and did a poor job of it at that. Still old race cars are super cool and deserve to on the track again, not in a museum. Just my .02




    4
    • Rob

      If you saw a stock M1, the look is very different from DeTomaso designed by Ghia, but does bear a lot of resemblance to a Bertone body, but was, in fact, designed by a third Italian design firm, Giugiaro. There is a reason why super cars of old often looked similar, and that is because only a handful of designers were doing it, aereodynamics required certain body layouts, engineering required the same, and that people were attracted to these shapes. Hopefully it will see some limited track time again, but who knows. I miss those days when you could buy an M1 or a Pantera for $20k




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  4. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Something I do find interesting is that though Australia is right hand drive, virtually every car they show is a left hand drive. Most interesting.




    3
    • Blueprint

      Austrian driver, not Australian!

      Hence, left hand drive 🙂




      7
      • Dick Johnson

        How austere.
        Fred Astair?
        Always wanted an Austrian Martin.




        6
      • joebazots

        haha




        9
  5. Newport Pagnell

    Car was in Austria.




    5
  6. Blueprint

    Oh and BMW does have a mid-engined supercar at the moment, the i8. Having spent a week with one, it’s worthy of the title. The stock M1 achieved supercar looks with class, no wings or garish trimmings. Even the aero wheels were discrete.




    4
    • Dolphin Dolphin Staff

      I like, and own, only analog cars, but the i8 is definitely a current car that I would like to own. Heck, I’d settle for a week in one.




      3
      • Blueprint

        Freelancing has its perks 🙂

        Look for my i8 review on hybridcars.com




        4
  7. Mr. TKD

    I’d think BMW would want to bring this one back into the fold.




    2
  8. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    Not many people would have thought back then that excellent BMW M1s would be selling at auction for a median price of $440K today.

    The good news is that an M1 like this would probably be worth restoring back to original now. The M1 was the first of many M-car series to be born, a series that continues strong today. Probably restoring it as an LNG/LPG land speed vehicle wouldn’t add much value now.

    Jim, good eye on the Pantera – M1 body design similarity. Designers often ‘borrowed’ ideas from each others’ designs back then, as they certainly do now every day of the week and also on Sunday.

    86_vette, I’ve also misread the word Austria for Australia, but Harald Ertl was a fairly well known Austrian race driver, and Austria and surrounding countries would have had LHD cars.




    4
  9. leiniedude

    I have been looking for a 2000-2002 BMW Z3 M for a while. Now I am really confused?




    4
  10. LAWRENCE

    cool…but cruel to be left on the street……or is that krewl ?




    3

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