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The Ultimate Bimmer: 1979 BMW M1

The BMW M1 is a car steeped in history, not only for its place in BMW’s family tree but also in 1980s racing culture. Produced in exceedingly low numbers, this is one of the more desirable BMWs ever made and it comes up for sale on a very limited basis. The M1 was a homologation car made to satisfy requirements stemming from BMW’s desire to compete in Group 5 racing to brush back a challenge from Porsche; ah, the glory days of manufacturers going head-to-head in fiercely competitive racing series. As such, the M1 shown here on the Ferrari of Los Angeles website is one of a small handful of road-going cars made to satisfy homologation requirements, and is listed for sale with a price tag of $699,000.

As much as that may seem like an eye-watering number, it actually seems reasonable given the class of vehicle the M1 is in and also due to how dramatically prices have risen for other makes and models in the same category. This is a genuine motorsports car for the street, chock-full of the best racing technology the world had to offer in the early 1980s. The M1 was initially a joint project with Lamborghini, with the scope of work calling for the Italian automaker to handle the chassis development, assemble the prototypes, and oversee manufacturing. However, financial complications arose that precluded Lamborghini from continuing in the partnership, and BMW assumed full control.

The M1 would go on to compete in Group 4 racing after the program’s delay due to Lamborghini’s challenges and other production hurdles ruled out Group 5 participation. The M1 was used in its own racing league of sorts, the Procar BMW M1 Championship, that served as a farm league of sorts for Formula 1. The M1 was also used in the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as Group B rally racing, demonstrating the chassis’ formidable racing pedigree. Outside of its competition prowess, the M1 was also a serious driver’s car, featuring an M88 inline-six cylinder engine developing 273 b.h.p. and 243 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine was the brainchild of Paul Rosche, who is also known in BMW circles for developing the celebrated S14 engine found in the venerable E30 M3 – another one of BMW’s most sought-after homologation cars.

The car shown here has undergone significant reconditioning, as if often the case with limited-production models such as these. According to the listing, it was subject to an engine-out rebuild conducted by Oldenzaal Classics B.V. The listing claims 450 hours of service work was involved in preparing the M1 for sale, with engine servicing including a full rebuild along with new components such as a “…new water pump, oil, ignition cables, and plugs.” The gearbox and brake system were also rebuilt and re-sealed, and I can only imagine what the invoices totaled for a car like this. This is one of the only M1s I’ve seen come to market in years, and certainly the only example I can recall seeing in blue. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Nevadahalfrack for the find.

Comments

  1. Howie

    What barn was this in? These are great but a 6cyl.

    Like 4
  2. Big Bear 🇺🇸

    There was a time in Westchester county NY you would see these in very nice towns. I was visiting my Uncle in Mt. Kisco NY back in 1980 driving a 70 Dodge Challenger RT on rte 117 I had a red BMW M1 on my tail so we had fun. We got on Saw Mill River Pkwy South and went balls out. Oh I had a big block in the Challenger which was Red also. So two red cars screaming down Pkwy. I had to get off to go back up to my Uncle’s house. That’s was the most fun I had back then. One of many adventures in the Dodge. Good luck to the next owner and I hope they have many adventures also..🐻🇺🇸

    Like 17
    • schooner

      Saw Mill is a great road as all the fun hasn’t been engineered out of it. Used it for six months on a contract job commute.

      Like 4
  3. Larry D*

    This car was built 12-78 and served as a press car for BMW. There appears to be very few 79 models, and a total of just under 400 road going models of the M1 were built (53 race models) with very few US models sold. It evidently was imported in 1981 and federalized at that time. Last public sale attempt appears to be at Sotheby’s Arizona in 2016 and was a no sale. Seems a little pricey at 699K. Hagerty has #1 at $710K, #2 at $550K, and #3 at $410K. Most recent sales were a 1980 model in France for $567K and another 1980 model in California sold at $522K. This looks to be (48 pics on the site) between a 2 and a 3.

    Like 13
  4. Frank Armstrong

    The BMW dealer in Tulsa,OK operated one of the largest non-factory BMW race teams during the time the M1 was built. He imported several of them to Tulsa, and the combination of his race car import processing skills and oil patch money probably resulted in the largest USA concentration of M1’s per capita being in the Northeast Oklahoma counties.

    Like 5
    • BOLIVAR SHAGNASTY

      There was one in Claremore that i used to see all the time. I pulled up next to him at the Lynn Riggs and Hiway 66 intersection going north in my 70 Boss302 .. and decided to just give him a thumbs up. I read about the M1 and I figured that a wave was good enough on that day.

      Like 5
  5. Dan

    The asking price is spot on, which is surprising coming from a dealer. And the asking prices have held steady in recent years and that’s shocking given their scarcity. I know parts and maintenance will cost an arm and a leg, but the same holds true for Ferraris costing north of $1m. Maybe there’s a “malaise era mystique” keeping cars like this from topping $1M?

    Like 2
  6. BIMMERBILL

    I love the M1 (E-26) with the Paul Rosch (not sure about the spelling) engine which was basically the M30 block and a head with DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder that was used on the E-28 M5 and E-24 M6 engines with a variant conversion to 4 cylinder for the first M-3. This car was a very outstanding design by Giugiaro. And thank God they got away from the transverse that was used in the original M car that this car was developed from. This led to better and quicker serviceability of the engine. My only regret is that for BMW to get this out for the street and racing (and for lightness on the track) they made it out of fiberglass. I forgot to mention that that engine displacement went from 3.5 to 3.8 for the next generation M5. A note of history (since I am on a roll is that engine was used in the E-23 7 series in South Africa as an option.

    Like 5
  7. GIJOOOE

    I had the distinct pleasure of watching an M1 tearing up Watkins Glen in the vintage Grand Prix back in 2013, and the soundtrack is one I won’t soon forget. It was absolutely glorious, dicing it up with a C3 Corvette and a 930 911, but the M1 had the best sound by far, and I’m a dyed in the wool V8 guy. It was an amazing experience, watching those old race cars being driven in anger, and I’d love to go back someday.

    Like 3
  8. Bruce

    Oldskool55f100, I wouldn’t say BMWs are rolling nightmares. They are perhaps over tech built and as such there are expensive fixes to so many things. But driving then is an experience worth some of the expenses and I believe you have to factor the expense into the decisions.

    And then secondly, search for applicable parts for non-priority items outside the BMW name. Electric parking brake is a perfect example. A hand brake is perfect, why have the push button parking brake? The part to fix mine was astronomical if purchased through the BMW dealer. I was able to find a new replacement for 10% of the BMW cost. Can say the same about several other items. However, when I drive the Ultimate Driving Machine, there are few rivals of the same year and make.

    Like 4
  9. SubGothius

    Pretty good video by Jason Cammisa for Hemmings about the M1’s development and history here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK5KkOC-8Vc

    Like 1
  10. Fox owner

    Yawn. A car hardly anyone can afford that won’t be driven on the street the way it was intended. Owned by one percenters.

    Like 1
  11. jwaltb

    The Ferrari dealer listing is interesting- claims the engine was rebuilt but lists no new internals or work done other than valve adjustment and some externals. If I had the money to consider this I’d want to see some invoices.
    Nothing I have to worry about though!

    Like 2

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