Can you imagine BMW pricing one of its cars around 75 percent dearer than a V12-powered Ferrari? No, neither can we, but in the late 1970s they did exactly that.
At a time when a Ferrari 512 BB cost £20k, the M1 sold for around £35k! The guys at Munich hadn’t lost their marbles, it’s just that the E26 (its internal code-name) had a unique, and very interesting, background.
It was originally devised as a homologation special, of which 399 street-legal examples had to be built to comply with FIA regulations, with a bodywork penned by Giorgetto Giugiario and the chassis developed by no other than Lamborghini.
Before it was ready, though, two things happened: first, it was suddenly left with no series to race when the Procar championship was cancelled, and second, Lamborghini was (once again…) in serious financial trouble.
One would have thought that the Germans would have canned the program – and he’d be wrong. What they did was get hold of the M1 project themselves and, once it was finished, put together a one-make series that followed the Formula 1 championship for two years. In fact, many F1 drivers raced in the BMW M1 Procar Series, with Niki Lauda winning in 1979 and Nelson Piquet in 1980.
A total of 457 examples were built, including the racers, which makes the M1 a rare beast indeed. Maybe the 277 PS (273 HP) output is nothing to write home about, even by that era’s standards, but the 3.5-liter inline-six not only served in the M635 CSi and the first-ever M5, but put out up to 850 PS (!) in the turbocharged racing cars.
The white car in the following video might not be as wild as the restored M1 Procar put together by Canepa, but it’s in tip-top condition and can go for as much as half a million quid if the owner decides to sell. A bargain compared to what a dealer was asking for another car that was just one out of three silver M1s ever made.