The Most Fascinating '70s Italian Supercar Was German

Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini made their fair share of cool mid-engined supercars in the '70s, but not were quite so interesting as this, the BMW M1.

The story of the M1's genesis is familiar to many car enthusiasts, so I'll keep it brief. BMW wanted to join Group 4 racing so they designed the M1 as a homologation special. Its gorgeous shape was penned by Giugiaro, and Lamborghini designed the suspension and was supposed to manufacture the car. Lamborghini's financial troubles forced BMW to take control over the project, which at that point couldn't be homologated due to a Group 4 rule change.

BMW created a racing series for the M1 called Procar, which had races before Formula 1 events, to salvage the remains of the failed project. Around 400 M1 streetcars were manufactured, which were remarkably civilized compared to their Italian brethren and featured the brilliant M88/1 straight-six. This 286-hp engine later appeared in the E28 M5 and E24 M635csi and established the DNA of BMW M's road cars.

This particular example made in 1980 is owned by Mike Ura who runs the BMW M1 Register. Ura believes there are only 25 M1s in the US as they were only ever brought in as grey-market imports, and many of the ones that were in the US have been sold overseas.


Nothing against the Ferrari 308, the Lamborghini Countach and their ilk, but the M1 has the most fascinating history of any late '70s supercar. It's essentially an Italian car with a high revving BMW M engine, a kidney grille, and some BMW badges. Speaking of the badges, why are there two BMW roundels at the back? BMW didn't want anyone thinking it was a Ferrari when it goes past. Too cool. Even Andy Wahol painted an M1 Procar.

Also, velocity stacks.

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That title is a pretty bold statement, what with cars like the Stratos, 512s, Meraks, Jalpas, etc.