Last week, the first uncovered photos of the BMW 2-Series hit the web. I like it. But it got me thinking about the outgoing BMW 1-Series, and why years from now, it may be the most sought after Bimmer of our time by enthusiasts, weekend racers and hoons on a budget. Now might be the ideal time to snatch one up.
In this age of hybrid drivetrains with silent engines, too-numb electric power steering, engine sounds piped in by computers, overly intrusive safety nannies and ever-increasing curb weights, it's hard to find cars that could qualify as legitimate future classics. The 1-Series may just fit that definition, and here's why.
You see, the future doesn't look all that great for the number 1 in North America. BMW isn't bringing us the new hatchback 1-Series that dropped in Europe in 2011, and they probably aren't bringing over its successor that's currently in the works, either. At best, we can hope for the forthcoming 1-Series GT variant that is said to be front-wheel-drive.
I can't see too many enthusiasts lining up at BMW dealerships for that.
Instead of the 1, we Americans are getting the 2, and we got the best look at that car to date when the spy photos of the M235i hit the web last week. It's a handsome coupe with a much sleeker silhouette than the 1-Series, which was often maligned for its awkwardly tall roofline.
But here's my issue with the 2-Series: it's bigger than the 1-Series. At least, it certainly looks that way in the photos, and we have several men standing next to it to give a sense of scale. Without seeing any exact measurements, it appears to be longer than its predecessor. It makes sense, given the creeping size increases in BMW's new models.
I don't doubt that the 2-Series will perform well, but I will miss the tossability of the compact 1-Series.
The 1-Series is that rarest of creatures these days: the small, rear-wheel-drive coupe. It's the kind of car you barely see anymore, and one that harkens back to BMW's own glory days with the New Class cars of the 60s and 70s like the famed 2002, as well as the everyone-and-their-mother-loves-it E30.
Here's what I'm thinking: some 10, 15, or 20 years from now, the 1-Series may be what the E30 is to buyers today. It will be for people who want a small, purebred sports coupe with impressive performance for not a lot of money. If you find one that hasn't had the crap kicked out of it, it will make for a fantastic enthusiast bargain.
Like the E30, the case could be made that the first set of 1-Series owners, by and large, didn't appreciate what they had. Don't get me wrong — there are tons of 135i and 128i owners out there who enjoy autocross, track days, or just a great back road when there aren't any cops around. Go on just about any BMW forum and you'll see tons of 1 owners having a lot of fun with their cars.
But when even BMW admits that famously 80 percent of 1-Series owners believed their cars were front-wheel-drive, you know the masses aren't really getting the most out of this great machine. So one day, years from now, the 1-Series will really shine in the hands of the Bimmer guy (or gal) who buys one used on the cheap.
You could also argue that the 1-Series is one of the the last of the "pure" BMWs. At the moment, you can't even buy a new 3-Series sedan anymore with a naturally aspirated straight-six engine. That lineup has gone to two turbocharged fours (which are great engines) or a turbocharged six (which is also a great engine.) Presumably the 2-Series will get the same turbo-centric powerplants, or at least some of them.
But the 128i comes with a regular, silky smooth, naturally breathing straight-six, just like the BMWs so many of us grew up with, as well as a turbo'd variant if more power is required. All of this is true of the outgoing 3-Series Coupe, due to be replaced soon by the 4-Series, although I like the 1 better because it's smaller.
With "only" 230 horsepower to play with, some speed freaks have overlooked the non-turbo 128i, but I feel like one day, the car's purity will get the attention it deserves. And of course, the turbo 135i is absurdly fast, so that will be one hell of a deal when it comes down in price a bit.
And then there's the bad boy, the powder maker, the torso taker, the Puff the Magic Dragon of the 1-Series family. I am, of course, talking about the turbocharged, 340-horsepower 1 Series M Coupe, which got saddled with a ridiculous name because of BMW's devotion to the M1 supercar from the 1970s. This thing should have been called the M1, because it had the performance to back it up.
Universally loved by damn near everyone who ever drove it, the 1M was only ever made as a limited-edition car in 2011 and 2012, and only about 6,000 or so were ever sold. This car has the potential to be this generation's E30 M3 or 2002tii, though admittedly, it lacks the motorsports heritage of those two models. I have a feeling that one day good 1Ms will be going for a lot of money on the auction block.
In fact, I have a good feeling about this entire family of cars. I think that a generation from now, when my son Kanye Lannister George is writing for the 3D holographic Jalopnik, the 1-Series will make it onto some "Answers of the Day" list about cars future people wish they could buy new today.
So current 1-Series owners, take care of your cars. The future track rats who will buy them at 1/4 their original value will thank you for it.
Graphic credit Raphael Orlove