The 1978 BMW M1 looks almost like a Lamborghini and for good reason

The 1978 BMW M1 looks almost like a Lamborghini and for good reason

I’ll never own a real M1 but I do own this awesome 1:18 scale model from Amazon and you can too!


If you’re younger than me you may be aware of one mid-engined BMW in the hybrid BMW i8 but you may not know that they had one other which inspired the i8 and I’m talking of course about the 1978 BMW M1. Another fact you may not be aware of is the fact that my favorite car maker, Lamborghini, was initially meant to make the cars for BMW. It’s all very interesting, so sit back, relax and let me tell you a tale.

To be able to compete in a lot of Motorsports, you need to enter a car which is a production car that normal people can buy and drive on the road, the limit for this is a minimum of 400 cars produced for it to be accepted as a production car. In the 1970’s BMW’s head of motor sport Jochen Neerpasch decided that he wanted to develop a new car to be able to compete with Porsche on the track and insisted that such a car would need to be a mid-engine configuration to allow it to out perform the Porsche entries.

However there was a problem, Neerpasch knew that BMW wouldn’t be able to produce 400 road going versions of the car in time to compete and a solution was hatched, the company would enter into a contract with Lamborghini to work out the details of the car’s chassis, assemble prototypes and manufacture the vehicles. Gian Paolo Dallara, the man behind the chassis for the Miura, soon got on board working on a tubular steel space frame chassis for the new vehicle.

In April 1978 though it became clear that Lamborghini was having some serious financial issues and it didn’t look like they would be able to build the car on time, so BMW decided it best to cancel the contract and bring the car in house. In a way I’m glad they did, because without this the Mirman brothers probably wouldn’t have bought Lamborghini, built the Countach and sold to Chrysler and we may not have the company today.

Between 1978 and 1981, BMW handbuilt the cars and its fiberglass was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the man behind the Aston Martin DB4 design. Now all that was needed was an Engine and luckily BMW’s M division had one of those ready to go. The car was fitted with a 3.5 liter flat six, producing 273 bhp and 243 lb-ft of Torque. This was enough to bring the cars light chassis and frame all the way to 163 mph. The car also featured some high tech (for the time) components such as vented brakes and an advanced fuel injection.

Since the engineering of the car was still incomplete, a group of former Lamborghini engineers had founded a company named Italengineering which offered to complete the car’s design. Less than 10 miles away from the Lamborghini shop, the engineering for the M1 was finished. Thus BMW had its 400 cars and was ready to go racing.

Honestly though there isn’t much to say about its racing pedigree after all that work, it proved competitive in the 1981-1986 24 Hours of Le Mans and also did quite well in rally racing. Where it really shined was in the Procar BMW M1 Championship, obviously. This series was created to aid the production of the cars so it could be entered into competitions.

All said and done, this three year run car was stunning to look at and an incredible car in terms of back story and design. It makes it all the more sad that the latest follow up to it, the Vision M Next, seems to have been axed. I hate you coronavirus.