Few cars in history have histories as complicated as the BMW M1. The creation of the BMW M1 took more twists and turns than Christopher Nolan movie and it ended up being both absolutely beloved and an absolute failure. How can a car be both of those things at once? Let Jason Cammisa break in down for you in this new episode from Hagerty.
The BMW M1 as a project was fraught from the beginning. While it had the best intentions, and BMW M truly wanted to build something special, it made too many managerial mistakes. Admittedly, Lamborghini—who was contracted by BMW M to design the original car—was largely responsible for much of the M1’s failure. In typical Lamborghini fashion, it not only failed to actually deliver what it promised to BMW but it also illegally reallocated funds from a military project it was contracted to created and was then sued, causing BMW M to cancel the contract.
Photo: BMW Group Classic
Once the BMW M1 finally got off the ground, the racing series it was designed for vanished, leaving BMW M with a race car that couldn’t go racing. So it then invented its own racing series, the BMW M1 Procar series, which was actually an interesting and fun one-make racing series. It was unlike the most boring one-make series’ because it tag-teamed with Formula 1 and pit real F1 drivers against customer racing teams and the cash prizes were huge. It also gave bonuses for any customer racing driver that was able to lead an F1 driver, so there were some genuine stakes.
However, that excitement didn’t lead to a tone of customer demand for the BMW M1 and its astronomical price didn’t help. Which meant that the M1 ended up being a failure. Or did it?
After the M1, BMW M started making road cars that weren’t based on race cars, such as all the M cars we have today. And those are massive money makers for the brand. So while the BMW M1 didn’t actually make any money itself and was a financial disaster, it did create a legendary brand that BMW now dilutes by slapping its badge on every single BMW model in existence, which in turns makes boat loads of cash. Watch this new video from Hagerty and let Cammisa tell the story because it’s a fascinating one, filled with some of the wildest automotive mishaps in history.