Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 2009 Dream Car of the Month - BMW M1

In the mid 1970s BMW was anxious to get into GT racing. In 1976 they began design of a mid engined GT that would compete in Group 4 and Group 5 sports car racing. The BMW M1 was born.

BMW Turbo Concept

Taking inspiration from the 1972 BMW Turbo concept, the car was based around the M88/1 3.5L inline 6cyl engine mated to a ZF 5 speed transaxle. This engine featured mechanical fuel injection, 24 valves, twin cams and 6 individual throttle bodies. In street tune, the M88/1 produced 273HP and could propel the M1 to over 160MPH. In racing tune, with the addition of twin turbos, the engine was capable of over 800HP.

Production BMW M1

The body was designed by Giugiaro and BMW entered into an agreement with Lamborghini to build the car to meet the 400 car minimum homologation rules. Unfortunately, Lamborghini was in very bad financial condition at the time and they were unable to meet their end of the bargain. In 1978, BMW transferred the completion of the project and assembly of the cars to their M Motorsport division with the aid of Baur a German convertible company.

In another unfortunate turn of bad luck, by the time BMW resumed development and production of the car in 1978, the hologation rules for Group 5 racing had changed and BMW had not manufactured enough cars to qualify. So in 1979, BMW created their own racing series the Procar BMW M1 Championship. This series was the brainchild of Jochen Neerpasch, the head of BMW Motorsport, as a way to help BMW produce enough M1s to qualify for racing. It consisted of race tuned M1s and was a established as a support series for Formula One. Procar pitted many F1 drivers of the day against one another in identically prepared cars. The series lasted for only 2 years after which BMW had made enough cars to finally compete in Group 5 racing but by then the car was seriously outdated and outmatched.

BMW Procar racer

In all, a total of only 456 M1s were built between 1978 and 1981 making it one of the rarest BMWs ever and the only mid engined BMW to date. With it's stunning design and wonderful driving dynamics, the M1 is considered one of the greatest sports cars of the 1970s and possibly all time.

BMW M1 Homage Concept

In 2008 BMW teased everyone with the M1 Homage concept car. Built as a celebration of the M1's 30th anniversary it showed what a modern M1 would look like. Designed by Giorgio Giugiaro it drew inspiration from the original M1 as well as the 1972 BMW Turbo concept that the original was modeled after. Sadly, BMW has stated that there is no chance of a production version.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thoughts on the GM bankruptcy

I've always been a fan of GM. More than any of the other US auto manufacturers, I've always gravitated toward their products more than Ford or Chrysler. That's not to say I wouldn't kill for a nice Mustang, Ford GT, or Viper though. I am a car nut after all. That being said, it is very sad that it had to come to this with GM having to choose which brands and models have to go. I really think that they were building some of the best cars in their entire history. Among these models the Cadillac CTS, Pontiac G8, Chevy Malibu, and Pontiac Solstice / Saturn Sky could all hold their own in comparison to any competition, foreign or domestic.

Lots of things contributed to the downfall of GM. Everything from the economy to poor management to the horrendous models they put out from the mid 70s through the 80s. I'll admit it, I've never bought a new car from any American manufacturer mainly because of that lingering bad reputation they all established in the 70s and 80s for shoddily engineered crapboxes. They got complacent, thinking they'd be on top forever and they didn't really need to try to build good cars. Of course, at this point, that reputation is more of a myth than anything and they looked to be turning it around until the economy put that last nail in the coffin. I just hope they can get it together and emerge a better company that produces better products. Especially since we are all paying for it. We may as well get our money's worth.