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A New BMW M1 In the Works?

October 24, 2011 by Matt

1980 BMW M1 M-1 White

Left Lane reports today BMW’s performance M division is lobbying its parent company for the green light to develop a bespoke sports car:

According to the head of product development for the M division at BMW, Albert Biermann, speaking with Inside Line, his team is itching to have a crack at building a unique model from the ground up, totally unique from anything in the BMW lineup.

This of course would follow the same suit as the SLS, turned out by AMG, which one can only assume is the fueling factor for why the M folks would like a shot at a one-off car themselves. The only thing holding the project back? Money of course, “We’ve discussed it several times but we’ve never been able to make the business case. Everything we do has to make money.”

Aside from the unfocused and short-lived ’99-’03 Z8, among German automakers, Porsche, Mercedes and Audi have had the high-end halo car performance segment all to themselves for the last 30 years. It’s an open question why BMW hasn’t made a foray into that segment since the classic ’78-’81 M1, especially since they haven’t shied away from other niches like SUVs (X3, X5) and crossovers (X6, 5-series GT). What’s been holding them back? Does BMW feel their existing model lineup projects enough of a performance image to render a flagship model superfluous? Or were they so badly burned by the M1 experience—in spite of the fact that the actual car was quite good—that they swore off the supercar segment indefinitely?

BMW M1 Homage Hommage Concept Show Car Orange Red

In any case, I can’t think of downside to BMW turning their in-house tuning shop loose to build the supercar of their dreams—unless it ends up looking like the hokey ’08 M1 Homage concept car pictured above. There’s nothing original or attractive about the M1 Homage; it simply takes all the styling cues of the classic car and exaggerates them into oblivion, like a caricature drawing. Part of what made the M1 such a stunner—in spite of the somewhat awkward side proportions necessitated by the long mid-mounted straight-6 engine—was its Germanic restraint, especially in the era when Ferrari and Lamborghini were actively trying to one-up each other in the flamboyance of their supercars’ styling. The original M1 stood apart, not only for its tailored good looks, but also for its ease of use, a quality which prompted James May to call it “the first truly user-friendly supercar.” BMW M is late to the game, and the upper-crust performance car niche is more saturated now than it was then, but if they can distinguish themselves with restraint and understatement design-wise and focus on polishing the dynamics to a high degree, a new M1 has the potential to elevate the brand significantly.

Filed under: BMW, News

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