BMW’s mid-engined supercar, the M1, is arguably among the most collectible BMW models ever built. Produced from 1978 until 1991, only 556 examples were built, and it’s unknown how many remain today. Some were built as road cars, while others were built for an M1 spec series that pitted the best drivers in the world against each other in identical cars. While road-going M1 made “only” 276 horsepower, cars campaigned in the Procar series produced upwards of 470 horsepower, which made them a fitting exhibition race preceding Grand Prix events in 1979 and 1980.
The BMW M1 captured the attention of Peter Gregg, an accomplished road racer and six-time IMSA champion. Gregg also owned Brumos Motors in Jacksonville, FL, and placed an order for a BMW M1 in 1978, to be built to FIA Group 4 specifications. The car was completed in 1979, but a tragic event in the fall of 1978 would make this particular M1 even more valuable.
Gregg and artist Frank Stella were at Monza to watch Gregg’s friend and former teammate, Ronnie Peterson, compete in the Italian Grand Prix. Peterson was involved in an opening lap crash that shattered both his legs. Although his injuries were not perceived to be life threatening, the Swedish driver died the next day as a result of the crash. Stella, who had been working on a series of paintings called “Polar Coordinates,” dedicated his artwork to the memory of Ronnie Peterson.
Full story after the jump.
When Gregg took delivery of his M1 in 1979, Stella agreed to paint the car in the same “Polar Coordinates” theme as a tribute to Ronnie Peterson. Although not an “official” BMW Art Car , Gregg’s M1 has the distinction of being the only BMW painted by an Art Car artist (Stella painted a BMW CSL Art Car) that’s not in BMW’s museum in Munich.
Gregg would only enjoy his M1 for a few short months. Following a crash en route to Le Mans in 1980, Gregg was left with permanent double vision. Unable to race again, Gregg committed suicide in December 1980, and his car ultimately wound up in the possession of New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
Gregg’s M1 will cross the block at the upcoming Bonham’s auction in Pebble Beach. Pre-auction estimates show the price at between $450,00 and $600,00, but chances are good it will go much higher than that, especially if BMW gets in on the bidding.