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1978 - 1981 BMW M1

1978 - 1981 BMW M1

The company’s first mid-engined sports car

Although BMW had been racing its cars since the 1920s, it didn’t develop its first true-blue sports car until the late 1970s. A few years after the M division started making headlines with its beefed-up sedans and coupes, BMW signed an agreement with Italian manufacturer Lamborghini to build a mid-engine sports car in sufficient quantity for racing homologation. The collaboration didn’t go as planned, and BMW eventually decided to produce the car itself with input from its Motorsport division. The M1’s body was designed by Giugiaro, which explains its very Italian cues, while production was handled by Baur. The end result was sold to the public from 1978 to 1981, with only 453 examples built.

To this day, the M1 remains one of BMW’s rarest models. Likewise, it is also one of the company’s most successful race cars, with its track career surpassing that of the road car’s well into the 1980s. Unfortunately, the M1 is also BMW’s first sports car, which makes it that much more important to the Munich’s storied history as an automobile manufacturer.

The M1 Homage Concept launched in 2008 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the M1 spawned rumors that BMW might build a successor, but a modern-day M1 has yet to arrive as of 2014.

Updated 08/23/2016: RM Sotheby’s auctioned a very well preserved Ferrari Enzo during the 2016 Monterey Car Week. Check out the "Prices" section to see how how much it was auctioned and the "Pictures" tab for some images taken during the event.

Continue reading to learn more about the 1978-1981 BMW M1.

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1955 - 1962 BMW Isetta

1955 - 1962 BMW Isetta

You would think that BMW would feel a bit embarassed at having such a humble means of transportation as part of its history, but that has never been the case when talking about the Isetta bubble car. After World War II, the Bavarian car maker was not exactly in tip-top shape in terms of financial success, with Herbert Quandt being close to selling the entire company to Daimler Benz under the pressure of management. Thanks in small part to the prosperity brought by the tiny Isetta and Quandt’s rather risky decision of increasing his stake instead of selling all of it, BMW is still an independent brand now.

As some of you know, the Isetta was actually born in Italy, not Germany, and its original raison d’être was simply to offer an inexpensive means of transport with good fuel economy. Created by Iso, which subsequently became famous afterward for its elegant sports cars in the 1960s, the original Isetta had thee wheels and a single-cylinder motorcycle engine from the Iso Moto 200. Its quirky styling, low price and great city maneuverability caught the eye of BMW, who bought the project along with its tooling and made its own version, keeping the name.

Using a BMW motorcycle engine this time, the BMW Isetta spawned two more variants and became a resounding success for the Bavarian car maker, with over 150,000 units being sold between 1955 and 1962. Part of its success was also thanks to the Suez Energy Crisis, but no one can argue with the cuteness of its bubble car design as also being a very good reason.

Updated 9/1/2015: Our man Jonathan Lopez took some pics at Monterey Car Week. Enjoy!

Click past the jump to read more about the BMW Isetta.

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1972 - 1974 BMW 2002tii

1972 - 1974 BMW 2002tii

The BMW 2002tii is one of the most fun-to-drive and affordable classic cars available. Most classic cars have a distinctly fragile and wooly way of handling and accelerating down the road, causing drivers to think... ‘Don’t floor the throttle because something might break!’

Not in the BMW 2002tii. This car is plugged into the tarmac and every pebble is felt through the giant unassisted steering wheel, pedals and shift knob.

The seating position and performance sensations are far more modern than the VIN number stamp would have you believe. It was this light and nimble attitude that brought BMW back from the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1960s, when Germany was reeling from a prolonged recession even as the rest of the world danced in tie-dye shirts and went to Woodstock.

BMW had big problems at the time, most critically being a lack of cash to invest in the business. Their primary 1500 sedan was well-regarded in Germany as a more agile and cheaper Mercedes alternative, but the small sedan was a fish out of water on U.S. roads clogged with millions of Ford Mustangs. Sedans and BMW’s U.S. sales were out of gas as two-door coupes became all the rage.

As with some other TopSpeed Hall of Fame models like the NART Ferrari Spider from last weekend, the beginnings of the BMW 2002 legend start with a strong-arm tactic from a U.S. importer.

Against BMW’s protests, he cajoled them into adding their largest engine under the 1500’s hood and chopping the rear doors. Instant sports coupe and American success meant nothing less than salvation for this historic engine manufacturer.

And for a clue about the origin of the 4 Series coupe names, a quick look at the (odd) 1500 sedan becoming the (even) 2002 two-door explains BMW’s logic.

Click past the jump for the full review of the 1972 - 1974 BMW 2002tii, with special highlights on this sport model’s extra performance and style.

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1959 BMW Isetta Whatta Drag

1959 BMW Isetta Whatta Drag

When you are thinking about a BMW Isetta, impressive output is definitely the last thing you are taking under consideration. In fact, an original BMW Isetta only delivered a total of 13 horsepower, so nothing impressive here. With this in mind it is pretty much impossible to even consider a 730-horsepower Isetta, right?

Well, as impossible as it may sound, the guys over Hot Wheels unveiled back in 1998 the "Whatta Drag" — a car that initially started as a toy. Thanks to the amazing imagination of Bruce Weiner, the Isetta Whatta Drag became a reality in 2005. As you could imagine, this cool Whatta Drag only keeps the body shell from an original 1959 BMW Isetta, because everything else is pretty much new.

Under the hood, it gets a 502-cubic-inch Chevrolet big-block crate engine mated to a two-speed manual transmission. The V-8 engine is equipped with a BDS supercharger, twin Holley 750 CFM double-pumper carburetors and Zoomies exhaust headers. The result is a pretty amazing 730 horsepower — a number that seems monstrous for the tiny Isetta.

Next to that amazing output level, this special Isetta has been specially equipped for burnouts and donuts thanks to an AP balance bar incorporated into the dual-circuit disc-brake system. The Isetta-turned-dragster also received the suspension system from an M3 and custom drag-racing wheels with a Sumitomo HTRZ II tires.

If the car caught your attention, you will be happy to know it will be auctioned by RM Auctions on February 16, but prepare to shell out about $100k to acquire it.

Click past the jump to read the press release

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1956 - 1959 BMW 503 Series I Cabriolet

1956 - 1959 BMW 503 Series I Cabriolet

At the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1955, BMW unveiled an all new sports car that was put in place to help continue the company’s post-war growth. The 503, as BMW dubbed it, went into production the next year and came in both a coupe and convertible model. Only 413 total 503 models were ever built and 139 of those were convertibles (cabriolet).

This makes the BMW 503 Series I Cabriolet one of the most desired BMWs of both its era and all eras, for that matter. The 503 was never an overly powerful model, but it was a well-balanced car that delivered performance and comfort at the same time – something that was lacking in the late-1950s.

With it only seeing a production run up until 1959, getting your hands on one of these gems is quite the tough task. It is not completely impossible, however, as there are a few that cross the auction block every handful of years. You can bet your bottom dollar on the fact that these rare 2+2 drop-tops fetch a rather hefty sum.

Click past the jump to read all about the 1956 through 1959 BMW 503 Series I Cabriolet.

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2016 BMW M1

2016 BMW M1

Though the BMW M1 from the late-1970s and early-1980s was not a supercar by any stretch of the term, it was about as close as BMW has gotten to the supercar realm in its entire history. With BMW steadily expanding its lineup with the like of the i8 and i3, could this be the perfect time for BMW to dive into the true supercar realm with a resurrected M1?

According to the folks at Automobile Magazine, it surely does. Their sources say that BMW is already hard at work plugging away at this concept for a possible debut in 2014 at an auto show of BMW’s liking.

The rumors are pointing toward the M1 having a monocoque chassis made of extremely stiff carbon fiber. Wrapped around the monocoque, the body would be a mixture of carbon fiber, aluminum, magnesium, titanium, and high-strength steel. This lightweight design leads to the biggest benefit of this system, a performance car weighing in at only 2,750 lbs.

The M1 will also reportedly feature a body so aerodynamic that it’s like adding 100 horsepower to any engine. A plethora of moving fins along the body direct the wind around the vehicle and transfers it into useful energy, as opposed to useless drag.

According to rumors, BMW has already chosen an engine. After flirting with a 6-cylinder option, the German luxury car company settled on the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. This engine is rumored to punch out somewhere in the range of 600 to 650 horsepower.

Behind this engine would be a super-fast shifting dual clutch transmission. This combination of high power, quick shift, and light weight would give the M1 a top speed of 205 mph and a 0 to 62 mph time of roughly 3 seconds. This would immediately put BMW up on par with the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Bugatti.

For now, this is all just hearsay and rumors, so there is little more to report. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available. We hope to report soon that BMW is confirming this vehicle, but we’re not holding our breath.

Image is of the 2008 BMW M1 Hommage.

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1979 BMW M1 Pro-car

1979 BMW M1 Pro-car

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.

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