On the 41st Anniversary Of The 1978 BMW M1, Here’s The History of Harald Ertl and the Fastest M1 Ever Built
The BMW M1 remains the only true supercar built by BMW and, thanks to the Procar Series that celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, it enjoys an aura quite like no other supercar. Harald Ertl, the mustachioed Austrian journalist who split his time between writing and racing, decided he liked the sound of "Harald Ertl the Land Speed Record holder" and prepared for the job of creating the most insane M1 seen outside of the racing circuits.
Ertl. Does this name ring any bells in your head? If you are, by chance, or at least used to be a model car aficionado, you might remember the venerable Ertl plastic and die-cast kits. Well, this Ertl has nothing to do with the American toy company because Harald Ertl was Austrian, born on the last day of Summer in 1948 in Zell Am See, a picturesque town in the state of Salzburg. By trade, he was an automotive journalist but, as time wore on, he became more and more involved in racing cars rather than merely testing and writing about them - a bit like Frenchman Paul Frere. Ertl established himself throughout the ’70s as an easily adaptable semi-professional driver who could tame anything from an F2 single-seater to the menacing Zakspeed-built Ford Capri III.
In 1981, he took a sabbatical away from racing and, instead, focused on getting his name carved in the history books as a land speed record holder. His weapon of choice? A twin-turbocharged BMW M1 with a bespoke widebody and about 400 ponies at the crank. Due to the lightness of the thing, the same output you’d find hiding under the body of a Genesis G80 propelled Ertl to a top speed of 187.3 mph. The trick up Ertl’s sleeve was to be found in the tank of the M1. You see, the car was made to run on liquid petroleum gas (LPG), also known as Autogas. No one before Ertl had gone that fast in an LPG-powered car and, in a way, it’s fitting that the current fastest LPG-powered car is also a BMW, only one that tops at almost 207 mph.