One of a kind: The BMW M1

There's only ever been one car with the "M1" handle. It's sacred to the BMW hard-core and incredibly rare -- it's also a perfect time capsule of 1970s motoring.

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When you think of '70s supercars, you tend to think of Lamborghinis and Ferraris -- big, wedgy things that make a lovely noise and go very quickly indeed. You don't tend to think of BMW, do you?

I can't blame you for that. It's a brand that isn't really synonymous with supercars. Fast saloons, yes, but a supercar? Well, in the late '70s, BMW did indeed produce a supercar, the M1. Very few were made, and its development was fraught with delays, financial troubles, and moving goal posts.

It's such a shame that the M1 didn't do as well as it could and should have. It lasted from 1978 to 1981, not a huge amount of time in anyone's book. And while it was around, it was supposed to have been racing its little socks off on the track.

Instead, BMW was trying to sell enough of them in order to qualify to enter the races thanks to a rule change at the last minute that meant a certain number of cars had to be sold before they could race. It was also supposed to be around a lot sooner than it was.

A deal made with Lamborghini to produce the car went more sour than a pint of double cream left in a kiln, and BMW very nearly ended up without a car at all.

It's a wonderful thing, though. The big, red monster I had created such a presence wherever it went that even though driving with the windows open was a necessity (no air conditioning, naturally, and heat leaking into the cabin caused me to sweat so much I lost 2 pounds) and the heckles, shouts, and endless "Which Ferrari's that, mate?" didn't half drive me mad.

Driving it in the countryside was good fun, though its width and, erm, older controls made passing trucks, buses, and the like a bit of a nightmare. Driving it in town, however, was a different experience. Tight London side roads and suicyclists make driving a behemoth such as the M1 a dicier proposition than it would have been when it was new.

Even though it's giant, unknown, and difficult to pilot, the BMW M1 was truly special. It was a car that so few know about yet its fans utterly adore (we met a guy while shooting who went weak at the knees when he saw it); it's a very special beast. If you see one, just remember this: It's not a Ferrari...

Specs
Engine 3.5-litre straight six
Power 277 bhp
Torque 243 lb. ft.
0-62 mph 5.9 seconds
Top speed    163 mph

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