Now this is a car…
The 1980 BMW M1, aka the E26. With the exception of the kidney grilles and the BMW roundels, the M1 actually looks more like an Italian supercar of the same vintage, which should come as no surprise as it was designed by Lamborgini for BMW. Thankfully, the doors swing horizontally, as God intended.
The mid-engined, two-seat M1 was designed & built a homologation special — it’s classified as a production car but was only built in sufficient numbers to allow BMW to race the car (with some important but relatively minor modifications) in certain events. The cars that were not raced, like this fine machine, were sold to the public.
One cool thing about the M1 is that it’s exclusive as all get out, but since it uses many off-the-shelf BMW parts, it’s still a very maintainable car. The engine is a kissing-cousin to the M88/S38 engines found in the e28 M5s and e24 M6s. The addition of the tuned headers makes the view under the hood a work of art; maybe not hanging in a gallery, but I like it enough to have it grace my desktop!
Because it’s considered a production car, the parts database for it is listed in RealOEM right along with every other production BMW. I doubt, though, that there’s a Bentley service manual available for it, and there’s definitely no M1 equivalent to the rabidly fanatical MyE28.com crowd!
Because of their rarity & cost, most M1s have been babied since new. I first saw this particular M1 in the Hemmings.com classifieds; it’s got a mere 26,999 miles on the clock, and it sounds like it’s had a nice restoration done to it to put it back in factory original condition. Its original owner was actually Christopher Cross, who bought it (and a twin M1 to it in Hennarot Red) to celebrate his rise to fame after the 1980 Grammy Awards. There he was awarded the Best Record & Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist for his song, “Sailing”. (just thinking of that song brings back high school memories!) Even with the restoration and the car’s history, I don’t know if the seller’s $250,000 asking price can be justified. Other similar examples are going for about half that, but who knows.
While I consider the engine to be a work of art, and the car itself is a work of art as well, some went a bit further with the M1. Andy Warhol and some people at BMW saw a Group 4 race-prepped M1 as a canvas on which a work of art ought to be painted. I guess that makes it an art car… a really fast art car, that actually did battle in & finished the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1979.
I can’t say that I’m impressed by this car as art, at least not in photos. That might have something to do with Warhol spending all of 22 minutes painting it. The car was featured in a recent Jalopnik post, and I think the author’s impression of it was the same, at least before he saw it in person:
… and then I am left with a glass of champagne and the M1. There it sits under high ceilings, a time capsule from the late ‘70s, corpses of long-dead and mummified bugs still stuck to its radiator, Andy Warhol’s finger-painted signature on its rear. It’s a menacing, purposeful object, a riot of color, and it’s very, very real, it’s not a museum piece to be observed while drinking a glass of champagne on a barely air-conditioned summer afternoon and nodding thoughtfully, it is a race car which has gone out and raced, which has survived the hell of Le Mans, and here it sits, a testament to all that’s great about BMW and about motor racing, it makes you wish for a gas mask and a quick-acting synthetic vaporized opiate to knock all the museum guards out cold, so you can take your dear time filling up the M1’s fluids, gently prodding the M88 engine to life, its red velocity trumpets waking like both the space marines and the xenomorphs in Aliens, so you can pop open its un-Lamborghini door and toe the accelerator and motor out and away, and then, once it’s warmed up, see what it sounds like in the upper reaches of the 6000s.
In a sense then, it is great art after all.