If this doesn’t make you pine for an M1, turn in your petrolhead card now
Remember when we first drew your attention to the majesty that is the BMW M1 Procar? If not, fret not; there’s a link at the end of the story if you missed it.
Back then, it was up for auction, and we naturally assumed that it’d enter a private collection, only to surface again when it reappeared for sale with a price tag that was even more wallet-wilting.
Fear not, dear reader – it’s back, and not for sale. Well, y’know, throw an offer his way and all, but it’s not listed in the Sotheby’s catalogue.
So, you might be wondering, why are we talking about it? Because, as the only road-legal BMW M1 Procar that we know about, it’s a rather special bit of kit. And it’ll be out in the open again, at the McCall’s Motorworks Revival in Monterey, California. It’s a little bit like the Goodwood Revival, with fewer Lords and stately houses and more people who say ‘aloo-min-um’.
You may have noticed that we said the “only road-legal BMW M1 Procar”. That’s because the BMW M1 Procar was always destined to race. In fact, it was custom-designed to race in a single-make racing series, helpfully called the BMW M1 Procar Championship.
As perhaps the greatest F1-supporting racing series ever (yeah, we said it), Procar pitted professional drivers from the top echelons of motorsport – including F1 – against each other in identical racing M1s.
Drivers gained entry into the Procar series based on their success in their chosen discipline – F1, World Sportscar Championship (a precursor to the World Endurance Championship) and the European Touring Car Championship.
So, regardless of where your successes came from, the Procar series was a chance to level the playing field and find the driver’s champion – not just the one with the fastest car. The heart trembles at the mere thought. It turns out that F1 drivers were genuinely the fastest, however, with Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet both clinching one Procar title each before the series wrapped up. And that’s even with half the F1 field unable to compete due to clauses in their contracts that forbade racing in BMWs, or on Goodyear tyres.
Yep, Procar ran for just two years, before BMW decided to pull the plug and field a proper F1 entry. Well, that and the fact that the M1 had finally reached its 400-car minimum for homologation in Group 4 – itself a necessary step to homologate the M1 for Group 5 racing. By racing a one-make series, BMW could also hone and develop the car for when it eventually did run in Group racing.
Compared to the road-going BMW M1, the Procar was very much a road-based racer. The interior was stripped out, the glass replaced with plastic and a proper roll cage was fitted.
Outside, the wheel arches swelled to contain 280-section tyres up front and 320-section fatties in the rear. A deep chin spoiler and adjustable rear wing rounded out the aero package.
As for that glorious, 277hp straight six? Well, they increased the gloriousness, obviously, getting 470 horsepower from the 3.5-litre unit at a heady 9000rpm. Colour us all shades of impressed.
With these modifications in place, an M1 Procar was entirely capable of 0-100km/h in 4.3secs and a top speed of more than 305km/h. This race-ification (hey, it’s kind of a word) only happened to 40 M1s. But, as is so often the case with classics, there’s a unique little twist – number 31 (the one above) of 40 never saw a race track, and was instead converted back to a regular production-spec M1.. STORY CRAIG JAMIESON