Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cars & Coffee – 4/2/11

While there wasn't really a call for rain today, the early morning drizzle made me feel like somebody upstairs must hate cars. Thankfully it held off and restored my faith in the benevolent car nut in the sky. Even better, the first car I saw when I pulled in today was a Porsche GT2. Not a bad way to start any day, but this one was in the spectator lot so it had to make you wonder what the show lot had in store for me. The Group 4 BMW M1 I spotted when I reached the corral made it clear that this was going to be another great show.

The BMW M1 was a bold stab at a genuine supercar from the driving excitement folks in the late '70s. The body was designed by Giugiaro, building on the 1972 BMW Turbo show car. The M1 was developed and built in partial collaboration with Lamborghini from 1978 to 1981. This was the company's first mid engine car, so BMW turned to the Italian firm for help with the chassis and even tabbed them to handle prototype construction and some of the manufacturing, namely the spaceframes. In the end, Lamborghini provided little more than seven prototypes before the relationship ended.

Power was provided by a four-valve, twin-cam M88/1 3.5-liter straight-six with Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection and six separate throttle butterflies. It produced a then-impressive 277 hp in road-going tune, but turbocharged race-tuned variations pumped out as much as 850 hp. Versions of the street engine ended up under the hood of some 209 BMW 735i sedans built between 1984 and 1986, as well as the E24 BMW M6/M635CSi and E28 BMW M5. At least that's what Wiki says.

The M1 that showed up today was one of around 50 Group 4 models built during the run. It is also one of just two built with this particular bodywork. Andy Warhol used the other one when he ran out of canvas. From the get-go the M1 was designed to be a purpose-built sportscar to replace the aging 3.0 CSL as BMW's representative in racing. Group 4 and eventually Group 5 racing were the goal and although the company never succeeded in meeting the homologation numbers, BMW was able to race the M1 in its own single-make series, dubbed Procar.

The Procar models had numerous mechanical changes as well as deep front spoilers, wide wheel arches to cover massive tires and most had a large integrated rear wing. Under the rear decklid the inline-six was pumped up to 470-490 hp, raising the top speed from around 160 to over 190 mph. A couple of the cars were prepared by Osella in Italy, with the rest being handled by Project Four, a British outfit run by a young Ron Dennis.

The Procar Championship was held in 1979 and 1980 as a support series for Formula 1, and besides the privateer teams involved, BMW Motorsports ran a team as well, providing five cars to the top five GP qualifiers on any F1 race weekend. None of the F1 drivers ever passed up a chance to participate in the series. In fact Niki Lauda and then Nelson Piquet were the two series champions.

Like the Lotus Esprit, Lamborghini Countach, DeTomaso Pantera and only a few others, this is one of those wedgy '70s designs that still looks awesome today.

As cool as the M1 was, there were plenty of other highlights at the meet today – The custom Dodge A-100 pickup that looks like hard braking will result in an ollie, Toyota 2000GT, Audi Quattro, Diablo 6.0, Citroen 2CV, Volvo 1800ES, a real Gullwing Mercedes, a Wraptivo'd Honda CR-Z hybrid, two-tone Bentley Brooklands, new Boss 302 Mustang and, for the laughs alone, some of the wildest suspension settings I've ever seen on the street.

Direct link to photos

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