The BMW M1 Procar remains one of the most iconic vehicles in auto racing history, and holds a special place in the hearts of BMW and classic car enthusiasts. Manufactured as part of the BMW M1 Procar Championship between 1979 and 1980, the car was developed out of BMW’s inaugural M1 as a race car that bridged BMW’s later motorsports model. Distinguished by its impressive design features, and for the success it created at the briefly held Procar Championship, the M1 Procar’s legacy can be viewed across a number of areas, including its impact on later BMW sports car designs.
The original BMW M1 was produced from 1978 to 1981, and represented the marque’s only mid-engine car to date that has received mass production levels. The twin-cam M88 straight-six engine of the M1 provided fuel injection, and a top speed of 160 mph. Developed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the real impact of the sports car, however, came through its adaptation for the M1 Procar Championships from 1979.
Jochen Neerpasch, the head of BMW Motorsport GmbH, came up with the idea of the Procar Championship as a temporary response to rule changes that prohibited BMW’s new M1 from competing in the World Sportscar Championship. The Procar Championship instead represented a complementary event that saw drivers race against each other in identical versions of a race-modified M1. Two racing series were run between 1979 and 1980, and were won by Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet, respectively. Lauda drove for BMW Mortorsport and Project Four, while Nelson Piquet drove from BMW Motorsport.
The car used for the event was modified based on BMW specifications and basic standards by a variety of different companies, which included BS Fabrications, Project Four, and Osella. To meet technical regulations, the M1 was significantly updated to be more aerodynamic in shape, and was also altered to include a deeper spoiler and alloy wheels. The interiors of the M1 were stripped down for maximum performance, and a rollcage was added for safety. Clear plastic windows were installed for visibility and safety. The straight-six engine used for the M1 was further adapted to hit 470 horsepower, and a five-speed gearbox was adjusted for greater variations. Rollbars and Goodyear tires similarly became standard for a vehicle that weighed 2,249 pounds, and was able to reach a top speed of 193mph.
While the Championship was short lived, and the specific impact of the M1 Procar tied to it, the car represents an important part of BMW’s legacy. A revival exhibition was held at the 2008 German Grand Prix. While the M1’s featured, with only 566 originally built, have influenced subsequent sports cars. The success of the M1 influenced the development of the M series of BMW road cars in the 1980s, as it became one of the world’s leading sports cars, while BMW built on the M1 Procar series to become a staple of the motor sports world in subsequent decades.
Rob James is a BMW and MINI enthusiast. He Recommend you check out your local BMW dealers and pick up one of these iconic motors! In his spare time Rob likes to blog about automotive news, general maintenance and enthusiast rallies.