Over the past 50 years, BMW M has created a swathe of game-changing race cars and track-bred road cars that have redefined performance: from the BMW CSL ‘Batmobile’ that started it all in 1972, to the BMW i4 M50 that is taking the brand into the electric age (with plenty of iconic cars in between, and plenty still to come).
A car is nothing without a passionate driver behind the wheel, though, and BMW M fans are some of the most committed and knowledgeable around. Over the last five decades, it’s fair to say that BMW M’s enduring success has been driven just as much by people power as it has been by horsepower.
To celebrate BMW M’s 50th anniversary, we brought together some of Autocar’s most enthusiastic BMW M owners for our very special 50th anniversary Autocar M-Fest at Caffeine & Machine. Two of them got to go on a very special VIP trip to the Goodwood Festival of Speed (watch the video below to see how they got on). But there were plenty of other amazing cars to see, and amazing tales to hear.
So, we swapped our driving shoes for loafers and joined the crowd to get the fans’ story of 50 years of BMW M in their own words.
Where the passion for BMW M started
Connor Simpson (2005 BMW M3 E46): “I’m from a family of mechanics. I liked taking engines apart, but I was never into cars. Coming out of school one day, I heard this exhaust note unlike anything I’d heard before. I ran to the end of the road, and it was a BMW M3 E30 in Alpine White. Gorgeous. I rushed home, searched for ‘BMW M3’ online, and the then-current BMW M3 E46 popped up. It just stuck with me. I had a poster of the E46 on my wall, and two years ago I bought one. Even though it’s a 2005 car – getting on for 20-years-old – it’s a timeless iconic design. Curvy and aggressive at the same time. You could take the number plates off, and people would think it was a new model.”
Neville d’Mello (1989 BMW M3 E30): “My love of BMW M started when I was 17, flicking through Max Power, Fast Car and Performance BMW. I fell in love with those 1980s and 1990s era cars. My first BMW at the age of 19 was a 320i E30. I used to do track days at Castle Combe and Silverstone. That was when I fell in love with the M3 E30: the look, how they performed on-track, the flames from the exhaust. I got the bug to get one of my own. My M3 E30 was my first BMW M car. I’ve had it 21 years now. After that I bought an M5 E30 Touring which had an engine conversion with the 3.6-litre from the M5 E34. That was the beast of my fleet. My last BMW M car was the M5 Touring E61, which I still own. It’s a bit of an addiction to be fair.”
Jon Greensmith (2001 BMW M5 E39): “I’ve been into cars since I was a kid. I used to drive my parents mad knocking paint off the skirting board with toy cars, since I could crawl. Other kids had comics; I had car magazines. The BMW M models tended to be the ones that journalists would fawn over, so I knew they were special. When the BMW M5 E39 came out I just loved that shape. I still remember the first day I saw a brand new M5 E39 on the road. There’s something about seeing a picture of a car, then seeing it in the metal. Big V8, naturally aspirated, manual gearbox, real-wheel drive – it just ticked every box for me. I decided I had to have one of those to try it for myself. When I found my particular car, it was kind of that cheesy, corny, love-at-first-sight thing. Love at first drive, as well.”