A fair few of the cars that BMW’s M division has produced over the years have a particularly special way of worming their way into our testers’ hearts. Here are some of our best M memories.
Steve Cropley, BMW M1
Back at the end of the 1970s, when the BMW M1 was new and still being made at Lamborghini, I borrowed an early production version for a first drive story. With a photographer, I collected it from BMW’s famous Four-Cylinder building on the Munich ring road on a Friday afternoon and headed up-country in search of scenery and great driving roads. My cameraman had spotted a town called Rottenburg on our map and thought it might be a wheeze to go to such a place. (We were young, remember.)
What we hadn’t taken into account was that this was the beginning of Germany’s Ascension Day long weekend: everyone with a car and an address in the country was heading out of town, just like us. In our powerful, expensive and rare car, I drove through the dense traffic at a careful 160km/h (100mph) and my abiding memory is of being passed by dozens of hero-drivers in Volkswagen Golf GTIs, who slowed from their habitual 200km/h (125mph) to stare in puzzlement at the two idiots dawdling in a supercar that could go 90mph faster.
My memory is of the M1’s magnificent straight six and consequent very brisk performance. We never hit the official 192mph but we did see 180mph a few times, at which the car was nice and stable. Most of all, it was that car’s all-round capability that made it special. In an era of crudely built Italian supercars, this one had efficient door seals, wipers that worked, decent ventilation, good visibility and enough ground clearance. Such things may sound pedestrian, but it’s amazing how important they become when you don’t have them. Thus, first and foremost, for me the M1 will always be the place where modern supercars truly began.
Piers Ward, BMW M5 Touring [E60]