I spent last Thursday and Friday at BMW in Munich enjoying an intense technical briefing on the upcoming Mega City Vehicle. The two days of frantic note taking were punctuated by a dinner in the BMW museum.
Before we started scoffing we were given a presentation by BMW design boss Adrian Van Hooydonk.
Even though Von Hooydonk doled out some pretty significant revelations about BMW’s future thinking, his audience was pretty distracted by a 20 year-old car sitting just a few feet away.
Even though the night belonged to the environmentally friendly MCV, BMW had decided to push out the fire-breathing M8 prototype, which had never been seen before in public.
I’m a huge fan of the 8-series (I spent a couple of enjoyable weekends in them in the mid-1990s) and can well remember the magazine rumours about the M8 back in 1990.
However the M8 never saw the showroom, scrapped in the wake of the early 1990’s recession, which coincided with the first real environmental backlash. Back then a V12 and 550bhp was seen as the height of social unacceptability.
In the flesh, the M8 wasn’t a disappointment. The body was extensively modified (who couldn’t love the rear wing vents?) and seemed, under the paint, to have made extensive use of carbon-fibre. It also had very trick wheels with aluminium rims and carbon-fibre spiders.
The interior was trimmed entirely in black suede and sported hard-core race seats. Interestingly, this sole prototype had two different doors: one with a conventional window and one with a fixed window and retractable insert.
Under the bonnet was an extraordinary six-litre V12. Festooned with carbon-fibre, the unit was developed from the 5.6-litre engine used by the rare 850CSi.
Although BMW’s engineers may have learnt much from building this experimental engine, when it came to supplying the unit for the McLaren F1, they started from scratch. Even so, the M8’s motor is genuinely related to the McLaren engine.
Interestingly, while we gazing under the bonnet Peter Ratz, the head engineer for the MCV project, whipped out his iphone and calculated that today BMW could extract the same power from a 2.8-litre straight six with twin turbochargers.
The other victim of the 8-series model cull was also on display for the first time. The handsome 8-series cabriolet was also finished and ready to go. Seeing it in the metal for the first time was a distressing experience because it was so obviously right and probably makes more sense than the 8-series Coupe.
The shock value of the M8 made me wonder what else BMW has locked up in the basement at its Munich HQ. However, there is one car down there that I know exists and would love to see.
The Rover 75-based Riley Coupe was a pet project of then BMW boss, Bernd Pischetsrieder. (BMW was quite serious about the idea, even buying the UK numberplate R 1 LEY). It’d be fascinating to see what Rover stylists made of the brief.
But if the M8’s lengthy absence is any guide, don’t expect the Riley to appear much before 2017.