GALLERY: Celebrating 50 Years Of BMW M And BMW Motorsport, Italian Style


What started as a dedication to a new motorsport system in 1972 orchestrated by Bob Lutz and Jochen Neerpasch in excess of a couple of bottles of wine grew into anything with a considerably higher scope in excess of the subsequent half-century, with BMW Motorsport and BMW M defining the Bavarian producer in the minds of street and racing automobile fans. 

Among victories in competitors as broad ranging as Formula one championships to the 24 Hrs of Le Mans to the Dakar Rally, as nicely as making some of the most iconic sports activities autos for the street, there is considerably to celebrate in honor of BMW Motorsport and M’s 50th anniversary. 

At the latest Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este—an occasion which shares its very own lengthy background with BMW—the area of concours contenders noticed loads of blue and white roundels this 12 months. Some of these autos have been from ahead of M, some have been outdoors of the official designation, other individuals have been definitive members, but all aided give form to the story of BMW’s overall performance division. The story of M’s half-century and counting is produced up of numerous smaller sized ones—far as well numerous to inform in 1 sitting—but some of the ideal chapters have been represented on the villa’s grounds on the shores of Lake Como. 

Like of program, the automobile that began it all, the E9 CSL. In purchase to compete in the European Touring Automobile Championship (ETCC), BMW Motorsport and Alpina took anything decadently stunning and turned it into anything brutally quickly. It was the very first Bavarian racing energy to use the now iconic BMW M tricolor livery scheme, but its actual contribution to BMW’s identity was courtesy of the car’s fast and lasting good results in motorsport out of 7 seasons in the ETCC, CSLs have been driven to 6 championship titles. 

In the midst of this, BMW brought the Motorsport group and the CSLs to the United States, in which and when the brand was frequently and confusedly referred to as “British Motor Functions.” However it did not win any championships, BMW did win the twelve Hrs of Sebring and the 24 Hrs of Daytona and in carrying out so altered the trajectory of its Stateside track record (placing the business on the map, and in the appropriate spot this time) although it was even now dominating back house in Europe. 

And as if the automobile wasn’t rather and completed ample presently, yet another accolade for the E9 racing system was the reality that it launched the BMW Artwork Automobile series in 1975 at the 24 Hrs of Le Mans (a race in which BMW Motorsport would sooner or later win outright in excess of two decades later on, in 1999 with the BMW V12 LMR run by longtime racing partners Schnitzer). 

It wasn’t constantly straightforward for M in the early days, even though, and the very first automobile to officially bear the M insignia is evidence. The E9 was a street automobile very first and a race automobile 2nd, but the thought behind its successor—the M1, meant to consider on Porsche 934s and 935s in Group four and five racing series in the late 1970s—was to construct anything developed to compete on a circuit very first and foremost, with a unique restricted edition street automobile constructed to help the racing version’s homologation as a secondary concern. 

The M1 task started in earnest with BMW creating a partnership with Lamborghini, a lower-volume substantial-finish autos expert that could aid the Bavarians navigate this new territory. The thought was that BMW would tap into the experimented with and examined craftsmanship of the Motor Valley, with Dallara operating on the chassis, Lamborghini on assembly, and Giorgetto Giugiaro managing the visual style. That was all excellent on paper, but what BMW ended up obtaining concerned with was an Italian supercar business in dire economic straits, AKA not the ideal enterprise spouse. BMW took handle of manufacturing back in excess of and produced it function in the finish, but with 1 bit of undesirable luck soon after yet another hitting the M1’s timeline, the car’s planned aggressive job resulted in a considerably significantly less grand edition of what may have been. Nevertheless, the street automobile was as opposed to anything at all BMW had, or has, constructed to date, and it is a worthy machine to stand at the starting of M street automobile background.

Fresh from the wild trip of the M1, the engine from the supercar was provided a 2nd existence in a revised style that would electrical power BMW’s bid to capture the title of the world’s quickest 4-door sedan. This time the good results exceeded expectations, with the business ending up creating far far more E28 M5s than it initially meant to a welcome modify. Except it wasn’t without having its very own difficulties, as some of the very first customers objected to the worth of their autos becoming decreased by the extended manufacturing run—and BMW had to compensate them following a class action lawsuit. Oh nicely, concerns like that are just inevitable externalities of every little thing else going appropriate.

The E26 M1, E12 M535i, E24 M635CSi, and E28 M5 may possibly have been the very first autos to have the official M emblem stamped onto their rumps, but there have been precursors in spirit, and two of them joined the M1 at Villa d’Este: the glorious submit-war sports activities roadster BMW 507, and the 2002 Turbo. As for the 507, BMW’s American dealer Max Hoffman asked the factory to generate a competitor for the flurry of quite productive British sports activities autos that have been dominating the new and increasing roadster industry in the 1950s. BMW had a extended appear at these roadsters, then created the 507. It was a stunning, nicely-engineered machine but it basically price as well considerably to be a viable item, and only a couple of hundred have been constructed ahead of BMW and Hoffman pulled the plug. The Z8 is anything of a spiritual update to the 507 in the 21st century, and this time the M connection was a far more direct 1 seeing as the Z8 was provided the exact same BMW S62 V8 as located in the E39 M5.

It may be a stretch to relate the 507 straight to the M autos that have been even now two decades away, but the 2002 Turbo is all but 1 letter away from becoming an official element of the household. Not an M automobile in title, the turbocharged and fender-flared 02 carved out the very first piece of the industry share that M has nowadays. It tends to make sense, seeing as the Turbo was completely in line with what would grow to be the de facto M recipe: consider a standard BMW coupe or sedan, include electrical power, pump the styling, and beef up the chassis and suspension. The tricolor stripe livery and the iconic  (and completely cheeky) reversed “turbo” script on the front air dam (reversed so that other drivers seeking in their rearview would see the word appropriately as they moved out of the 2002’s way) comprehensive the unofficial M bundle.

That wonderful orange broad-bodied and Formula two-engined Jägermeister monster that was lurking in the shade of the villa’s pergolas tells yet another M story. As the automobile that was destined to change the aging E9 CSL “Batmobiles” in lieu of the M1’s concerns at the finish of the 1970s, the newly launched three series was converted on the fly into a Group five racer, taking form in just twelve weeks in what have to have a hectic but wonderfully fascinating task to be a element of. 

The end result is 1 of my favored BMWs ever constructed. Racing was justified—or, rather submit-rationalized, I suspect—by the require to set up the then-new three-Series model assortment as a severe competitor in its section. Yes, even the three-Series essential establishing at some stage, which appears a bit unbelievable these days when each and every other producer utilizes it as a benchmark. In racing guise the E21 attained some aggressive good results, but not every little thing went strictly in accordance to strategy, as it grew to become most notorious for the extraordinary antics of its Junior group. A excellent thought, a excellent strategy, to give younger drivers this kind of as Manfred Winkelhock, Eddie Cheever, and Marc Surer a likelihood to demonstrate their capabilities at an early age. However, the testosterone amounts of this bunch resulted in some of the most catastrophic races place to movie, with them taking each and every other of the race on far more than 1 event and providing BMW a track record for every little thing but maturity. It was all a stage in the appropriate path, even though, and yet another excellent automobile with BMW M Electrical power beneath the hood. 

The following generation, the E30 three-Series, wants no introduction to anybody who’s go through down this far. The winningest touring automobile in background, the E30 M3 was represented at Villa d’Este in its greatest street-going kind, the Sport Evolution. Flanked by an E28 M5 on 1 side and an E46 M3 CSL on the other, the comparatively minor E30 by no means looked much better or far more at house amongst household. And speaking of CSL versions, the most latest addition to the M automobile lineage and only the third to consider on the CSL namesake—the M4 CSL—was also in attendance at Villa d’Este representing the culmination of 50 many years of encounter.  

There are numerous fake-M-badged autos on the street nowadays for very good cause, and although we may collectively bemoan the reality that a very good numerous of the actual ones are on the backs of SUVs now, seeing this assortment of background collectively in this kind of a stunning place was a ideal reminder of in which it all came from. And it is not like BMW Motorsport has disappeared, both. Far from it, in reality, with the latest announcement of a new BMW LMDh automobile for up coming season. Here’s to the up coming 50 many years.