Plans for BMW to enter the Group 4/5 World Championships were laid in 1975. The company, then a tiny player on the world car making scene, thought this route would be both a more high profile way of publicizing the BMW badge than Formula One, and would give BMW a chance to compete directly with, and beat – Porsche. The then head of BMW’s Motorsport division, Jochen Neerpasch, decided that a mid engined car would have to be created, a move that would require 400 road going versions for homologation purposes. Unusually for a German car maker, BMW mishandled the birth of the M1, as it became known. It set a production deadline of early 1978 by which to finish a run of 800 productions M1s. Unfortunately, it was a total that couldn’t be accommodated either by BMW’s main production line or the specialist Motorsport division, so the M1 project was framed out. From there on the project went sadly went sadly awry, While Italian stylish Giugiaro was completing the body styling. BMW decided to commission Lamborghini to build it. Lamborghini, however, looked incapable of meeting the quality standards and also seemed on the verge of closure. Other delays, including a redesign of the engine’s cylinder head, meant that the car missed the Group 4 homologation deadline.
The road going M1 was built, but it went through five different companies in Germany and Italy before being finished. And with no race sales to compete in, BMW had to invent the 1979 Procar race series to give the M1 a purpose. Despite being far better conceived and more reliable than contemporary Ferraris or Lamborghinis, only 453 M1 were sold. The result is an extremely sought after car.