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BMW has never built a direct successor to the M1. The BMW i8, despite its halo car status, was not anywhere close to being that successor, although it was a technological marvel for its time. The i8 simply didn't have the performance credentials. Not so long ago, BMW unveiled the Vision M Next concept, a vehicle that took several design cues from the M1. Sadly, production plans were canceled due to budgetary constraints. Don't hold your breath for an M1 spiritual successor anytime soon.
This reality only makes the original M1 all the more special. Already quite rare, BMW built only 453 examples from 1978 until 1981. The Giugiaro-designed M1 was BMW's first-ever mid-engined sports car; the i8 was its second.
Aside from its racing career in the self-titled Procar BMW M1 Championship, a total of 399 of those units were road-going versions. All came powered by the Paul Rosche-designed 3.5-liter inline-six with fuel injection rated at 277 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque sent to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual. Top speed is clocked at 162 mph and total weight comes to 2,866 pounds.
Other notable mechanical items include an unassisted rack and pinion steering, a limited-slip differential, double wishbone suspension with adjustable coil springs and Bilstein gas-filled dampers. The interior is anything but Spartan. Things like air conditioning, power windows, and a stereo system came standard.
Those who are in the market for one of the few surviving examples will need at least half a million bucks to spare. Take this 1980 M1, for example. Currently up for auction on Bring A Trailer, this 4,000-mile M1 is currently in California and received a series of modifications way back in 1980. A German BMW dealer called AHG performed the work with its Studie package consisting of a Procar-style body kit, custom BMW Motorsport livery, three-piece BBS wheels, a custom exhaust, and full-leather upholstery instead of the original half-fabric, half-leather.
Later exported to the US, it passed through a series of private collections until 2011 and ultimately ended up as part of actor Paul Walker's garage called AE Performance that he co-owned with Roger Rodas. Both Walker and Rodas perished in a tragic car accident in November 2013. As of this writing, the highest bid already reached $350,000 with the auction ending on January 31.