Many think the the BMW M1 was the first M car. Indeed, it was supposed to be, but was not due to production delays at Lamborghini. By the time BMW took over production, the car was 4 years late and missed the racing series for which it was intended.
Many think that the first M car was the BMW M535i produced in 1980 and 1981. It was produced to coincide with BMW's F1 racing program.
But, before either of those, there was the BMW M530 Motorsport Limited Edition. In 1976, the BMW 530 MLE was produced as a homologation special (click here!) for a sedan racing series.
The first of these cars was indeed constructed by BMW Motorsports. It was an experimental race car. Below, you can see the race car, one of the road-going cars, and the famous BMW Turbo concept car. (This is the only photo the author has ever seen of the Turbo outside of a museum.)
The 201 road-going cars were built by BMW South Africa. They were available only in white with spoilers wheel arch "spats", and BMW Motorsport badges and stripes. Portions of the body were done in aluminum, others in lighter-guage steel. For even more weight reduction, some components were drilled or punched. More on that later.
The factory-modified 3.0L engine produced 147kw (200hp) and 277Nm (204 lbs/ft) at 4300 rpm. The Getrag 265/5 close-ratio five-speed transmission drove the limited-slip differential. The suspension was improved also with Bilstein shocks. Vented brakes were installed in front.
The interior was decked out in a navy blue velour with Scheel bucket seats in front.
These cars were raced extensively. Here are some shots of the the race cars in action.
There are a quite a few interesting touches on these cars. Note how the factory relocated the battery to the trunk.
As noted, some components were aluminum and quite a few others were drilled for lightness. Note the pedal levers, trunk hinges, and rear shelf.
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