How Much for a Kidney: BMW 1M

Welcome to a new feature where I realize my need to sort through countless autotrader ads in search of cars that I can’t afford, most likely will never own, but still desperately want and will attempt to justify the purchase of through the sale of my redundant body organs.

In my continuing quest for stick shifting knowledge I have come to discover that driving a manually equipped car is a lot of work, but also incredibly fun.  Being able to perfectly blip the throttle in anticipation of a down-shift while simultaneously feeling the satisfying movement of pulling the gearlever from fourth into third is one of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever had in a car.  Granted I have only ever done this in a Hyundai Genesis Coupe and Nissan Versa, but it’s still got me day dreaming.

My fantasy garage of “What if I won the lottery today” übercars used to only contain technology riddled automatic dream machines such as the Bugatti Veyron, Audi R8, SLS AMG, and a few other choice offerings.  But after having some great interactions with a stick and clutch it would seem that some deliciously “old school” driver’s cars are now creeping into my sub-conscious playground.  The 2011 BMW 1M is one such car.

The M badge is only ever put on übercars, and this has been true for quite some time.  In the late 70’s BMW and Lamborghini began to work together on a mid-engined homologation special that would allow Beemer to go sports car racing.  Lamborghini was in the middle of one of its many financial hiccups, and backed out after only seven prototypes were produced, forcing BMW to take on the entire project alone.

The project would now be spearheaded by the BMW Motorsports Division and would lead to the creation of the first “M” car, the M1.  BMW was known then as it is now: for making saloons, so this mid-engined, hand built, 270bbhp limited edition machine was something completely out of left field for the firm.  Only 456 of these babies were ever produced, and they are now desirable collectables and routinely sell for upwards of $250,000.

The M1 was BMW’s first and only supercar.  After its production came to an end the German engineers who worked on the project began to put the same engine used in the M1 into more mundane examples of their company’s product offerings.  First up to get the engine transplant was the 6-Series, and with this quick switch a legend was born: M635 CSi (M6).  The first M5 debuted two years later and the rest, as they say, is history.

The now iconic M3 and lesser known M Coupe both joined the family over the next few decades, and along the way BMW continued to adapt and improve their M cars with each subsequent generation.  The models all began to grow in both size and speed as the company reacted to government safety regulations and customer demands for more horsepower.  This all culminated in the 2005 launch of the 500bhp V10 powered M5, and showed that M cars were now matching the performance of Porsches and Ferraris all while carrying four people in complete comfort.

For purists though, it began to seem like the M Brand was losing its way.  What started out as a division that produced hand-built driver’s cars were now responsible for the abominations that are the X5M and X6M: super-SUVs equipped with four-wheel drive and turbo chargers.  These went completely against everything the brand had represented for almost 30 years.  At the same time the newest model M3 had become the same size as the first M5 in terms of dimensions, and it seemed enthusiasts were forced to see the M Division in a new light.

This all changed with the launch of the petit 1M.  Using the same strategy that had given the M brand a cult following in the 80’s, BMW took an incredibly powerful strait-six engine and stuck it into a seemingly unassuming package.  They couldn’t call this new creation the “M1”, as this would get the fan boys into a tizzy, so they switched the letters around and called it a day.

The 1M is a driver’s tool: 335bhp from a turbo-charged inline six-cylinder engine attached to manual transmission and sending power solely to the rear wheels.  The classic BMW layout was back, but now in a lighter package that became the cheapest M car to own.  Previous M products had begun to seem like marketing exercises to just sell cars, but the 1M was never swayed in its design to conform to the marketing man’s idea of what a performance car should be.  The 1M was designed for purists, and is utterly drool worthy.

Originally intended as a limited production model of only 2,700 units, BMW was forced to re-evaluate this decision after it became apparent that demand was vastly outstripping supply.  The company ultimately decided to build as many of these little suckers as they could until the production ends in spring of 2012.  But that still won’t produce enough to satisfy everyone, and dealers are currently selling them at quite a premium. 

The 1M is a tool for enjoying the drive, not for getting from point A to point B.  Yes, you could use it as your daily commuter, but with its limited numbers and overall specialness would you really want to?  I wouldn’t.  I want this car to sit in my garage for most of the week and let the anticipation build for Sunday mornings when I can finally take it to the deserted roads north of the city and just let it rip.

This is more weapon than car.  Used to not only scare you silly, but scare the road into submission.  This little orange monster has become a fixture of my dream garage as it’s just as special as owning a Ferrari: they both create an event every time you get behind the wheel.  The 1M is the culmination of 30 years of M development and epitomizes the 21st Century’s driver’s car of choice.  Now if only I could find the $55,000 needed to own one.  You know I’m pretty sure lungs are fetching a nice premium on the black market at the moment.

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~ by ubercar on January 27, 2012.

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