THE BMW M4 GTS concept is the latest model to come out of the German car maker’s M sports division. BMW M — originally called BMW Motorsport — was set up to dominate the racetrack, but the Munich-based operation was soon producing performance cars for the road.
First was a road-going version of the M1 (above) but perhaps the most famous is the M3, now into its fifth generation. Over the years we’ve seen a multitude of Ms, including the M5 and, more recently, the M4, M6, X5 M and X6 M.
But when was BMW Motorsport founded? Scroll down for the answer.
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BMW set up its in-house motor sport division in 1972. The operation originally comprised a team of 35, led by Jochen Neerpasch, a former Porsche works racing driver and later racing manager for Ford in Cologne.
A new workshop was built next to the main BMW plant in Munich, complete with an engine dynamometer, and BMW hired top drivers including Chris Amon, Toine Hezemans, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Dieter Quester.
Björn Waldegaard and Achim Warmbold were hired as BMW Motorsport rally drivers. The company also invested in “driver tuning”, putting the men through training camps and introducing them to a sports psychologist – commonplace today but almost unheard-of
in the early 1970s.
The first two vehicles developed were a 950kg BMW 2002 tuned to produce 240bhp and a touring coupé that was to become an icon of the racing world: the BMW 3.0 CSL (above), which featured a 3340cc straight-six engine producing 360bhp. The car won the European touring car championship at its first attempt, in 1973, and remained a force in international touring cars for almost a decade. By 1976 BMW Motorsport had created a version with a 3.2-litre bi-turbo engine that developed 750bhp.
In 1974 BMW started letting a few customers get their hands on its hot models: tuned versions of the 5-series started to be released in very small numbers, with production reaching only 895 cars by 1980.
The real sensation came in 1978 with the launch of the M1, which was built ground up for the racetrack but also had to be homologated for the road, with 433 examples produced. The road car was powered by a 3453cc straight-six producing 272bhp and 243 lb ft of torque, giving it a top speed of 162mph. The 20 racing versions were substantially more beefy, with power increased to as much as 850bhp. The M1 is now a highly sought-after classic: you’d need more than £300,000 to snaffle one today.
BMW produced this “40 years of BMW M power” video in 2013
But this “Old Top Gear” (is it now “Old, Old Top Gear”?) film from 1997 featuring Tiff Needell is a great summary of BMW M’s origins