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The M1 Procar Might Be BMW's Best-Sounding Machine

1981 bmw m1 procar on track at spa
The M1 Procar Might Be BMW's Best Sounding MachineRobbert Alblas on YouTube

The M1 might not have had the immediate impact that Jochen Neerpasch and the crew at BMW Motorsport had intended during its development, but it remains one of the most sought-after and valuable products to ever come from the Bavarian automaker. A few decades on, the M1 Procars are a fan favorite at vintage motorsports events, including this 1981 car that made an appearance at the Peter Auto’s Spa Classic event in 2023.

The M1 first arrived in 1978 as the first M Division product, created with the intention of beating Porsche in Group 5 racing. Neerpasch, who helmed BMW Motorsports at the time, was responsible for the car’s mid-engine layout, while Gianpaolo Dallara designed the chassis. Production of the road cars was fraught with issues, including some financial troubles at Lamborghini, which had been contracted to assist in building enough cars to meet homologation requirements. When BMW failed to get enough cars ready for wider racing, the brand opted to create a one-make series in support of Formula 1. The goal was to get the cars in front of fans, while also building more units to satisfy homologation requirements for other series. The M1 Procar Championship ran from 1979 to 1980, at which point BMW’s entry as an engine supplier for Brabham killed off the effort.

1981 bmw m1 procar on track at spa
Robbert Alblas on YouTube

Like the road car, the M1 Procars came equipped with a modified variant of the 3.5-liter M88 inline-six. Racing engines received adjustments such as hotter camshafts, upgraded forged pistons, and larger valves. The Procar-specific engine was known as the M88/1. The same five-speed ZF manual gearbox was shared between road cars and Procars, though the racers were bolstered by an improved oil cooling system. The resulting powertrain happens to create one of the greatest exhaust notes of all time, which you can enjoy in this video uploaded by Robbert Alblas.

The M1 Procar in question is operated by Breitt Racing out of Belgium. The footage appears to be from a qualifying session at the aforementioned Peter Auto event, with driver Emile Breittmayer at the helm. Over 430 classic race cars participated in the event at Spa, with Breittmayer finishing second in class behind the wheel of this M1. It’d be hard not to push with that symphony cheering you on, however.

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