19-20 August 2016

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Lot 149

1981 BMW M1

  • Chassis no. WBS59910004301348
  • Engine no. M88-389

Sold for $577,500

277 bhp, 3,453 cc M88 DOHC inline six-cylinder engine with Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection, five-speed manual transmission, front and rear independent dual A-arm suspension with coil springs, and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 100.8 in.

  • BMW’s renowned supercar, even more desirable today than it was in 1981
  • An extremely well-kept original example
  • 12,838 kilometers; original books and tools
  • One of the hottest automobiles on today’s market

In the late 1970s, BMW was still in its growing pains in the United States. The favored quirky rally car of the 1960s was becoming the preferred fast luxury transport of young professionals. In between the two eras of Bayerische Motoren Werke, there was the M1, which remains the most exotic street car that the company ever built. Neither rally car nor hushed sedan, it was essentially a road-going Procar and Group 5 racer, built to homologate the cars for the track. Virtually hand-built in limited numbers, it combined a tubular frame, utilizing state-of-the-art technology with gorgeous Giugiaro-designed bodywork. The chassis was fitted with unequal-length lateral links, alloy uprights, concentric coil springs, and anti-roll bars in the front and rear. The mid-mounted, fuel-injected, 277-horsepower, double-overhead-cam six-cylinder engine facilitated top speeds in excess of 160 mph, thanks to the M1’s outstanding power-to-weight ratio. Such numbers should not be regarded as surprising, as early development of the M1 was in partnership with Lamborghini.

Only 455 M1s were produced between 1978 and 1981, a number broken down into 399 road and 56 race cars. Relatively few examples were imported into the United States, and as such, they have always remained somewhat elusive on these shores—only furthering the desire held for them in the hearts of BMW enthusiasts.

BMW factory records indicate that the car offered here was completed on 13 October 1980, finished in Inka Orange with a Schwarz (Black) leather and cloth interior, and delivered thereafter through BMW Italia S.p.A. of Palazzolo. Reportedly the 348th M1 built, it is believed to have been retained by the Italian BMW distributor until 1984, typical of many M1s that were retained by their original dealers. At that time, it was sold new to a private museum collection in Japan, hence the presence of Japanese-language tags within the engine compartment. The car was road-registered in Japan in early 1984 and over the next 30 years covered fewer than 8,000 kilometers, reportedly being taken out of the museum only for services and the occasional show.

The car remains in very original and well-preserved condition throughout. Its bright orange paint is still in very good condition, as is the interior, while the engine compartment and chassis are clean and original, showing the minimal wear from years of conscientious ownership. Even the carpeting is still in good shape, and the various tags and labels from the factory are still present and clearly readable under the hood. In its current ownership it has been occasionally driven and now records 12,838 kilometers, a figure which is in keeping with the car’s very original condition. It is accompanied by an original dealer’s brochure, owner’s manual, BMW Europa service booklet, an original set of keys, an original tool roll with jack, and a Becker Europa radio.

Finding an M1 in the United States is a rare enough occasion; to find one that has been well-preserved, such as that offered here, with only minimal mileage, is rarer still. Undoubtedly one of the nicest examples on the market, it stands ready to become the rarest automobile in a prominent BMW collection, or a seldom-seen treasure for the devoted supercar enthusiast.


Please note that this car has 12,838 kilometers, not miles as noted in the printed catalogue. Also note that due to California emissions, this vehicle must be purchased by a dealer or out-of-state resident.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more