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(This is a throwback feature from S3 Magazine, circa 2016.) The BMW M1 was BMW’s first run at a mid-engine exotic, and it happened in the 70’s era of emerging new supercars. It was made from 1979-81, and only 453 were produced. BMW was building the M1 as a motorsports-capable chassis. But in order to be allowed to race the car under higher sanctioning bodies, race-rules said that entries had to be a ‘production car’. So BMW made just enough to fall on the right side of the rulebook (aka: homologation).

BMW M1 front

As stated, the M1 was BMW’s first mid-engine production car…

And their only mid-engine production car until the i8. BMW commissioned the help of Lamborghini, since Lamborghini had successful experience with mid-engine design. In the thick of the development process, Lamborghini was forced to pull out of the deal. However, a group of Lamborghini engineers came into play on the sidelines, and founded their own company in order to finish the M1 project. Also entering the picture was Giorgetto Giugiaro, an already admired/established Italian automobile designer. Giorgetto would later solidify himself into the automotive history books with his angular designs. Designs that ultimately become synonymous with European sports cars & exotics of the 70s’-80’s. Giugiaro is the designer behind cars like the M1, the Lotus Esprit, the DeLorean… as well the MK1 Golf amongst others. 

BMW M1 side

The engine powering the M1 is BMW’s M88:

The M88 is a 24-valve 3.5-liter inline-6 with ITBs making 270hp. The CEO of BMW at the time, keenly introduced the M1 into motorsports by developing their own 1-make race series exclusive to the M1, called Procar. Although not a major series, it was a pretty high-profile series within motorsports, because it had guest appearances by well-known celebrity drivers. The Procar series ran for 2 years, at which point, the M1 met the standards for the Group 4 class (GT cars) of the highly acclaimed World Championship series: The endurance series that was running LeMans, Sebring, Nurburgring, etc. 

BMW M1 rear quarter

This car is one of the original 40 Procar M1 race chassis.

It’s a one-of-a-kind, street-prepped Procar that has been restored & modified by Canepa – a company known for collector builds & restorations, race support, and exotic/historic car brokerage. 

BMW M1 Procar

VIN: WBS0000009 4301094

This vehicle, #31 of 40 Procar M1 chassis produced from 1979-1980, started its life as a spare car for the BMW M1 Procar Championship racing series. Prepared at the factory as a racecar, 094 never actually saw the racetrack. It was later reassembled as a road car by BMW, and delivered to the dealer BMW AG Niederlassung… where it was sold as a series production car. Its first owner from Mainz, Germany purchased the car in November of 1979. In October of 1981, it moved on to (what is believed to be) the first owner’s daughter. 094 was then sold to an artist who used the car as a canvas featured in expositions and newspapers. 

BMW M1 rear

094 ended up at the German BMW dealer, AHG, in May of 1983.

AHG fitted the car with their special ‘AHG M1 Studie’ package. Peter Gartemann, the owner AHG, had the idea of creating a limited-design study that was based on the look of the Procar M1s… but was intended for the street. This option was open to well-to-do BMW customers and factory race drivers. Only 10 would ever be built. The famous German paint shop of Hermann Altmiks was hired to apply a custom art-car paint scheme. 

mid engine

094 was purchased by an American collector in November of 1983 from Automobile International in Munich, West Germany.

It arrived in the US in March of 1984, and received its EPA release letter in December of that year. When imported, this M1 was modified for DOT compliance, but was released as EPA exempt (not street legal in California). The NHTSA released the car in 1985, and the car began to appear in shows soon after. 

AHG M1 Studie

This M1 was very active in the BMW scene until the late 90s…

When it was put in storage as a longterm collectable. In October of 2012, the M1 was awakened once more. And at this point, it had only covered 6,000km (3,728 miles) since its arrival in the US.

BMW M1 front corner

When 094 arrived at Canepa…

It was thoroughly examined, and its physical condition called for a complete restoration. The car was disassembled, and work began on a complete ground-up restoration. Upon closer inspection the car was found to be rust/corrosion free, and had never been involved in an accident.

During the process of disassembly, interesting telltales began to surface suggesting that 094 had once been a Procar: 1) Holes for the original Procar wing under the paint. 2) Adjustable suspension points. 3) Deletion of the door pads for the electric mirrors. 4) Miscellaneous Procar specific brackets.

Upon confirming its Procar history, the decision was made to build 094 into a Procar, completing its destiny from 37 years earlier. The only twist would be that this Procar would be for the street.

In order to assure its accuracy, Canepa brought an original factory Procar racecar into the shop to be studied & photographed… to make sure that no detail was overlooked on 094. 

BBS wheel fans

The goal was to use as many original Procar parts as possible.

And to that end, 094 is now fitted with Procar suspension uprights, hubs, control arms, tie rods, axles, mirrors, and that amazing Procar body kit and rear wing. Original Procar center-lock BBS wheels were sourced, and then rebuilt with new 17” rim halves. The front wheels are 10” wide running 265/40 ZR 17 Michelin Pilot Sports, the rear wheels are 12.5” wide running 335/35 ZR 17 Michelin Pilot Sports.

Since the original brake calipers for the M1 Procar were no longer available…

Canepa installed larger Brembo calipers from the famous Porsche 962. These calipers clamp down on 13” Porsche 935 rotors attached to original Procar hats. The increase to 17” wheels allow for ample spacing for the new calipers. At all four corners are custom Penske coilovers. Thanks to the factory-installed adjustable suspension points – the car sits low, and with a stance that befits a Procar. 


The M88 engine…

Was sent to VAC Motorsports for a high performance street rebuild. Now fitted with Motec electronic fuel injection, the engine is putting out 414 hp and 357 lb/ft of torque (360 hp and 310 lb/ft of torque at the wheels). The electronic fuel injection was cleverly hidden, and the engine retains its stock mechanical injection look. The ZF 5-speed manual transaxle was rebuilt by Vintage Racing Motors. All the gauges were rebuilt, and now show a 7,700rpm redline, as well as an 200mph speedometer.

World Championship series

The body and chassis were completely stripped down and restored.

Hundreds of hours were invested in blocking the fiberglass body to make sure it was laser-straight with a flawless finish. The body gaps are perfect. Canepa went as far as giving the normally unseen chassis rails a concours finish. The front flares on the original Procars were slightly oversized in the day, so Canepa took the opportunity to trim & reshape the front flares so they fit over the front wheels more accurately. They now better match the proportions of the rear flares. Great pains were made to ensure that all the body panels, including the front bumper and rear wing, were fit-and-finished to a concours standard. The paint is Basalt Blau, a factory BMW color that was never offered to the public on an M1, but was featured on four special M1s built for the BMW board and family. 

BMW gas filler cap

Canepa added numerous custom touches to the build.

Most noticeable are the Procar style dry-break gas fillers behind the rear buttress quarterlights. Machined from billet aluminum, these functional dry-breaks can also spin off like traditional fuel caps allowing the car to be filled at any gas station. Fitted to the original Procar wheels are period-correct, hand-made wheel fans. To give the car a clean finished look, all the body fasteners were hidden.

BMW interior

Canepa’s upholstery department…

Retrimmed the car with black leather, keeping the original shape of the interior while updating the look and feel. In preparation for the new interior, the passenger compartment was fully lined with the latest in sound/heat insulation. The ashtray, electric mirror switch, door air vents, and manual window caps were deleted. Stitching was done in complementary grey to match the paint. And the carpets are a darker shade of grey done in the finest wool pile. In lieu of the original black & white fabric – the seat inserts, door inserts, firewall, and headliner were all finished in perforated leather. 

BMW procure

What inspires me about 094 & Canepa (aside form the obvious)

Is that even if this were just one of the so-called regular M1s’, it would STILL only be 1 of 453 examples. But this is one of the Procars… making it to 1 of only 40 in the world. Stack onto that, it’s unique history of never being raced, being factory-converted back to a street car, the AHG studie package, etc. And taking all of that into careful consideration… Canepa STILL didn’t feel overly restricted in their build. Canepa respected the lineage, but if they saw a way to improve the car, they dared to do it.

Text by Wooley & Canepa    Photos by Zach Todd


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