Add to Technorati Favorites!

Bookmark this page

BMW M history

The essence of motorsport

You are here: Home >> BMW M history

BMW M division is probably the best known and the most successful high performance division of a large automaker worldwide. BMWDrives gives you the chance to discover the BMW M history and every single model launched since the legendary BMW M1. Also you will find the BMW M cars that are under current production. BMW M history is synonymous with Motorsport, racing cars, tough competition and the restless wish to be the best!


Established in May 1972, BMW M GmbH, previously known as BMW Motorsport GmbH, is a division of BMW AG. This high performance division began with just eight employees and it was initially created to handle BMW’s racing program during the 1960s and 1970s.
Their first project was the BMW 3.0 CSL. CSL stands for Coupe Sport Leicht, or Lightweight. 1265 lightweights were built from 1972 to 1975. This famous racer won seven European Touring Car titles.


In 1973 the BMW 3.0 CSL wins the 24 hour race from Nurburgring driven by Hans Joachim Stuck and Chris Amon, two exceptional pilots. Because of the huge aerodynamic wings, the 3.0 CSL was nicknamed "the Batmobile".
In the late 1970s the first modified street legal road cars were produced for the contracted racecar drivers as their personal vehicles.


The first M-badged car that was officially for sale to the public was the beautiful BMW M1 E26, at the Paris Motor Show in 1978. Based on the 1972 BMW Turbo prototype, designed by Paul Bracq, the M1 received its final touches by another famous designer: Giorgetto Giugiaro.

The BMW M1, the first BMW M car to go on sale, has a very interesting story. Because of the lack of resources, BMW approached Lamborghini to develop this car. But the Italians were no able to finish it because of their financial problems so it came back to the German engineers.    The M1 was initially designed only for the racetracks and it was planned to race in the German racing championship. Because of development delays a participation in this running series was no longer possible. In co-operation with Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley the Procar Series was created. This series was the opening race for many Formula 1 races. But there still was a problem. The cars racing in the Procar Series had to be developed from series production cars. Therefore BMW M GmbH "had" to produce a road car for the M1. Approximately 450 cars were produced and since the beginning they were a collector’s dream.

The M1 E26 road version has a 6-cylinder engine from the 3.0 CSL developing 277 hp. This mid-engined coupe was capable of reaching 165 mph, impressive speeds for 1978. In Group 4 race trim, the M1 had 470 hp and an astonishing 850 hp for Group 5 German Sports Car racing.


Because the BMW M1 E26 was more a racecar with a road car body it was not very suitable for every day use. So, he first real M Series car meant for ordinary drivers was the BMW M535i E12, back in 1979. It was a high performance version of BMW’s popular 5 Series mid-size sedan. It had bigger brakes, Recaro sport seats and was powered by the 6 cylinders M30 engine. This version of the M Series was available until 1981 and BMW sold only 1410 of them.


In 1983 the 6 Series was available also as an M635CSi version with a 3.5 liter, 6-cylinder engine with an output of 286 hp. Now the luxury GT has a sporty and capable engine so the recipe for a superb car is complete.

Developed by the BMW M GmbH, the 4 cylinder turbo engine that equipped the Brabham F1 Team helps Nelson Piquet to win the World Championship.

More and more experience gathered from the race tracks around the world is transferred to the road cars.


The second generation vehicle came into the market in 1984. It was built on the basis of the BMW 5 Series E28 and it was the first M5! The BMW M5 E28 was powered by the S30 engine which had 24 cylinders. This series of M cars were equipped with electric windows, central locking, light alloy wheels and fog lights. All these elements give us a clue about the premium segment where the M cars were targeted. The performance was not neglected. Developing 286 hp in a family sedan was a performance never heard of before. BMW gambled on this combination and the years that followed showed that they were more than right.


1986 is probably the most important in the history of BMW M GmbH. It is the year when the first generation M3 is born! Based on the BMW 3 Series E30, it is regarded even by today’s standards as a benchmark of performance and sheer driving pleasure. From the start, this thoroughbred sports car thrilled not only the motorsport enthusiast and the racing expert, but also car fans the world over. Boasting powerful-looking spoilers and strikingly flared wheel arches all round, the very first BMW M3 was a sensation to behold even at a standstill. The first E30 M3 had a 192 hp 4-cylinder engine which propelled this light car from 0-60 mph in just 6.8 s. The top speed is around 143 mph (230 km/h).
The BMW M3 represents the most successful touring car of all times


By 1988 the BMW M GmbH grew to 400 employees and the demand for the famous M cars was greater than ever. From now on every new generation of 3 Series and 5 Series were available also as an M version.


In 1995 the BMW 8 Series CSi E31 is launched. For this car BMW M GmbH develops the only production V-12 engine ever. It has an output of 380 hp. Although it was never labeled as an M car, the 850 CSi bears the signature of the Motorsport division clearly visible on its engine.  BMW was testing a M8 prototype with a special 550 bhp engine. It was intended as a "Ferrari killer" but later on the project was aborted deciding that there was no market for such a car.


Besides the M models from the 3 Series and 5 Series, BMW M presents the Z3 E36/37 M Roadster/Coupe in 1997.


In 2005 the E63 M6 joins the regular M range, having a huge V10 engine with 507 hp under the bonnet.


In 2007, 21 years after the first generation M3, the fourth one comes to life under the body of the E92 M3 Coupé. It continues the tradition of normally aspirated engines but now with twice the number of cylinders and more than double of power.

Since 1978, BMW M has offered modified versions of nearly every car on BMW’s production line, except the 7 Series and the X Sports Utility Vehicles models. Also we have to mention that there were few BMW cars that were developed by M division but they were not labeled M: M535i E12, M635CSi E24 and the 850CSi E31. In spite this they were considered benchmarks of their times and they deserve to share this gallery with the other M models. BMW M GmbH continues to produce some of the most desired and sophisticated tuned street legal cars available in full production. BMW M offers modified engines, suspension, interior trim, aerodynamics and exterior styling. The competitors from Mercedes and Audi fight back with their high performance divisions, the AMG respectively the Quattro. Their models began only by an increase of power to the engines on the standard models and just later on they started to make more extensive modifications as the Bavarians do with the suspension and transmission starting back with the beginning of the 1980s. Although some AMG and RS models have more hp than their Bavarian counter parts some say that they still lack something important: charisma!

The goal of BMW M GmbH is to seed in everyone’s hearts the commitment to perfection and high performance experience taken from the racetracks around the world for more than a quarter of a century. BMW M history is the infallible proof for the big words mentioned above. Many people that had the chance to drive an M model say that the uncompromised driving satisfaction and performance given by these cars is addictive for life.