Top 10 BMW’s

In a way the M1 is a curiosity in BMW terms because it was a race car project that took so long to develop that it was no longer competitive. BMW never went down the mid-engined route again and, although it was finally built by Baur, the styling and tubular chassis development were by Giugiaro and Lamborghini; in fact Lamborghini would have built M1had the Germans not become frustrated by the projects lack of progress.  First use in a road car of BMWs 3.5 litre twin cam/24 valve  straight six makes these well built glass fibre bodied cars surprisingly usable combined with true seventies supercar type performance.
The most potent of the E3’s (unless you factor in a handful of Alpina tuned cars) these six handsome six cylinder saloons were many ways a better buy than the E9 coupes with a stiffer shell and more sophisticated rear suspension with the same 200bhp/140mph drive train as the CSi and CSL. Refined, smartly finished and fun to drive they were among the first foreign cars to be used by UK Police forces. Although better rust proofed than the Coupes sadly very few survive.
1800 TiSA
These highly desirable 130bhp Neu Klasse saloons were pretty much race -ready off the showroom floor and were allegedly only sold to licensed racing drivers. Only 200 were built in a year and featured sports seats, five speed gearbox and four wheel disc brakes. The 120mph TiSA (SA stood for Sport Ausfuhrung) cost DM13500 and was only available in German racing silver with the option of a limited slip differential. The likes of Phil Hill, Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori used the 1800 TiSA as road cars but they never quite matched the speed and reliability of the Lotus Cortinas in the ETC.
Perhaps the most glamorous BMW of all the 507 was conceived as an affordable sports car for importer Max Hoffman to sell to eager American buyers but turned into a piece of pricey exotica, even more expensive than the 300SL . Yet it had an impact on BMWs image as a producer of  top end cars out of all proportion to the mere 253 cars built; a ‘feel good factor’ if you like that transcends the 507s lack of commercial success. Perhaps more luxury touring than hard core sports the V8 507 was none the less a fast car and hugely desirable.
The most famous pre-war BMW and the model that established the firm’s reputation as a builder of great driver’s cars. To coax 100mph performance from a 2 litre engine was unheard of in the thirties. In fact it offered performance and general sophistication that was in advance of many sports cars well into the fifties and had an impressive competition record before and after the war. A kind of supercar of its era only 461 were built before the war ended its career but its sophisticated cross pushrod engine lived on into the early sixties in a variety of Bristol’s.
M3 (E30)
One of the great BMWs of the eighties the first of the motorsport cars based on the  smaller BMW body shell, in this case the E30 – a proper boxy Bavarian body with a utilitarian feel linking it with the 2002.In fact with its boxed flare arches and various skirts and spoilers the M3 shared only roof and bonnet with the two door three series. The basic block was still M10 2002 but with 4 valve/twin cam motorsport technology derived from the six-cylinder ‘M’ cars. Stiffer suspension, bigger 5 Series size brakes and a Getrag 5 speed box made the 2.3 litre M3 a right little goer, fondly remembered as a pre electronic era BMW with huge driver appeal. Bit of a chavvy image now perhaps but the cars racing pedigree is impeccable.
2002 TURBO
BMWs first turbocharged road car was rather miss-timed, launching at the Frankfurt show in 1973 just before the start of the fuel crisis . The 2002 turbo was probably even more aggressively performance orientated than the 3.0CSL with bulging wheel arches to contain fatter tyres (actually only 185/70 14!) deep front spoiler and lip spoiler on the boot lid. There was no front bumper but even BMW had to concede that the reversed ‘2002 turbo’ script either side of the front number plate was a bit much and soon deleted it. Great hooligans car with 170bhp and 130mph top speed although turbo lag a problem and one wonders if a 2002 Tii did most things as rapidly without the attention grabbing war paint.

Aware perhaps that standard versions of the 6 Series had gone a bit luxo-barge and where more at home crunching down golf club drives than storming Alpine passes the big coupe was a natural candidate for the ‘M’ treatment; the 24 valve twin cam M88 straight six late of the M1 pared with a mandatory 5 speed manual box. With a minimum of outward changes these looked almost as restrained as the standard 6 Series but with suitably stiffened suspension and bigger brakes and tyres the flabby feeling of lesser coupes was banished although there were no weight saving or penny pinching measures required  this being the most expensive car in the BMW range at the time outside the V12 7 Series. A V12 7 Series is worth about 20 pence today whereas the M635Csi was collectable almost from the moment it went out of production.
Based on the M roadster the flavour of this car couldn’t be further removed from the Barbie-and-Ken image of the hideous little American built BMW convertible that is happily receding quickly in the collective memory as one of BMWs rare misjudgements. The Coupe, by contrast, is an instant classic. The mini estate car styling stiffened the shell to good effect and 321bhp in such a diminutive chassis was obviously good news. A rarity (most were for America or Europe) and an unusual car from a company that rarely allows oddballs to see the light of day.
This was BMW’s next go at a turbo car after the 2002 and was a way of upping the performance of the big E23 7-Series without recourse to the fuel guzzling V12 that had been waiting in the wings when the second fuel crisis kicked off at the end of the 70s. Not the hot rod sedan Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 was but equally intriguing if you are a lover of unlikely looking 140mph plus 4 door cars. No right hookers and saddest of all we didn’t get the South African 745i with the twin-cam Motorsport straight six which, in manual form, was the fastest four door car you could buy in the eighties.

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