Ex-Ron Dennis BMW M1 Prototype for sale

Former McLaren boss received XP2 as a 'gift', then got a future F1 team to recommission it

By Cam Tait / Sunday, 27 August 2023 / Loading comments

It’s the late 1970s. BMW has just launched its new Motorsport division, which is hard at work constructing the company’s first mid-engine supercar – the M1. The M1’s development plan would see the deployment of three pre-production test cars, the first of which would end up in a barrier at the hands of Manfred Winklehock. The remaining cars would fare better, serving their purpose in preparing the M1 for Joe Public ahead of its launch in 1978.

Two years later, the M1 programme was on the rocks. While it seems unfathomable that a mid-engined, Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed BMW supercar would be seen as anything other than the peak of desire, customers struggled to justify spending 100,000 Deutsche Marks (roughly £43,000) on a model from a company with little prior experience in the performance car world, save for the 2002 Turbo. The lack of demand obviously didn’t go down brilliantly with BMW. Now out of love with the M1 and its various racing programmes, the company wrapped up the road car project in 1981 and set its sights on securing a Formula 1 engine partnership with a top team instead.

However, M1s continued to compete in various racing series across the globe, with production contracted out to various motorsport outfits. Most of the Procars were assembled by Project Four: a single-seater racing team spearheaded by a chap called Ron Dennis. It was during a routine visit to the BMW M factory in Munich in 1980 that Dennis stumbled on the remaining M1 prototypes, which had apparently been banished to a forgotten corner of the facility. When BMW told him the cars would likely be broken up, Dennis mentioned that he’d quite like to own one. Legend has it, the car you see here was given to him as a ‘gift’.

Chassis number 2 of the pre-production XP2 batch was originally finished in off-white and arrived without an engine or gearbox. Lucky for Dennis, he had a world-class racing team with plenty of M1 Procar experience and spare parts at his disposal. Over the next 12 months or so, the race team rebuilt the mule, albeit with some upgrades. A suitable 3.5-litre engine and five-speed dogleg gearbox were sourced by chief engineer Paul Rosche, while the ad claims ‘necessary performance upgrades’ were also carried out during the car’s restoration.

The most obvious change is the colour, with Project Four respraying the car in dark blue shortly after acquisition. The ad also notes the car features the grooved front wings from the M1 Procar. It’s a ‘subtle’ difference over the road car, and serves little performance benefit but, apparently, is cheaper to repair in the event of a shunt. Still a neat touch, though – as is the Pioneer hi-fi that Dennis supposedly bought on a trip to Japan, thinking it’d make a decent upgrade over the base system. What’s especially cool about this is that it’s fitted above the occupants, so you get to feel like an airline pilot when cranking up the volume.

Now, after more than 40 years in Dennis’s ownership, it’s time for the M1 to find a new home. You’ll need to give The Octane Collection and ring to find out what’s hiding behind the POA, but we’re guessing it’s a fairly punchy number. On the plus side, you get a certificate of authenticity signed by Mr Dennis himself. Oh, and a car restored by a racing squad that merged with the McLaren F1 team soon after, dominating the pinnacle of motorsport for the best part of two decades. Not just a time-warp of BMW M history, then, but also a sort-of product of one of the all-time great F1 teams. Swoon.

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