The 1980 BMW M1 at Alamo was never legally imported into the United States

BMW’s history dates back to 1916 with the founding of Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, an aircraft manufacturer. There were a few company mergers and the corporate name changed to Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) in 1922. They made their first motorcycle in 1923 and became a car manufacturer in 1928 following the purchase of a company called Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach. Before World War II, BMW’s main products were aircraft engines, motorcycles and cars.

BMW factories were heavily bombed by the Allies during the war, and BMW was not allowed to manufacture aircraft engines or vehicles immediately after the war. In 1948 motorcycles were produced again and car manufacturing returned in 1952.

Financially difficult for the company, BMW was almost taken over by Daimler-Benz until the company received a very large investment from half-brothers Herbert and Harald Quandt. Their father, Gunther, who joined the Nazi Party in 1933, made a ton of money during the war, with some of his businesses acquired cheaply or for free from Jewish owners and using up to 50,000 slaves. It is reported that one of his battery factories even had its own concentration camp on site, including a gallows.

After the war, the Soviets acquired at least three factories in East Germany and built cars and motorcycles, some with the BMW logo attached. Since Germany was not allowed to produce cars or motorcycles immediately after the war, BMW used nearly every available material to make bicycles, pots, pans, and other kitchen equipment. During the 1950s BMW made some interesting cars, including the front entry Isetta from 1955 to 1964, but it was a low profit car despite good sales.

These were pretty tough times for BMW. By 1959, the company was in debt and losing money. Ironically, American Motors and the English group Rootes both tried to buy BMW. The chairman of BMW’s supervisory board suggested at a meeting in December of the same year that BMW should merge with Daimler-Benz. Small shareholders and dealers protested, and the Quandt half-brothers increased their ownership so that by the end of November they owned two-thirds of the business, keeping it independent. From 1960 the company began to develop new models called “Neue Klasse” (New Class) four-door sedans which had front disc brakes and four-wheel independent suspension. BMW’s reputation for building sports cars had begun.

The featured car in this issue is very unusual. This is a very aerodynamic 1980 BMW M1 that has been owned by Alamo resident Dick Glass for 20 years. BMW formed the M1 division, a performance division, in 1978 and built its first mid-engined sports car. The plan was to coordinate this project with Lamborghini, but Lamborghini had financial problems and went bankrupt, so BMW went it alone.

According to “Car and Driver” magazine for December 1981, “M” stands for all major BMW engineering projects, a “1” represents the significance of the project in the company’s engineering history. BMW M1 cars were built from 1978 to 1980 and were never legally imported into the United States. Glass’s car is therefore a “grey market” vehicle.

“There were 453 of these cars built, and 399 of them are street cars,” he said, “the rest were race cars.”

Glass, a retired mechanical engineer, bought this two-seater streetcar for $70,000.

“It’s a comfortable car. It has air conditioning and power windows, but it does not have power steering. It’s a mid-engined car which makes it good for racing,” he said.

The owner drives this car approximately 1000 miles per year.

“It’s so rare that I want to bring it to various shows. I don’t know how many people have come up to me and said, ‘I’ve never seen an M1’, so it’s kind of funny.”

The car is only 45 inches high and 6 feet wide. It is a hand built car with a spectacular finish and interior. It has a 3.5-liter inline six-cylinder engine developing 277 horsepower associated with a five-speed gearbox. It is a lightweight car with a fiberglass body that weighs only around 2,800 pounds and has a top speed of 150 mph. An unusual feature is that the classic three-spoke steering wheel has a thumb-operated horn button on each spoke.

He has no intention of selling the car, “but if I sell it, I would like to sell it to someone in this area who would still show it. It’s a matter of stewardship.

Glass is an acknowledged “car freak” and still owns rubber toy cars from his childhood. BMW is clearly his car of choice.

“I bought my first in 2002, a 1970 sedan, and since then I’ve had 10 or more BMWs.

OK, now a quiz. Without looking at the beginning of this column, do you remember the name of the aircraft manufacturer who launched BMW in 1916? Me neither, and I wrote it.

Do you have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at [email protected] To see more photos of these vehicles and other issues or to read more of Dave’s columns, visit mercurynews.com/author/david-krumboltz.

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