BMW M1s don’t get much rarer or more interesting. This particular example of Munich’s famous wedge has emerged after one of the most colourful and sad lives a car can lead, and now it’s looking for a new owner to return it to its former glory.
The 1979 car was acquired when two years old by Austrian motorsport journalist and accomplished racing driver Harald Ertl. He was nearing the end of his racing days in increasingly uncompetitive cars, despite enjoying a lot of success throughout the 1970s, including the 1978 Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft (German Racing Championship) title in a Group 5-spec BMW 320i Turbo fettled by Schnitzer Motorsport.
Ertl was beginning to turn his mind to engineering and technologies that could be transferred from the race track to the road. The M1 was part of a mission, staged in conjunction with BP and a stellar list of contributing brands, so send an autogas-powered car beyond 300kph (186mph) and thus set a new speed record for a fuel that, at the time, was seen as the next big thing… although pretty much only by BP.
Stories from the time tell a tale that ends on 17 October 1981, when the car, modified with larger turbos, revised rear end bodywork (possibly to accommodate the LPG tank) and a host of special parts, reached 301.4kph (187.3mph) and set a new world record. Unfortunately, though, there are no official records to prove it.
His wife and son couldn’t really do a lot with it, so eventually sent it to what was then the Midland Motor Museum. It turned out that the dodgy owner was quietly selling the museum’s cars, most of which belonged to other people, and it was lucky for the Bhatia family that the scumbag couldn’t find a buyer for the faded Bavarian star. No one else wanted it, but nor had the unscrupulous museum owner done a scrap of maintenance.
The family took it back, having moved into a bigger house with garage room to store it, and there it sat for years and years again. Among collectors starting to look for it, it was feared lost forever. It was only in recent times that the family began to research the car and what it actually is that they came to realise that they could never hope to afford the colossal bill to return it to spec in the way that others have been. And so, for the first time since 1993, it’s for sale.
While it still wears a UK registration plate, it will be sold in Essen at the Coys Techno Classica auction, which takes place on 13 April from 1pm German time. Even Coys doesn’t know how to value it, but we suspect it’ll find a buyer this time.