Gallery: M celebrates its 40th birthday
And TopGear.com headed to Germany to join the party… Rowan Horncastle reports
Posted: 14 Nov 2012
Now, when the M1 was released it was the fastest road-going sports car built in Germany, a title that comes with the assumption of imminent death with every ounce of pressure applied to the firm accelerator. But actually it's very easy to drive. Neerpasch always said it would be, "a normal car, but normal at a higher speed than other cars." and even to this day, it is.
Once you're rolling, the steering is precise, there's great feedback from the brake pedal and with small A-pillars, it feels dainty against modern exotica. But being mid-engined, not weighing much and with less-than-modern aerodynamics, the front end becomes increasingly light at speed; something that made all internal valves tighten and pores dampen when going down the Green Hell's Döttinger Höhe straight. It's good, but it definitely isn't cutting edge these days.
Like the 3.0 CSL, the M1 was a homologation special and its 3.5 litre straight six was de-tuned for street use. By today's standards, 266 horsepower sounds feeble: a humble-ish Vauxhall Astra VXR produces more. With 60 mph seen off in 5.4 seconds, and 100 mph in the next 8 seconds, ‘spritely' is a better description. Back in the day, though, it was genuinely rapid. And there's another situation in which modern, invariably turbo-boosted fast stuff can't touch a car like the M1.