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Gallery: the gorgeous BMW M1 Art Car in a disused factory

Sometimes you don’t need a reason to stare at BMW’s best ever Art Car

  • Nice, isn’t it? No need to tell you a story here because the pictures are the story. Literally. A young photographer named Stephan Butler won a BMW competition, whereby the prize was the opportunity to photograph whichever classic BMW model he chose, wherever he chose.

    Butler, correctly, opted to capture 1979’s masterpiece: the BMW M1 Art Car by Andy Warhol.

    And he did it in a disused factory building in Cologne. The whole ‘old racing car in abandoned building' thing reeks of melancholy, but whatever – it just looks really, really cool.

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  • Not least because BMW built the things to race in the Procar M1 Championship, which supported Formula 1 races in years gone by. A short, fleeting series – it only lasted for two seasons in 1979 and 1980.

    Niki Lauda won the first season, while Nelson Piquet captured the 1980 title. You may have heard of them.

  • Each M1 Procar featured a new aero package – spoilers, wings, arches – new wheels, plastic windows, a stripped interior with a rollcage… you get the picture.

    The engines too, were beefed up quite substantially. The 3.5-litre straight-six was modified, so instead of producing 277bhp, it produced 470bhp, with a 9,000rpm redline. Mmmm. Literally, M, because the road-going M1 was the world’s very first M Division car, donating its engine to the very first M5 (the really lovely E28).

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  • Of the Art Car itself, BMW notes how Warhol took less than half an hour to paint the M1. What the? People have taken longer to eat a sandwich, for goodness sake.

    “I attempted to show speed as a visual image,” Warhol reportedly said at the time. “When an automobile is really travelling fast, all the lines and colours are transformed into a blur.”

    No sooner had he finished painting the thing – in less than half an hour, don’t forget – than it was sent out to do its actual Job. Race. Manfred Winkelhock, Hervé Poulain and Marcel Mignot drove the BMW M1 Art Car at the 1979 Le Mans 24 hr race. Their result? Sixth overall, and second in class. Not bad at all.

  • “I love this car,” Warhol said of the M1. “It’s more successful than the artwork.”

    So, question for you: which classic BMW model would you choose to shoot, where would you shoot it, and why? Let the M1 above act as your guide…

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