BMW Retraces 40 Years of M Division's Growth and Success

By Jacob Brown | August 17, 2012
By designating its high-performance division's name, "The most powerful letter in the world," BMW has set some lofty expectations with its M sub-brand. Having turned 40 this year, it's apparent that with very little exception, BMW has delivered on those expectations—and then some. In 1972, BMW started its Motorsport GmbH brand with the 3.0 CSL coupe, a car once called the Batmobile for its wide stance, tall wing, and heroic performance. It started racing at the 24 Hours of LeMans in France. Then, it won the 1973 Nurburgring 24 Hours endurance race. Wearing BMW M's signature blue, red, and violet on a white car, the BMW 3.0 CSL garnered quite the reputation for an automaker that was on the cusp of bankruptcy just a few years earlier. BMW M followed up with the 1978 M1, a purpose-built racecar with origins dating back to an engineering exercise from Lamborghini gone awry. After Lamborghini shut its doors in the midst of financial peril, lore has it that BMW had to sent some personnel to break into Lamborghini's Sant'Agata headquarters to take back the car's blueprints. After building it, BMW went on to dominate the IMSA GTO racing class throughout the early 1980s until international rule changes prematurely halted its reign.
Following the BMW M1 was the third production car to bear an M badge. In 1986, the BMW M3 hit the scene and began its storied racing history, immediately winning two European racing championships and Germany's DTM series twice. With it, BMW ushered in its since-continuous line of producing BMW M cars for the road. Now, the automaker has an M version of nearly every vehicle it makes, from the M135i to the X5 M crossover. It's expected that the full-size 7 Series will even spawn an M variant over the next few years to compete against the Mercedes-Benz S63 and S65 AMG models. BMW is proud of its performance division, and rightfully so. As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, BMW's efforts in motorsports are widely credited with saving the automaker. And without BMW M, we most certainly wouldn't have any of the other cars on the market that keep upping the ante, like the Cadillac CTS-V. For that, we say enjoy the celebration, BMW.

Source: BMW via YouTube