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Why the BMW 1M Coupé is one of the most significant cars of the last 25 years

To mark our 25th anniversary we name the 25 most significant driver's cars launched in the last 25 years. Editor-in-chief Stuart Gallagher presents the case for the BMW 1M Coupé

Skunkworks projects are always significant. They deliver the cars that no number of product strategy and finance meetings could ever agree to sign off on. They result in the cars the engineers know are possible but are rarely allowed to deliver. Skunkworks projects are more often than not our type of cars. Cars such as the BMW 1‐series M Coupé – or 1M for short.

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Conceived and developed in secret, mostly at weekends, the car presented to the board for approval was built, as with many skunkworks projects, using existing components: the turbocharged six-cylinder engine from the Z4; brakes, rear diff and axle from the naturally aspirated E92 V8 M3, and a mutated 1-series coupe body. The engineers knew that if their fantasy 1-series was to be given the green light it needed to fit down the production line with no adjustments. 

The end result was a muscle bound coupe bursting with genuine M DNA. The 1M stole our hearts from the first time we drove it, cementing itself as a true evo great with its boisterous character and appetite for fun.

But above all else, the 1M demonstrated to BMW’s board that while the future product plan of M-badged X-series cars would deliver huge profits, the demand for purebred M sports cars was as strong as ever (2700 examples were meant to be built; more than 6000 were eventually delivered). Without the 1M, the current crop of Competition and CS models would most likely be left in an engineer’s notebook of missed opportunities.

This story was first featured in the 25th anniversary edition of evo. Stuart also voted for the McLaren 675LT, Pagani Zonda, Porsche 911 Carrera (996.1) and Toyota GR Yaris to round out his five most significant cars of the last 25 years.

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