Showing posts with label 1970s Classic Sports Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1970s Classic Sports Cars. Show all posts

BMW M1

BMW M1 1970s German classic supercar

The BMW M1 was race-based, to its beautifully-conceived core. It was made - by BMW Motorsport - as a response to the Porsche 935. BMW's CSL was by then past its sell-by date - and struggling to keep up with the Porsche. That was in the Group 5 Silhouette series. From BMW's point of view, the gap needed to be closed - lest race losses lead to the same on the balance-sheet! Cometh the M1 - and its M88 straight-six motor. The M1 was the first BMW roadster to be fitted with this race-bred powerplant. The cast-iron bottom-end was sourced from the BMW parts bin. In every other respect, it comprised state of the art engineering. The 24-valve twin-cam head was chain-driven. The crankshaft was fashioned from forged-steel. The M88 had longer conrods - and a race-derived dry sump. It was fed by Kugelfischer-Bosch indirect injection. The net result was a top speed for the M1 of 161mph. BMW were back on track!

Group 5 homologation made the M1 roadster resemble its racing counterpart - within reason, at least. 400 road-going 'equivalents' were required to be built, before the M1 racer be given the keys to the grid. Unfortunately for BMW, by the time the M1 was ready to go racing, the homologation rules had changed! The stipulation now was that 400 cars already have been sold. That threw a giant-sized spanner in the works - since that was liable to take a while, even for a company with the cachet of BMW. By the time it had complied with the new regs - in '81 - the M1 was no longer competitive! Not at the racetrack, that is. On the road, it was more than a match for most of its rivals. A tubular steel chassis - and mid-engined layout - provided near-perfect handling. The ride was comfort incarnate. Initially, Lamborghini had been asked to design the chassis. Mounting financial woes, though, at the Italian marque, meant BMW sorted their own chassis, in the end. Once done, a 5-speed ZF trans-axle transferred 277bhp to the tarmac. Massive vented disc brakes retarded the M1 with aplomb.

The M1's looks were seen to by Italdesign. The agency would, however, have been first to acknowledge the debt owed to the BMW Turbo - the prototype by Paul Bracq. Between the pair of them, the M1 was a masterclass in supercar styling. It was built in both Germany and Italy. Indeed, it may be said to have embodied the best of both realms. For all that, a mere 450 M1s were manufactured. A harsh critic, then, might judge it a failure. After all, it was no great shakes, either at circuits, or in showrooms. Saying that, the BMW M1 was still a hugely impressive sports car ... which surely smacks more of success than failure!

Caterham 7

Caterham 7 1970s British classic sports car

The Caterham 7 began life as the Lotus 7. Colin Chapman - boss of the latter marque - claimed to have built the prototype in a weekend, in '57. Lotus manufactured the Seven for fifteen years. It was marketed through Caterham Cars - run by Graham Nearns. In '73, Lotus stopped making the 7. The rights for it passed to Caterham. They set about building a plastic-bodied Series 4 Seven. Encountering issues with the new material, however, Nearns and his team went back to the aluminium-bodied Series 3 model.

Caterham were committed to the 'pure driving experience'. Key to that was light weight - always a top priority for Chapman, too. To that end, the 7's nose cone and wings were glass-fibre. As said, the light aluminium body was already in situ. Beneath, sat a tubular steel chassis. The 7's rear axles had been sourced from Ford and Morris - though Caterham would later install a De Dion-based set-up. Caterham kept faith with Lotus' Twin Cam motor. The 126bhp engine was spot-on ... until stocks ran out. Ford duly did the engine honours. Tuning options came in the form of GT, Sprint and Supersprint. Subsequently, more power was provided by a Cosworth BDA motor. And still more, by a Vauxhall 2.0-litre - producing 175bhp. From '91 onwards, Caterhams came with Rover K-Series engines. There was a choice of 1.4 and 1.4 Supersport - or, 1.6 and 1.6 Supersport - units.

The top-of-the-range Seven was the JPE - Jonathan Palmer Evolution - version. Named after the F1 driver who helped develop it, the JPE encapsulated the Caterham creed. Technically a roadster, its race-spec 250bhp engine catapulted it to 150mph. It hit 60 in less than 3.5s. The JPE 7 could out-drag a Ferrari F40 - right up to 100mph. Which made it the fastest-accelerating car in the world, at the time. With no windscreen - and wings made from carbon-fibre - the JPE 7 had 'track-day' written all over it. So, the Caterham 7 was - as Colin Chapman had made sure - a one-stop shop for automotive exhilaration!

BMW 3.0 CSL

BMW 3.0 CSL 1970s German classic sports car

The 'L' in BMW 3.0 CSL stood for Lightweight. It was a vital attribute. After all, the CSL was built to homologate BMW's 6-cylinder coupé - for European Touring Car Group 2 racing. To that end, the list of the CSL's super-light parts was a long one. There were skinny body panels, a fibreglass back bumper, and racing latches on the bonnet. In addition, the CSL had Plexiglas side-windows, and alloy-skinned opening panels. Interior trim, too, was grist to the weight-losing mill. In all, 400lb was shaved off the base model. Top speed for the super-svelte CSL was 135mph. Acceleration had sky-rocketed.

To accomodate the CSL's added 'grunt', BMW stiffened the suspension. Bilstein gas shock absorbers featured state-of-the-art progressive-rate springs. Alpina wheels were chunky 7″ alloys. Chrome wheel-arch extensions kept things street-legal. The first CSLs came with a 2,958cc engine. It was normally-aspirated - making 180bhp. In '72, BMW took the bore out to 3,003cc. That qualified the coupé to compete in the 3-litre Group 2 series. Output was upped to 200bhp. Bosch electronic injection was fitted - replacing twin Zenith carburettors.

Up until '72, CSLs were left-hand drive. But, that year saw a right-hand drive option released in the UK. Described as the 'RHD City package', the car had performance and comfort in abundance. For this model, BMW restored most of the weight-saving features they had so painstakingly removed. Some British buyers still managed to find fault. They found the Scheel bucket seats difficult to get into. And the light alloy panels - still part of the bodywork - were too prone to accident damage, they said. Nor was the CSL's price tag to every Brit's taste. Both an Aston Martin and Jensen set them back less. To be fair, only 1,095 cars were sold globally. Ultimately, though, the BMW 3.0 CSL was an 'homologation special'. Certainly, the CSL racing coupés went on to be a roaring success!