Showing posts with label German Sports Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label German 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!

BMW 507

BMW 507 1950s German classic sports car

The BMW 507 was styled by Albrecht von Goertz. He was a German aristocrat - who owned an American industrial design agency. Goertz took the big box-section chassis of the BMW saloon car - and shortened it. The result was a more than tidy 2-seater. The 507 was an unabashed attempt to crack the American glamour market. Post-war, BMW had watched their brand-image slide into mediocrity. It was high time the great German manufacturer raised its profile again. The 507 was supposed to do just that. It was not to be. Only 253 BMW 507s were sold. To all intents and purposes, the 507 was automotive haute couture. But - as in the fashion industry - it costs gargantuan amounts to produce. The Second World War was not long gone. For most motorists, the 507 simply was not affordable.

The 507 got its well-heeled occupants from A to B with a minimum of fuss. Not that it could not push on, if required. Should you have been a tad late for the opera, for instance, a firm brogue on the go pedal would definitely get you there for curtain up. The 3-litre V8 engine gave 160bhp. That translated to 140mph, flat out. 0-60 came up in 9s. The sounds emitted from the 507's twin rear pipes were music to the ears. Even at speed, its ride was unflustered. Front and rear torsion-bar suspension saw to that.

The 507's detailing was exquisite. And not just the beautiful BMW badge. The cross-hatched heat-vents were a notable touch. They were matched by the car's kidney-shaped grille - a trademark BMW feature. The 507's front-end was almost shark-like - courtesy of its stylishly protruding nose. The long, flowing bonnet-line was complemented by a cute stub-tail. The 507 stayed in production for just four years. Consummately-crafted, it mated motoring and fine art. Ultimately, the 507 cost BMW more than it recouped. But then, what price do you put on perfection?

BMW 2002 Turbo

BMW 2002 Turbo 1970s German classic sports car

Sadly, the BMW 2002 Turbo was not a success in the showrooms. To be fair, the timing of its launch could not have been worse. In '73, petrol-pump prices almost doubled - because of the OAPEC fuel crisis. Motorists panicked. The 17mpg 2002 Turbo never stood a chance. BMW became very anxious, very quickly! In only the second year of its production run, the 2002 Turbo was dropped. Just 1,672 cars had been built. Bad luck, basically! In different economic circumstances, the car could have been a best-seller.

The 2002 Turbo was inspired by a BMW works racer. Its raison d'être was to breathe life back into BMW's entry-level saloon car slot. To that end, the Turbo's top speed stat of 130mph was bang on the automotive money. Peak output was 170bhp. The 2-litre 4-cylinder engine was fuel-injected. And was kitted out with a KKK turbocharger. At low to medium revs, there was little to split the Turbo and standard version 2002. That all changed, though, at 4,500rpm. When the boost kicked in, you knew about it. Thankfully, the Turbo had been prepped for the extra stress. It had beefier driveshafts and bearings than standard. Suspension spring rates were wound up. Bilstein dampers were fitted at the back. Anti-roll bars were fitted, fore and aft. Wheels were fat Mahle alloys - shod with Michelin XWX rubber. The front two were stopped by 4-pot ventilated disc brakes. Big drums brought up the rear.

The Turbo's gleaming paint-job - and racy decals - dazzled onlookers. Seventies chic, so to speak. The interior, too, was cut from the same glam cloth. Bucket seats were a snug fit. A bright-red instrument fascia focused attention. The turbo-boost gauge sat in the middle of the dash. A thick-rimmed 3-spoke sports steering-wheel topped it all off. Boy racer style, all the way. BMW's 2002 Turbo was the right car - at the wrong time. Ultimately, it could not get enough of what it needed most. The crippling cost of petrol, at the time, meant it simply could not survive!

Porsche 928

Porsche 928 1970s German classic sports car

The Porsche 928 was the first front-engined car the firm produced. Up to that point, Porsche motors had been rear-mounted. The exception to that rule was the 924 - though that was almost as much Audi as Porsche. In the Seventies, the 928 was sold as a supercar. Indeed, Porsche were banking on it being the new 911. That was not to be. 911 fans stuck stoicly to what they loved. Porsche took the hint. They started targeting the 928 solely at the GT market.

The landmark front-mounted motor was a 4.5-litre V8. Built in Germany, it was smooth, tractable and beautifully-engineered. But - in some drivers' eyes - it had a flaw. It was not a 911! In its first iteration, the 928 pulled a top speed of 143mph. That climbed to 171, in the course of its run. Certainly, not to be sniffed at. But, also not enough to keep up with a 911. Not in a specification race, at any rate! The 928's gearbox was a 4-speed, rear-mounted manual - or, a 5-speed Mercedes automatic. Output was 240bhp. The 928S upped it to 300.

Styling-wise, the 928 was on seriously solid ground. Its profile, in particular, was pure coupé. The interior, too, was more than impressive. Its most striking feature was the fascia - which visually echoed the steering-wheel. It was a cosseting cabin, in every respect. On top of that, the 928's ride and handling were never less than reassuring. Over time, there would be S4, GT and GTS versions of the car. Each of them ushered in incremental improvements. The 928, then, was a significant addition to the Porsche roster. Even if, for some, it would never be in the same league as the 911. Saying that, nor would any other car!

Audi Quattro

Audi Quattro 1980s German sports car

The Audi Quattro was launched in 1980 - at the Geneva Motor Show. It is safe to say that it revolutionised motoring. The Quattro's state of the art four-wheel drive system pushed roadholding to a new level. Top speed was 142mph. 0-60 took 6.3s. That came courtesy of a turbocharged 2.1-litre 5-cylinder engine. The Quattro's top-spec output was 220bhp.

The Quattro turned into a truly iconic rally car. For the Audi team's technicians, its 4-wheel drive set-up was love at first sight! As with the roadster, the increased grip levels significantly upped the competition car's traction in the rough stuff. Sat between the road and rally cars was the Sport Quattro - a 2-seater 'homologation special'. It was fitted with a 300bhp motor. The Sport's shortened wheelbase meant it handled even better than the standard Quattro. It retailed at three times the price of the base model. Still, a top speed of 155mph made it more than tempting!

When Audi announced they were pulling the plug on the Quattro, there was uproar. So, Audi succumbed to the pressure - and production continued until '91. Not just rally fans, but motorists too had fallen in love with the car. They had taken to four-wheel drive like ... well, like a rally driver to water. The Audi Quattro's remarkable tally of wins said it all!

Porsche Carrera GT

Porsche Carrera GT 2000s German sports car

The Porsche Carrera GT was shot through with motorsport. Nominally a roadster, number-plates were about as far as it went! It started as a Le Mans prototype - one that was subsequently shelved. The roots of its V10 engine were in F1. Porsche had built it for the Footwork team, in the early '90s. The Carrera GT concept car was launched at the Geneva Show, in 2000. It set off a tsunami of excitement. Showgoers jostled to get out their cheque-books. Porsche knew they had hit pay dirt. A limited-edition run was swiftly announced.

The Carrera was chock-full of competition-calibre components. The monocoque chassis was carbon-fibre. Diffusers and venturis were the stuff of F1. Wheels were super-light magnesium. So were the seats - with added carbon-fibre. Stainless-steel push-rods compressed the suspension - rigorously developed for rock-solid strength. The clutch was ceramic - as were the disc brakes. Natch, there was a 6-speed 'box.

The Carrera GT's bodywork was streamlined - to say the least. Huge ducts cooled the engine and brakes. Rear wing action kicked in at 75mph. The cockpit was moved forward - adding to the dynamism of the design, among other things. Porsche's brief to self was to create a cutting edge supercar. The Carrera GT was proof they had delivered!

Gumpert Apollo

Gumpert Apollo 2000s German supercar

Roland Gumpert - developer of the Apollo - was a man on a mission. He had previously been Audi's Director of Motorsport. Engineering-wise, then, the Apollo was in the surest of hands. Indeed, few cars could hold a candle to it, technically. Visual design was by Marco Vanetta. The jury has long been out on the Apollo's looks. Its shape has been critiqued as a bit 'boxy' by styling pundits. And even as downright odd, by some supercar observers!

Configuration-wise, the Apollo was, in fact, far from radical. Its two-seater, mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive set-up was pretty much par for the supercar course. But the Apollo wrung every last drop out of the layout. Its tubular steel frame was rock-solid. The fibre-glass bodywork light as a feather. Suspension was double wishbone all round - with the dampers fully adjustable. They were joined inboard by 6-piston ventilated disc brakes. The Apollo was impressively aerodynamic. On top of its wind-cheating shape, it sported a subtle rear spoiler. Beneath, lay a finely-hewn undertray. Two venturis stretched the length of the car. They generated huge amounts of downforce. The Apollo's engine dictated that. The turbocharged 4.2-litre Audi V8 produced 641bhp in base form. That was upped to 690bhp by the sport version of the motor. There was a third engine option - tuned specially for racing. Top speed - even in standard trim - was 224mph. 0-60 appeared in just 3s.

The Apollo, though, did have its docile side. Controls were power-assisted. The V8 grunt was manageable for most drivers. And cruising was a breeze. Supercar-style gull-wing doors allowed easy access. Compared with many a highly-strung rival, the Apollo was user-friendly. Its cabin was roomy and relaxing. Four-point safety harnesses were standard. So, in many ways, the Gumpert Apollo was a real-world runabout, rather than a star-chasing retro rocket. Albeit, one in a suitably space-age skin!

Mercedes-Benz 300SL

Mercedes-Benz 300SL 1950s German classic sports car

Whilst car doors have their uses, they are seldom the focal point of the overall design. In the case of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, though, that is exactly what they were. Dubbed the Gullwing, its dexterously hinged doors 'flew' upwards. And if the seagull might not be considered the height of elegance, the 300SL certainly was. Especially with those doors flung high to the sky, the Mercedes was a magnificent sight. Not when perched on its roof, however ... following an accident, say. prising the doors open would then have proved difficult!

But, even with the SL's 'rubber side down', things were far from glitch-free. For starters, its handling was below par. Mainly, because the rear suspension was way too soft. Comfort-wise, too, it was not the best. In the event of rain, let us just say the 300SL's bodywork was not as 'well-sealed' as it might have been! The SL's 'SuperLight' space-frame was sweetly engineered. That said, it was literally a pain in the neck for mechanics. And the SL's engine was inclined 45° - to accommodate a lower bonnet line. Again - while designers doubtless cheered that to the echo - mechanics were not quite so appreciative!

To be fair, the SL was trying to span the gap between a Le Mans prototype and a well-appointed roadster. To say the least, different automotive worlds. For sheer sports car style, it had few peers. On the practical side, well - room for improvement. While it did not come cheap, if you could afford one, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL was, in fact, good value for money. Though - with its technical blemishes - deep pockets of patience also came in handy!

Porsche 911

Porsche 911 1960s German classic sports car

Birthplace for the Porsche 911 was Stuttgart, Germany. On both road and track, its sales and success stats have been off the scale. Throughout motorsport's modern era, the Porsche 911 has been seeing off the best of them. Entire series have been devoted to it. As a rally car, it was right up there. Indeed, the Porsche 911 is virtually synonymous with close, competitive racing. When the 911s come out to play, hamburgers are put on hold!

'Ferry' Porsche - son of founder Ferdinand - drafted the outline design. His own son 'Butzi' fleshed out the details. Many versions of the 911 duly appeared. The Carrera model, in particular, packed panache, as well as power. It sported a 'duck-tail' spoiler, flared wheel arches and racing-derived decals.

Stamina has been key to 911 development. Each model iteration has relentlessly refined its predecessor. By a process of incremental improvement, then, its engineers and designers have reached four-wheeled perfection. In one or other of its now eight variants, the Porsche 911 has been an automotive icon since September '64. Such has been its staying-power that a sports car world without it would be inconceivable!