‘Lost’ speed-record BMW M1 could be yours

| 10 Apr 2019
Classic & Sports Car – ‘Lost’ speed-record BMW M1 could be yours

A BMW M1 transformed into a record-breaking monster before disappearing from view for 25 years is to be offered for sale at auction this week.

The M1 was used by Austrian racer Harald Ertl to break the land-speed record for a Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG)-powered car back in 1981, but has fallen on hard times since its last sale in 1993.

The car resurfaced last year and will now be offered at Coys' auction at the Techno-Classica show in Essen, Germany on Saturday (13 April) – and organisers reckon it could fetch a hefty £250,000.

Classic & Sports Car – ‘Lost’ speed-record BMW M1 could be yours

The unusual M1’s story starts in 1979, when it was built to standard spec and delivered to its first owner in Berlin. Two years later it was purchased by Ertl, an established racer who spent three seasons driving for the Hesketh team in Formula One – at which point it underwent a startling transformation.

Working with British Petroleum, which was looking to promote its new Autogas product, Ertl retrofitted the M1’s straight-six engine to run on LPG, then added twin KKK turbochargers which upped its power output from 276bhp to 410bhp.

It also underwent a raft of aerodynamic changes, with the nose dropped and an air dam and huge rear wing added.

Classic & Sports Car – ‘Lost’ speed-record BMW M1 could be yours
Classic & Sports Car – ‘Lost’ speed-record BMW M1 could be yours
Classic & Sports Car – ‘Lost’ speed-record BMW M1 could be yours

The redesign was clearly successful – on 17 October, 1981, Ertl took the M1 to Ehra-Lessien in Germany and let fly; the M1 maxed out at 301.4kph and duly broke the record, although there are no official documents to attest to that.

Unfortunately, the M1’s fortunes, and that of its various owners, goes downhill from that point.

Just a few months later, in April 1982, Ertl was killed in a plane crash at the age of 33. The M1 was then sold several times, eventually ending up in England in 1993. More tragedy was to follow, though, when its new owner also passed away.

The M1 was then left on the street for a few years, before being loaned to a museum – but again, this didn’t work out well. It seems the museum’s curator took it upon himself to sell off various exhibits, and although the M1 escaped that fate the museum was closed down and the M1 left unloved.

Classic & Sports Car – ‘Lost’ speed-record BMW M1 could be yours

Finally, the family who had loaned it to the museum reclaimed it, and it’s now set for a second life, assuming it sells at the Essen auction.

And it certainly should be in demand. “This is undoubtedly a piece of motoring history and possibly one of the rarest BMWs to carry the M1 badge,” says Chris Routledge, Managing Director at Coys.

“There is huge interest from around the world from people who wish to own a piece of motoring and speed record-breaking history.”

Consider us interested – and we’ll duly be following the auction on Saturday closely.


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