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10 Best BMW Creations of the 1980s

BMW M1

For over 100 years, BMW is a leader in automotive design and engineering, making it one of the largest and most successful brands in the world.



Faced with the difficult task of choosing the best era for BMW cars, motorcycles and motorsport projects, we would argue that the 80s represented BMW’s best creations. It was the 1980s that confirmed the dominance of BMW M-Sport cars that are immediately recognizable as the ultimate driving machines that gearboxes crave today. However, BMW has a few other tricks up its sleeve. During the 1980s, the brand was at the forefront of motorsport in all its forms, dominating touring cars, competing against and beating all newcomers.

Do you think BMW only makes road cars? You got it wrong! In the 1980s, BMW had just started building the best cars and bicycles on the market.

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10 BMW M1 – Sublime Supercar

BMW’s mid-engined M1 supercar, a survivor of the 1970s, remained in production until 1981. The difficult development and manufacturing story is well known for gearboxes and includes several Italian names on the way to the market. Originally, BMW turned to both Lamborghini and Dallara for production and manufacture, before returning to BMW’s Munich plant for final assembly.

The M1 was BMW’s first mid-engine supercar with a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine rated at 273 hp and 243 lb ft of torque. Regardless of the overly long development process, the BMW M1 remains one of the German automaker’s most recognizable models to date.


9 BMW M3 (E30) – Genre Defining

BMW was no stranger to the mid-sized performance coupe segment, as the highly regarded 2002 turbo from the 1970s had already proven. Ask any gear stick to name a high-performance German coupe/sedan, though, and you’ll most likely be inundated with M3 responses. The M3 was everything to all men; fast, fun and affordable.

However, the M3 was not the best in any area. More of a jack-of-all-trades, delivering true sports car performance without the accompanying hair-raising ride. It was practical too, with a decent trunk and room for four people. The E30 M3 was the beginning of a new genre of fast cars that has taken both road and track performance to another level.

RELATED: Legend Of The Racetrack: The 1986 BMW M3 E30

8 BMW Z1 – bold design

BMW’s first car with “Z” badge, the Z1 dared to be different. It may not have been the huge sales success BMW had hoped for, but those retractable doors remain a topic of discussion. Incredibly, it’s been 30 years since BMW rolled the dice and bet on the E30-series-based two-seater, and yet the Z1 still looks fresh.

However, the Z1 is more than just a sports car with trick doors. Pull the body off, in this case literally. BMW has designed each panel to be removable for cheaper and easier repairs.

7 BMW K1 – Streamlined Goddess

The BMW Motorad K1 changed motorcyclists’ perception of BMW bikes forever. The design came about largely because BMW imposed itself with a power of 100 hp which limited the performance. The solution was simple in theory; make the K1 as streamlined as possible.

In reality, it was a much more complex build that set the K1 apart from most bikes of the 1980s. Unlike its predecessor, the K1 used water cooling for its 987cc four-cylinder engine, giving designers free rein to shape much of the front end. and sides enclose. BMW’s efforts were rewarded with a drag coefficient of 0.34.

6 BMW M12/13 – Big power figures

In the super-competitive world of F1, where points are fought hard, the Brabham BT54 was not particularly successful. Hampered by poor track conditions and Pirelli tyres, the BT54 claimed a single win and 28 points over two seasons.

BMW’s involvement was more important. F1 in the ’80s was all about turbos taking ridiculous power from tiny 1.5 liter displacements. The BMW M12/13 engine used a cast-iron four-cylinder block and could trace its design back to the 1966 M10. the most powerful F1 engine ever produced the M12/13 with an astonishing boost level of 3.5 bar and an output of 1400 hp in the qualifying version.

RELATED: Formula 1 Horsepower Chart Over Decades Reveals Its Most Powerful Era

5 BMW M635i (E24) – Sharknose Coupé at its best

It’s fair to say that BMW has recently lost its way with the oversized dual grille on its current range. Turn the clock back to the mid-’80s and things were much better. The 6 Series evolved through the 1970s and into the 1980s, with the E24-M635i making its debut in 1984.

The ‘Sharknose’ styling remains a collector’s favorite today for its aggressive attitude. Not that the M635i needed styling tips to bolster its sporty reputation. Tthe M635 is one of BMW’s most successful models, dominated every major motorsport series throughout the 1980s, with dozens of titles to its credit.


4 Alpina B12 5.0 – The fastest luxury sedan

Walk into a BMW showroom today and you’ll find Alpina badged models alongside standard production BMWs. This was not always the case, and it has led to the production of some interesting high-performance variants of BMW’s ultimate driving machines. First produced in 1988, the Alpina B12 reminds us that “M” is not the only path to superior performance.

Unlike the E32 750iL on which it is based, the Alpina B12 has no speed limit and reaches a record top speed for a four-door sedan of 271 mph. Under the hood, Alpina overhauled BMW’s M70 V12, addition of Mahle pistons, larger valves and an updated ECU that boosts power to 350 horsepower.


3 BMW R80G/S – Desert Champion

The Paris-Dakar rally is not for the faint of heart. Traveling thousands of miles across some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain often puts man and machine to the breaking point. Sand, heat and mechanical problems can be life-threatening. However, a handful of crazy individuals opt for two-wheelers over four.

If you really need to pack light and use a bike, the BMW G80R/S should be at the top of your wish list. Launched in 1980, used BMW’s niche that defined “Adventure Bike” a lightweight frame and Monolever swing arm designed for easy maintenance. A reliable icon in the 1980s, the R80G/S helped win the Paris-Dakar Rally three times.

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2 BMW 8 Series (E31) – Innovative engineering and design

Admittedly, buying an E31 in the 80s was not possible. However, the 8 Series Grand Tourer, which eventually came on the market in 1990, was launched in 1981. Packed with the latest technology, designed and built using CAD/CAM, the E31 had several firsts for BMW. In the range that surpasses the 850i, BMW pioneered the first drive-wire throttle and the coupling of a six-speed manual transmission to a V12 engine.

The E31, despite its high-tech approach, never caught on with gearboxes. Over a nine-year period, BMW produced just under 30,000 cars, spanning both the 840/850 range.


1 BMW Z1 brake & BMW AVT – creations that never made it

For all completed BMW products put into production, there are: a few that deserve a mention. First, the Z1 Estate, clearly inspired by or based on the Z1 sports car with its retractable doors, but in a more functional hatchback or shooting brake body.

Much more intriguing was the 1981 AVT concept that never made it past the first mock-up phase. Styling cues from the NAZCA were featured on the front, while the rest of the car was intended as a wind tunnel experiment for publicity purposes. While neither made it to the cut, they are nonetheless showcases for BMW’s creativity.