I’ve been a BMW enthusiast since I could talk. My dad’s 2002 did it to me. Some of my first memories were of me helping him with the hood up in our driveway. Ok, maybe not the best picture of BMW reliability but in my 3 year old mind this was what cars where. But oddly when he sold it (I was seven) I had this feeling of regret. It defined him as an enthusiast in my mind. Someone who had owned Detroit muscle and yet had the foresight to think differently.
These days BMW as a brand is too omnipresent to be categorized under thinking different. Yet among enthusiasts there is still a badge of honor associated with buying the right BMW. And that brings me to the 1M. I have wanted a 1M for as long as I can remember. Ok let me explain. I’ve owned a half dozen 3 series (five of which were gently used) and know in embarrassing detail the entire history of the small BMW. Yet as the brand and the 3er grew I found myself looking elsewhere for that experience. Enter the MINI. I owned three during the 2000′s and in many ways they were my 2002. They embodied what BMW meant to my dad in a way a modern BMW never could achieve. At least from the factory.
Then something happened that changed everything. BMW announced the 1 Series. First came the 120i and 120d. Of course living in the US Gran Turismo and trips to Europe were the only ways I could experience the car. And lets be honest, with five doors and a lowly four cylinder non turbocharged engine, the first 1 Series was anything but special. Yet, I saw something that moved me. A small rear wheel drive BMW that harkened back to the E30 or even 2002.
If only they made something like a tii I thought. Then came the 125i. Followed closely by the 130i. Then finally BMW brought out the Coupe. It had been rumored for years but when it finally debuted I was in love. Finally, BMW did one better and released 135i. The tii for the 2000s one could argue. On the press drive I called it more enjoyable than the M3. It was to me and I loved it. Yet there were flaws. A suspension that wallowed when pushed and power delivery that desperately needed an LSD. In short it needed the M brand’s attention. At that point I made a promise to myself to wait to only buy a 1 Series if it was transformed by the M Division. I sat patiently and put myself on the list (which I essentially created) at my dealer. It was February 2008.
Fast forward to 2010 and I’m at Road America and talking to Dr. Kay Segler about the new 1M. I’m among the first journalists in the world to see it on US soil (granted it’s just the front fender). I tell him a few moments later that I’m buying this car. A good laugh ensues (you can watch the video of this moment here) but I’m clearly serious.
In February 2011 BMWNA released full specification, pricing and dealer allocations. I find out my life-long quest for this car (ok technically four years) has another six month wait. Yes, I have the dreaded September build-date. My mistake? Being loyal to a small dealer North of Chicago who only ended up getting two cars through BMWNA’s complex allocation process. I had known for some time that there was a chance of this happening but I just couldn’t bring myself to do business with another dealer after such a long personal relationship.
Unfair. Absolutely. Am I upset. A little. Does it change my desire for the 1M. Not really. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other viable options. In truth There are three other cars out there that I’ve lusted after for awhile.
I’m going to gloss right over the first by just mentioning the letters 997. There will be a time for a P-car. Now is not the time.
Then there’s the Z4 M Coupe. It’s no clown-shoe (the Z3 M Coupe) but it’s prettier and packaged in all the ways that I love. And it’s got the best bits of what will become known as BMW’s post classic period. From the CSL brakes the best engine ever under the propeller logo, the Z4 M Coupe is the quintessential M car. The big minus is that it houses only two seats. It’s simply not feasible considering the two most important things in my life need rear seats to enjoy their dad’s Sunday drives.
Enter the E46 M3 Competition package. CSL brakes and all the tastiest bits of the time-period. This is the true predecessor to the 1M and a car I was moments away from buying last year. But in the end it’s not small and lightweight enough. But more importantly it’s not special enough.
I want the E30 M3 of my generation. I want something that will define my generation of BMW enthusiast. I want the 1M.