Five BMW M Cars You Probably Never Heard Of

Established in 1972 as a racing program, BMW Motorsport GmbH developed into a full-blown division that gave us some of the coolest high-performance vehicles out there.
1986 BMW M3 Pickup 10 photos
Photo: BMW
1986 BMW M3 Pickup1986 BMW M3 PickupBMW M5 Winkelhock EditionBMW M8 prototypeBMW M8 prototype1984 BMW 745i SA1984 BMW 745i SA2000 BMW X5 LM2000 BMW X5 LM
Whether it's the 3.0 CSL and the M1 of the 1970s or the modern M8 and X5 M, all BMW M cars have left a big mark on the automotive industry. And since we all know the iconic cars that rolled out off BMW's M division shop, here are five vehicles you probably never heard of.

BMW E30 M3 Pickup - Yup, I'm gonna get this list going with the E30-generation M3, pretty much everyone's favorite vintage M car. And yes, as shocking as it may sound, BMW did make a pickup version of the beefed-up compact. It happened in 1986 when the Germans added a bed behind the front seats of a 3 Series convertible.

The prototype was originally fitted with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 192 horsepower, but the mill was eventually replaced with the M-spec 2.3-liter S14 that delivered 200 horses at the time.

The M3 Pickup did not evolve beyond prototype status, but BMW used it to haul parts and equipment for more than two decades.

1986 BMW M3 Pickup
Photo: BMW
The Germans revisited the idea in 2011 when they went as far as to pretend they were planning a production version as an April Fools' joke. Just like its 1980s predecessor, the E90-gen pickup was used as a transport vehicle at the factory.

BMW E53 X5 LM - Introduced in 1999, the first-generation X1 did not spawn an M version, but BMW built a one-off SUV powered by a V12 engine. The latter was a version of the iconic S70 mill, originally used in the 850CSi version of the first-generation 8 Series.

The series also included the S70/2 that found its way into the innovative McLaren F1 and the S70/3 that powered the BMW V12 LM and LMR racer cars. The X5 LM's engine was based on the latter, which enabled BMW to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1999.

In short, this SUV was a ludicrous hauler fitted with a full-blown racing engine developed by BMW's Motorsport division. It did not make it into production, but it lapped the Nurburgring Nordschleife in 7:50 minutes, hitting a top speed of 192 mph (309 kph) in the process.

2000 BMW X5 LM
Photo: BMW
Oh, did I mention that the 6.0-liter engine generated about 700 horsepower? Downright mad!

BMW E34 M5 Winkelhock Edition - Based on the E34-generation M5, the Winkelhock Edition was the brainchild of two-time Nurburgring 24 Hours winner Joachim Winkelhock. The German driver, who would also go on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans for BMW, opted to delete a long list of features from the sedan in order to make it lighter.

The Winkelhock Edition arrived with reduced sound deadening and without rear headrests, vanity mirrors, rear window switches, and foglamps. He also opted for a smaller U.S.-spec fuel tank.

Unique features included an M-Technic II steering wheel, red seat belts, and a black livery with metallic silver side skirts and front splitter. BMW made only 51 cars.

BMW M5 Winkelhock Edition
Photo: BMW
BMW E31 M8 - Revived in 2018 after a 20-year hiatus, the 8 Series finally spawned a much-anticipated M8 version in 2019. But the idea dated back to the early 1990s when the German company created the first M prototype based on the grand tourer. And unlike its modern successor, it was powered by a monstrous V12 engine.

Granted, the regular 8 Series was already available with a V12, as BMW launched the car with a 5.0-liter M70 good for 296 horsepower.

In 1992, it introduced the 5.4-liter M73 rated at 322 horses and the 5.6-liter S70 with 375 horsepower on tap. But the engineers from the company's M division didn't stop there.

Knowing that the S70 was capable of significantly more oomph, they increased displacement to more than six liters and added four valves per cylinder and dual overhead camshafts for each bank. The result was a massive V12 that generated a whopping 640 horsepower.

BMW M8 prototype
Photo: BMW
The economic recession and fears that there wouldn't be a market for such a car prompted BMW to scrap the project. The one-off car was kept in a secret storage facility until 2010 when it was unveiled to the public almost two decades after it was created.

BMW E23 745i SA - It's 2022 and BMW has yet to offer a full-fledged M version of the 7 Series full-size sedan. However, the German did build a limited-edition 745i fitted with an M-spec engine. It was part of the first-gen E23 series and sold in South Africa.

While it was devoid of "M" badges inside and out, the 745i SA came with the iconic M88/3 engine under the hood. Based on the inline-six first introduced in the M1, it was shared with the first-gen M5 and M635CSi (M6 in the U.S.) and developed 282 horsepower.

Why was it only sold in South Africa, you ask? Well, this car was born out of an engine bay packaging issue.

1984 BMW 745i SA
Photo: BMW
Because the regular turbocharged inline-six engine wouldn't fit in the right-hand-drive version of the 7 Series, BMW opted to go with the only other option they had at the time. And that option was the M88/3 inline-six.

The unofficial M7 arrived in South African showrooms in early 1984 and remained in production until 1987. Only 209 cars were made, all assembled in South Africa from complete knock-down kits shipped from Germany.

At least one car was exported to Europe, while another one was converted into a race car for the South African Modified Saloon Car Championship. Needless to say, the South African M7 is now a rare and hard-to-find gem.
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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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