It’s the early 1990′s, you’re a German executive working for BMW in the incredible 4-Cylinder tower in downtown Munich. Not far from you, a certain, important bright red prototype is sitting, waiting for a decision to be made – a simple yes or no as to if the car will make the leap to a production series car.
On the one hand, you’re a car enthusiast, someone who would love to green light a 500+HP grand tourer with a six speed manual, rear-wheel-drive and acres of leather to cover up the inner workings and systems of the most technically advanced road car your company has ever built.
Then there is the business side of you – the side that is more calculated and looks at the business case of such a vehicle and evaluates the pro’s and cons in a cold, harsh light with other variables surrounding this decision. The German economy has been rattled from a recent worldwide recession. The prototype in question, along with the base car on which it was built, has already cost millions upon millions of deutschmarks and the base model series has received a only lukewarm reception from your biggest market, the United States.
This despite the model being both in-line with the luxurious and sporting brand image and delivering a suitable blow to fellow German rivals. However, a flagship, expensive sports car with flat sales and rising manufacturing labor costs during a recession?
No – it won’t be built – this car will not make it beyond the prototype stage.
With that, the M8 Prototype would be boxed up and tucked away for another 12 to 15 years – out of the public eye and a major piece of speculation for BMW enthusiasts around the globe for the next decade and a half.
With this decision the most powerful production BMW until the X5/6 M was relinquished to a life of ease in a complex housing other prototypes and projects that didn’t quite make it to the assembly line.
However, mystery and rumors circulated around the M8 Prototype and whether or not it ever existed and, if it did, had BMW disassembled the big 8 like it does so many test mules and prototypes? The only proof available for almost two decades were rumors of output and a handful of grainy photos showing a heavily modified 850i with a revised air dam, power bulge hood, and some specialized ducts to channel air. Aside from that, publically there was no evidence that the M8 had existed and as time marched on many enthusiasts found themselves enthralled by the idea of such a car that never made it to market despite a substantial leap forward in performance over all of the existing BMW’s of the time. For reference, the 850CSi which was a detuned M8 of sorts and carried both M-derived engine codes and VINs had to make due with only 380HP – a mind blowing 170HP less than the rumored 550HP churned out by the M8 Prototype.
Speculation of what the M8 was and what it could have been capable of grew even more with the inception of the internet and car forums. Many thought it was a fully functional model, many thought it had been destroyed and many thought it was alive and kicking but roughly a shell of an 8 Series with non-functioning headlamps, air conditioning and many onboard systems.
After nearly 20 years, BMWBlLOG’s founder and head honcho Horatiu, managed to finally see the red devil in the flesh during a press conference a few months ago when BMW nonchalantly displayed the M8 in Munich for a handful of other, more pressing projects of the company. Upon further inspection Horatiu found the M8 to be a working prototype of a car that had managed to live in the shadows of the 4-Cylinder tower and in hearts of so many BMW enthusiasts for decades.
With such an incredible revelation – more information had to be sought out. From what was learned about the M8 Prototype( as the car is officially/unofficially titled as it is not a “concept” but a working mock-up of a car nearly set for production) was that – had this car managed to reach green light status, its sheer performance on every front would have been staggering against any existing peers it may have had.
Regarding the engine, a big V12 (likely larger than 5.0L of the 850/850CSi) is nestled under the bulging hood. The engine carries with it 12 individual throttle bodies connected to the driver’s right foot via direct cable making the M8 Prototype the only non-drive-by-wire 8 Series in existence and proof of M GmbH’s dedication to providing a tactile driving experience. Interestingly, one of the biggest misconceptions of the M8 is that it shares an engine with the record shattering McLaren F1 as it was around the same time as the development of the M8 that McLaren commissioned BMW to build a very power V12 to power their supercar – after being denied by Honda.
Per our sources, the McLaren V12 (a modified S70) and the M8′s V12 were likely constructed by many of the same engineers hence a similar design and output but differed in areas such as overall length due to the horizontal intakes for a front engine layout if the 8 compared to the vertical intakes of a mid-engined car. The McLaren engine, from a design standpoint, shared quite a lot of characteristics and parts with the S50 engine of the E36 M3.
Moving to the glowing red-hot exterior, the M8 Prototype distances itself further still from fellow 8′s with styling that meshes the sleek coupe lines with purposeful yet necessary upgrades. At the wedge-shaped, near E26 M1 nose, a revised front fascia allowed for better channeling of air into the massive intakes to feed the engine.
Sitting just forward of the engine is another enlarged airbox again helping to feed the swollen V12 to send 500+ HP to the rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox. Other revisions at the nose are lightweight pop-up headlamps, modified to both reduce weight and accommodate the lack of fog lamps – sacrificed for the great good of airflow along the lower front valence.
Gliding down the flanks of the prototype the coupe carries the same wide hips of the 850CSI with a widebody kit modified to accommodate better cooling of the brakes and it’s believed to also used to channel air as a means of cooling the rear differential. Wedged underneath the flared wheel arches are 17 inch M Systems wheels with a carbon fiber overlay. While we don’t have exact figures, the rear wheels are quite wide to keep the big coupe planted in the twisties – our sources indicate that the tires are Michelin PilotSports of the period.
Whole story at: http://www.bmwblog.com/2010/09/13/bmwblog-exclusive-unrivaled-and-unveiled-bmw-m8-prototype/
Now is this awesome or what for a car in 1990? Pity it didn't see the light of day until now.