Before there was the BMW M3 there was this, the BMW 320i Turbo. And it was insane.
It debuted in 1977, competing in the Group 5 category where it replaced the aging CSL. The FIA seemed to change the rules every five minutes back then, but from ’76 Group 5 was for ‘special production cars’. Essentially, so long as the bonnet, doors, roof panel and roof line matched the car that rolled off the production line, you could do whatever you wanted.
Group 5 cars were typified by massive, boxy wheelarches – there to stretch the car out to the maximum width – enormous front air dams and rear wings the size of coffee tables. Some teams even devised ‘long tail’ rear ends for better aero.
The standard 3-Series was quite narrow, so its ‘arches were bigger than most. It was an upright little thing anyway, and the transition into full-on racer didn’t lend it any elegance. Almost immediately, and inevitably, it was nicknamed The Flying Brick.
Though it was no looker, the 320i Turbo was massively effective. Initially power came from a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre Formula 2 engine producing 300bhp. Though fine for the 2-litre division, it was never going to challenge for overall honours. So BMW quickly did the only sensible thing and strapped a socking-great turbo to the motor. The result: 650bhp. Maybe more.
BMW Motorsport and various privateer teams campaigned the 320i Turbo in series across the globe. It gave the all-conquering Porsche 935 a run for its money, taking many wins and the odd championship.
The rules changed again in ’82 effectively outlawing the 320i Turbo, though by this time BMW had long-since switched focus to production touring car racing. Where it would be right at front for the next four decades.
Then there was the McLaren F1 engine, its own Le Mans prototype, Formula One engines, DTM, GT2, GT3, even rallying, and it won with all of them. You know, BMW probably has the most diversely successful racing department of any car manufacturer.
By Only Motors