Nearly 30 years before the current M8 would assume the role as the fastest production BMW, the company developed a single testbed based on the E31 chassis. Said to have been conceived as a supercar competitor, the original M8 never made it beyond the prototype stage, but has nonetheless captivated brand aficionados for decades since. With a 6.1-liter V12 producing over 600 horsepower and a top speed just shy of 200 mph, it’s not particularly difficult to understand why.
The first-generation 8 Series, more specifically the 850CSi, which represents the pinnacle of the E31 lineup, has risen to prominence in recent years, and values appear to be appreciating when looking at recent auction results. Other V12-powered examples of the E31 have also been experiencing a sort of re-valuation, and three-pedal V8 cars aren’t far behind. There’s only one true ultimate expression of the 8 Series though, and it is undeniably the M8. After BMW scrapped the project in the mid-1990s, the single road-going prototype was locked in away in BMW’s Giftschrank, or so-called “poison storage.” In 2010, nearly two decades after its construction, the existence of the prototype—long questioned and doubted—was confirmed by BMW, and later the same year, automotive journalists got to see it in person for the first time at the BMW Museum in Munich. In 2012, the one-off E31 was shown at Legends Of The Autobahn, and in the years since, has made a few other sporadic appearances.
Even though the secret of the first M8 was revealed over a decade ago, the elusive BMW remains shrouded in mystery. Only a lucky few have seen it in person, and it seems no one outside of BMW has actually experienced it in any tangible way. In a recent video published to the BMW Classic YouTube channel however, you can get a good look at one of the most captivating BMW prototypes of all time.
In the five-minute video, BMW Group Classic hosts interview one of the individuals originally involved with the car, and then speak with two gents who worked to bring mystifying prototype back to life after decades in storage. They also start the Paul Rosche-designed 6.1-liter quad-cam, 48-valve V12—you won’t want to miss it inhaling through its dozen individual throttle bodies.—Alex Tock
[Photo and video courtesy BMW AG.]