The BMW 1M was a surprise when Matchbox revealed it in 2013, but it was even more surprising for me to find one for sale.
You can make fun of the real thing with its lack of space and bizarre styling, but by 2013 the BMW 1M was an exciting little car that is now considered by many to be the best iteration of the “M” logo – appropriately, the Matchbox BMW “M1” casting is one of the best castings of Mattel era Matchbox, and comes in its best colour yet.
The Car: BMW 1 series “M”
Did Mama BMW hit the 1 series with the ugly stick? Well he must have at least been tapped with it, because this is one of the weirdest looking cars BMW has ever produced.
Then again, look at the Z4 styling in 2002 and the facelifted 7 series, and you get the impression BMW started employing star-nosed moles to design their cars. Well, actually, it was probably just the result of chief designer Christopher Bangle’s lucid expressionist dreams (I don’t care what Chris Harris says – that 7 series “Bangle Butt” is not attractive or ahead of its time, and neither are the car’s bizarre, sleepy eyes).
In fact, it was Christopher Chapman who headed design on the 1 series, as well as the BMW X5 SUV. Sadly, he passed away in 2015. But the inspiration from Bangle’s era is there on the car.
The 1 series was actually the sort-of-but-not-really replacement for the 3 series “compact” car, a truncated version of the standard E36 / E46 3 series platforms in the 90s and 2000s.
The M denotes the high-performance version of the coupe that appeared in 2011, and would have been called “M1” (alongside M3, M5, etc.) if not for the fact the M1 was already a pretty cool supercar.
The car used the same N54 twin-turbo engine used in the 2011 Z4 and the 3 series coupe, six speed manual with M limited slip diff.
Despite its wider track and chunkier body, the M car is 77lbs lighter than the regular 1 series by the aluminium suspension.
With just over 6,000 cars sold worldwide, it sold over twice as many units as BMW had intended it to, and is now imaginably coveted. Production stopped June 2012.
Of course most of the complaints leveled towards Bangle and the 2000s generation of Beamers come from die-hard fans of the Bavarian roundel, accusing the design cues of being out of touch with BMW’s “form follows function” philosophy.
BMW has returned to its roots these days, and the 1 series, as with most other cars in the BMW range, looks stunning. I actually think the first generation looks kind of cute.
Was Bangle ahead of his time in the design department? Some might say so. but if a rear-end design on a BMW ends up being replicated times ten on a SsangYong, then… no. He wasn’t.
The Model: Matchbox 2013 BMW M1
My heart jumped for joy when, amongst the plastic generics… oh, excuse me, “Matchbox Originals”… I saw the glittering gold paint of this BMW.
I picked it up at the same time I saw the blue ’55 Ford delivery truck. Two great licensed models making a comeback.
The car debuted back in 2013 in metalflake orange and was an instant hit for its quirkiness and great looks amidst a heap of undesirable, unlicensed generics.
The gold was a mid to late 2016 recolour, and I’m glad I actually found it in 2016 and not 2017, which is the time I expect to find most 2016 models here.
Bizarrely, although the license plate reads “1M” the casting is still listed as “M1” on the base at BMW’s request, which lends some confusion due to the fact BMW named the 1:1 car the 1 series M so as to not cause confusion with the M1. Confusing, right?
All in all, it’s a superb casting, made greater by the fact it is based off such a coveted and rare vehicle.
The gold pops on those silver ten-spoke wheels, and the front and back tampo arrangement is to die for. I might be willing to say this so far looks to be the best version of the casting.
The grille design now comes as vertical slats rather than the original solid black, as should be. The air intake tampos and license plate finish off the look.
At the rear, the lights, license plate, and if you look verrrry closely, the M4 logo, really look great, and the application is spot-on.
I especially love the style of the casting – the “shark fin” aerial, the flared wheel arches and chunky bumpers are captured well and look super cool.
I think this is one car that will go down as a prize amongst collectors.
And judging from some of the other cars I’ve picked up by Matchbox recently, this is an excellent portent for a return to realism. If you pick up this car, take a look at the logo on the base.
We’re being drip-fed these castings here in the UK, but beneath all the frustrations about distribution bubbles an excitement for Matchbox that hasn’t been felt in a long time.