Japanese Legend: The Speed Star M1 Procar

Historic racing events like the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion are overload for the senses. The sights, sounds and smells of vintage racing are what keep the thousands of gearheads coming to Laguna Seca year after year for this event.

But what’s just as fascinating are the stories behind the cars entered.

SSR-M1-01

All of the cars running in the Rolex Reunion are the real deal, and their stories stretch across decades of time and thousands of miles of international racing.

And that brings me to a BMW M1 Procar that has an especially colorful history, one that should be particularly interesting for fans of Japanese motorsport.

SSR-M1-03

The story begins in 1979 when chassis #1077 was built at Ron Dennis’s Project Four racing shop in the UK. The plan was for the car to be campaigned by a European team in the Procar series, but they couldn’t come up the money so the car was sold to Speed Star Wheel in Japan, wearing silver paint and BMW Motorsport stripes when it arrived.

SSR-M1-08

If you’ve ever wondered why SSR and BMW Motorsport share similar brand colors, this car might explain that. It’s also how Speed Star Wheel became Speed Star Racing.

Along with the logos of Speed Star, the M1 was also sponsored by Sagawa, a Japanese logistics company still in business today. If you’ve ever been to Tokyo you’ve probably seen its delivery trucks driving around.

SSR-M1-04

Once in Japan, the car had a very active life, running in numerous endurance races in the early ’80s where it often finished at the top of its class. In 1981, the M1 changed owners and was converted to wide-body Group 5 spec, then raced against cars like the DR30 Skyline and S12 Silvia Super Silhouettes.

SSR-M1-06

The BMW scored victories in 1000km races at both Suzuka Circuit and Fuji Speedway, eventually being retired in 1984. With the exception of a few historic races here and there, from then on the M1 was mainly kept in storage in Japan.

That was until Australia’s Chris Bowden discovered the car a few years ago and made an agreement to buy it following months of negotiation.

SSR-M1-02

Once the car was back in Australia, it was taken inside the Bowden’s Own restoration shop and converted back to its original 1979 spec and Speed Star Wheel livery.

SSR-M1-07

Following the restoration, Bowden raced the car at events in Australia including the Sydney Retro Speedfest and at Phillip Island before having it sent across the world to Laguna Seca for the Rolex Reunion.

SSR-M1-09

German roots, Japanese racing history, Australian passion, and a successful journey to race the car in California – it really doesn’t get more international than that.

Oh yeah, its screaming 450 horse straight-six and classic looks aren’t bad either!

Mike Garrett
Instagram: japanifornia
mike@speedhunters.com

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44 comments

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1

I am very interested in the Graham Hill stickers on the car... do you or anyone else know the link between him and SSR?

2

OI! You forgot "Colnbrook and Woking's Finest" from your list ;)
This cars rear wing design influenced the radical ideas behind the the MP4/1 - the P4 bit of the McLarens naming system stands for Project 4 (the M for McLaren obviously)
So yeah. Go Heathrow/London Satalite towns!.
I do love a good M1/70s/80s beemer.
Useless side note:
Turbo hippy and I regularly partied and generally fucked shit up in Ron Denis' Mothers old House. It had a random knob on the wall that no one knew what it did.

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Love the car, Love the paint job, love the wheels, love its history. damn i'm in love!

12

Hands down favorite car of the weekend. So many M1 there.

13

mazdaspeeder86 And judging by the sounds coming from it, it was the best-sorted of all the M1 Pro Cars at Laguna. Sounded so nice screaming down the front straight.

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TarmacTerrorist Well actually the 'M' stood for 'Marlboro' initially. It wasn't until 1997 when Phillip Morris moved sponsorship to Ferrari that the 'M' was changed to mean 'McLaren'.

30

I was and am very much under the impression that's a fable, a myth if you will. Otherwise it would of made more sense to name the car PM-P4. The McLaren team was around before the Phillip Morris sponsorship too, and the Merger of the Two teams (P4 and McLaren) happened in early 1980.
Also, the M of McLarens naming system has meant McLaren since the year dot:
M2a
M2c
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43

What a beast! Love it!

44

@scrapers4lyfe it is mate. :)

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