History of BMW's M6

• 1973: BMW 3.0 CSL: the large coupe is a dominant force on the race track.
• 1984: the BMW M635i production sports car driven by motor sport technology.
• 2005: BMW M6: an instant byword for supreme performance in its most prestigious form.

Considering the BMW 6 Series has motor sport ingrained in its DNA, it comes as little surprise that the origins of the BMW M6 model lie in the early 1970s. When BMW Motorsport GmbH was founded in May 1972, it was immediately tasked with the development of a racing car built on the basis of the BMW 3.0 CS luxury coupe to compete in touring car races. Powered by a 3,340 cc six-cylinder in-line unit initially generating 360 hp, the BMW 3.0 CSL – the L in its name stood for lightweight design established itself as the most successful touring car of its day, at the same time as showcasing innovations whose technical details filtered through to production car development.
Aluminium doors, bonnet and boot lid as well as a five-speed gearbox with magnesium casing were followed in 1973 by the first ever six-cylinder engine with four-valve technology, and then, in 1974, by the debut of the anti-lock braking system. It was firsts such as these that helped to speed the car to success on the race track before finding their way into the brand’s roadgoing models – and this same principle continues to be a defining characteristic of BMW M cars today. The BMW 3.0 CSL won a total of six European Touring Car Championship titles between 1973 and 1979, with power output increasing year on year. By 1976 it already had a 3.2-litre six-cylinder biturbo engine under the bonnet, whose output actually had to be throttled to 750 hp.
In the meantime, a brand-new project was taking shape at BMW Motorsport GmbH: a mid-engined supercar developed completely from scratch. Before the BMW M1 could line up for the new Procar Championship, however, 400 units had to be built for homologation purposes. This was how BMW Motorsport GmbH came to bring out its first production car in 1978: not only did the BMW M1 with its 277 hp straight-six engine instantly acquire the title of Germany’s quickest production sports car, the entire run of 456 models was snapped up by customers with lightning speed too.

Motor sport technology for the road: the BMW M635i. 

By now, the BMW 3.0 CS had been replaced by the BMW 6 Series in the BMW model line-up. And the appetite of many BMW drivers for extra power in their standard production cars had not gone unnoticed by BMW Motorsport GmbH: the free-revving four-valves-per-cylinder engine from the BMW M1 was the perfect choice for evolving the BMW 6 Series luxury coupe into the mighty BMW M635i. The six-cylinder unit unleashed 286 horsepower which, allied to chassis technology that had been precision-honed to handle it as well as streamlined body components, allowed drivers to enjoy a real taste of motor sport during their day-to-day driving. A total of 5,855 BMW M635i models were sold between 1984 and 1989. 

Motor sport meets luxury: the BMW M6.

The dawn of a new era of phenomenal performance and high tech galore: the first BMW M6. In 2005, two years after the second generation of the BMW 6 Series made its debut, BMW M GmbH added a high-performance sports car to its portfolio that was simply in a class of its own. The BMW M6 instantly became the epitome of a highly prestigious breed of top-performance automobile brimming with motor racing know-how. Its performance credentials made stunning reading: a high-revving V10 engine derived straight from Formula One with a 5.0-litre displacement and a power output of 373 kW/507 hp, seven-speed Sequential M Gearbox with Drivelogic and Launch Control for accelerating from stationary at maximum power, speed-sensitive, variable M differential lock, plus model-specific chassis technology including Electronic Damper Control (EDC) and compound brakes.

The V10 power unit took the overall prize at the highly prestigious International Engine of the Year Awards for two years running, in 2005 and 2006. And in the two years that followed it came top in the category for engines above 4 litres. The pioneering and progressive character of the BMW M6 is also due in no small part to its trailblazing driver assistance systems, such as the Head-Up Display with its M-specific readouts. One year after the Coupe went on sale it was followed by the BMW M6 Convertible. By 2010, global sales of the high-performance sports car totalled 14,152 units, with the Coupe accounting for 9,087 of these and the open-top version of the BMW M6 the remaining 5,065.

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