Even geduld a.u.b.

BMW M8 prototype was hidden for 20 years!

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For years it was unclear what happened to the BMW M8 prototype. Was it even real? If so, where was it? What engine was in it? BMW answered a lot of those questions when it unveiled the old prototype in 2010, it could have been the most iconic 90’s BMW.

In the eyes of most BMW fanatics, the M8 was more of a myth than an actual prototype. For a long time, BMW had denied the plans to release a version of the 8-series built by their own Motorsport division. The same division that showed off their knowledge and passion by building the E28 M5 and E30 M3 in the late 1980’s. The rumor that they had built an actual driving M8 prototype was considered “unlikely”.

The only ‘evidence’ of it ever existing were a few grainy pictures from old magazines that were still floating around the internet. Even then, the only thing visible on those pictures was an 850i with a few modifications, it could have been any tuner’s work, more rumors to add to the pile. 

Even though BMW denied its existence, the M8 stayed alive in the hearts of many people that heard about it. It was also rumored to have a 550 horsepower engine that it shared with the McLaren F1, for which BMW designed the engine right after the M8 rumors started. The last rumor about the M8 said it was destroyed or waiting to be destroyed, which would be a very sad fate for such a unique car.

What did hit the market was this: the 850CSi with 380 horsepower, still 170 horses less than the rumors about the M8 power plant. There is one remarkable thing about the 850CSi though that sparked new life into M8 rumors, it’s chassis number. For the 850CSi, it did not start with “WBA…” but with “WBS…”, which meant that it wasn’t built at the normal BMW AG factory but at the Motorsport division of BMW. With that fact out in the open, it was concluded by many that the 850CSi was a down-tuned version of the M8.

For over 20 years, BMW denied the existence of the M8 over and over again, until they finally showed it off to a select group of people back in 2010. Not a huge press conference as you’d expect, but enough to let the world know “it exists”.

It wasn’t a prototype that was glued together and would fall to pieces the first time you drove it. No, it was a fully functional example that was ready to be produced. The only thing that it needed before going into production was the approval of BMW’s management, which it never received. The M8 prototype was doomed to be one of a kind, spending the next 20 years of its life in a dark basement with other unique BMW’s that never saw the light of day.

“Why didn’t it get the go-ahead?”, you might wonder. The 8-series wasn’t a big hit in the sales department, especially in the US market it didn’t turn out as popular as BMW had hoped. With the world still recovering from a recent economical crisis, not many people were interested in buying an expensive two-door BMW. On top of that, BMW would only be able to produce a small amount of these M8’s, meaning the cost was far greater than the retail price. They would have lost money on every single one that left the factory, something that’s still done today by some brands to show off their skills, but BMW decided not to walk down that road.

One of the major exterior changes compared to a normal 850 are the missing pop-up headlights. These seem to be replaced by some sort of Xenon lights integrated in the front bumper, which should provide enough light for a late night session of hooning around town.

Big air vents in the hood and side of the car provide enough cooling for the powerful brakes and engine.

Under the hood is a gigantic V12 engine, a modified version of the S70 engine that was used in normal versions of the 850. The biggest difference is that this one has the rumored 550 hp, by using a few extra bits: independent throttle bodies for each cilinder, a carbon fiber intake manifold, double VANOS variable valve timing and so on.

This very engine was subject to one of the biggest rumors about the M8, that it uses the same engine as the legendary McLaren F1.

How did this come about? Well, not very long after BMW was believed to have developed a V12-powered M8, BMW developed a V12 engine for McLaren. The knowledge that BMW had about building high-power V12’s did probably come in handy, and it’s a fact that the McLaren engine was based on the V12 built for the M8. Although they aren’t that different from each other, it’s not the same engine. With 617 hp, the McLaren engine is also a bit more powerful.

The interior is a mixture of luxury and sport, almost every part of it is covered with alcantara. But don’t expect any luxury seats, two bucket seats with four point race harnesses remind you that it’s a proper supercar.

The level of detail on this car is amazing for a prototype, even the M-logo’s are beautifully knitted into the upholstery.

The speedometer tops out at 300 km/h (almost 200 mph), a speed that the M8 would be more than capable of reaching.

To connect the car with the road, a light-weight aluminum set of wheels is used. These still have the original tires from roughly 25 years ago on them, another proof that this car is the real deal, not some sort of recent project to revive the myth for marketing purposes.

The center of the wheels are covered in a layer of carbon fiber, this seems to be for esthetic purposes only rather than performance. It does fit the car well, and carbon fiber is something that was not frequently used on road-going cars at the time so this does give it that extra ‘supercar’ touch. Behind these unique wheels are huge brakes to supply the M8 with enough stopping power.

Aerodynamic mirrors, another unique feature that shows how far in the development process this M8 was.

This whole story leads us to a few sad conclusions:

- The M8 never made it to production, a car that had so much potential that it could have easily been the greatest BMW car of the 90s, maybe even one of the most unique cars BMW ever made.

- Even though the M8 never made it to production, this prototype is an important piece of BMW history. It’s sad that this prototype is never displayed at public events or museums and is therefore not as known to the general public as other iconic BMW models. It hasn’t made another public appearance since it was showed to a select public in 2010, which is sad, very sad.

In 2008 the rumors of an M8 production model became a hot topic again, the ‘M1 Hommage’ concept that BMW showed the world made everyone daydream again. BMW gave the world a sportscar, but it was in the form of the i8, not an M8. 

Not really what we were hoping for, but in this day and age it’s getting increasingly harder to make a supercar with a huge V12 engine due to emission regulations.

All things considered, an M8 with a huge engine, maybe even some sort of hybrid, would still be a great addition to the already great line-up of Motorsport cars that BMW pumps out every year.

Recently BMW added fuel to the M8 rumor fire again by registering a few type-names: 825, 830, 835, 845, 860, M850 and M8! Type-names are often registered by automakers to prevent others from using it for commercial purposes. But let’s look at it from a positive standpoint and say that some day, something will wear a badge that says “M8”.

Sources: BMWblog.com, Classic and Vintage BMW