Page 1 of 2 Next >> In just twelve weeks, BMW Motorsport developed a Group 5 version of the all new 'E21' 320 saloon. The new GT racer was ready in time for the 1977 season and replaced the ageing 3.0 CSL, which had actually started life as a Touring Car earlier in the decade. What helped to develop the car in such a short timespan was the fact that a suitable engine already existed in the form of the mighty 'M12' four-cylinder that had been successfully used by sports cars and F2 racers for several seasons.
Producing around 310 bhp from its two-litre displacement, the twin-cam, sixteen-valve engine was mounted inside a heavily modified production car shell. This had been stripped off all unnecessary components and fitted with massive flared wheel-arches and an aggressive aerodynamics package that been honed in the Pininfarina wind-tunnel. The end result was a truly spectacular machine that tipped the scales at just 740 kg including the driver and half a tank of fuel. With a near perfect 50/50 weight distribution, it was also very well balanced.
The Group 5 version of the 320 was introduced in December of 1976, ready to hit the track the following season. It was to be raced by BMW's loyal customers on both sides of the Atlantic while the German manufacturer also fielded works cars for their talented 'junior' drivers. In Europe, the cars were raced with considerable success in the World Championship and also in Germany's highly competitive DRM series. Especially on tight circuits the compact BMW did very well against the more powerful Porsche 934s and 935s. Several wins were scored but the championship titles remained out of reach.
In North America, the BMWs struggled to keep up with the big Porsches and the German manufacturer joined forces with engine builder McLaren North America to create a turbocharged version of the M12 engine. Ready in April of 1977, the first two-litre turbo engine produced around 500 bhp, which would quickly rise to over 600 bhp. Back in Munich a similar program was started with a 1.4-litre turbo version of the M12 unit, which would still qualify the car in the two-litre category. While very powerful, the 320 Turbos were also notoriously unreliable. Page 1 of 2 Next >>