The BMW Group celebrated 100 years in 2016 – THE NEXT 100 YEARS. BMW South Africa, in commemoration of this milestone, refurbished two of its classic cars – the spectacular BMW M1 and the BMW 333i.

Being a world-leading premium manufacturer of vehicles and motorcycles, BMW South Africa has always remained close to its heritage and preservation of its legendary and iconic cars.

The iconic and dynamically eye-catching BMW M1

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In 1978, a legend was born. It was first exhibited at the Paris Motor Show where fans fled to the BMW Motorsport stand.  Fans and soon-becoming fans of the BMW M1 took their time to admire the super-low and dynamic new model.  Soon thereafter, it became Germany’s fastest road sports car.

Standing at just over 1.1 metres tall, with a hunkered-down, wide stance gave the BMW M1 its sporty appeal. It was powered with 204 kW from a 3.5 litre I6 engine.  Fuel was fed from a Kugelfischer mechanical fuel-injection unit which got its air intake from six individual cylinders.  It is no wonder it could reach a top speed of 262 km/h!

During the mid-1980’s, BMW South Africa purchased the BMW M1 from a customer. The first main restoration was to change the colour of the car from its original blue to the striking red that it is now.  The seats, steering wheel, dashboard and carpets were removed and replaced with new ones.  These restorations were done at a supplier in Rosslyn that made sure to use BMW original materials.

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After some time, the car was no longer driveable due to some mechanical complications and BMW original parts became scarce to maintain the BMW M1.  It was still however used for shows and events and remained a part of the BMW South Africa’s classic cars collection.  In July 2016, BMW Group Classic decided to get this iconic car up and running again.  This refurbishment was tackled by BMW South Africa’s press vehicle technicians including two apprentices from the BMW Training Centre at the plant in Rosslyn.

Sports car enthusiasts say that the BMW M1 is one of the coolest cars to bear the BMW badge. It was disappointing though that it only had a short production run from 1978 to 1981.  However, it was a way for BMW to get traction with its racing endeavours.

The Story Behind the BMW 333i

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In 1982, BMW introduced the BMW E30 M3, more for homologation purposes so that it could enter the racing arena. For this, BMW placed a high-revving, four cylinder engine was placed into a lighter body of their smallest vehicle.  The E30 was produced only for certain markets as it originally was not meant to be a high-volume produced car.  But it soon became one of BMW’s most dynamic cars.

Even though it became one of the best driving cars in the world and turned out to be a massive success, many markets didn’t have the opportunity to try it out. South Africa was one of those markets.  However, BMW went on to build the South African market something else.

This is when the BMW 333i was born. It was commonly known as “triple three” or “Gusheshe”.  Gusheshe translates to “fast car”.  With 146 kW of power, a five-speed sports transmission and sports suspension, this 3.2 litre straight six cylinder engine could sprint to three figures in 7.4 seconds, completing a kilometre in 27.7 seconds.

You might think that it is contradictory calling the BMW 333i a fast car. But, you must consider the time the car came into the market and size of it.

What’s interesting is the BMW 333i was basically the BMW 325i with a 3.2 litre engine that was also used in the BMW 733i, BMW 533i and BMW 633 CSi. The car was built with some help from Alpina which is why there are some extra performance tweaks.  In addition to the five-speed sports transmission, Alpina added dual-ventilated front disc brakes.  It was also fitted with 16” Alpina wheels with 195/50/R16 Pirellis.  Due to the massive engine size, you had the option of only one of these: air conditioning or power steering.

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The BMW 333i is a rare car in South Africa. Only 210 were produced and 204 sold to the public.  The rarity of this car makes it even more desirable to BMW sports car enthusiasts.

Do you own one of these cars of know of someone that does? Did you experience a thrilling ride in one of these cars?  Tell us about it in the comments section below.