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Almost ever since the BMW M1 went out of production in 1981, fans have had one question: When will the M division produce such a beast again? Not merely a scorching take on a BMW, but a standalone model of extraordinary capability. Thirty-eight years later, the question still hasn't been answered, but the drumbeat of intention continues inside BMW. Current M boss Frank Flasch told Australian site Car Sales, "We are investigating M variants that may also be stand-alone, that don't have a predecessor."

Note that Flasch qualified that a potential model may be a product of M division, as opposed to based on a BMW offering, but that is of course the primary interest for enthusiasts. Car Sales said it understands Flasch is the leading figure behind the exploratory push, but the exec wouldn't be drawn out on what kind of variants, nor how many, that M is investigating. The outlet said another source mentioned that with the studies being in "a very early phase," multiple body styles as well as powertrains are still on the table.

We know M's engineers have toyed with something supercar-ish at least since the first BMW 8 Series, when a prototype M8 fitted with the BMW V12 that slotted into the McLaren F1 never saw the light of day. Media probing of M execs about an M-brand supercar or hypercar has intensified over the past 10 years, ever since Mercedes-AMG launched its first original product, the SLS AMG. BMWBlog flirted with the topic when it interviewed then-M boss Kay Segler in 2011. Segler responded, "When you lead, you don't look left and right."

In 2013, Auto Express reported that an M1 supercar would show as soon as 2016. That car was said to be in development for more than 11 years, and then-M honcho Friedrich Nitschke said, "The decision on developing this car is open. We'd love to do it." In 2015, then-M boss Frank van Meel deflected the question of a supercar with, "I think everyone at BMW M wants to build a supercar, but it is more important to go ahead with our planned new models. Right now, we are more than happy with the i8 as BMW's halo car." He repeated that position in 2017.

By last year, the idea of a supercar based on the i8 had gained enough traction in Munich that BMW's R&D boss talked up the idea at the Paris Motor Show. The idea's floated around BMW since 2013, and Flasch told Car Sales that the R&D exec supports the current investigation into something more for M. If an original M model does come, it sounds like it will tend to the super instead of the hyper end of things. Flasch said of a hypercar, "From a brand perspective it is not needed; M is strong as it is. Economically, hypercar projects are always difficult, and so the prerequisites to turn such a project into reality are obviously very difficult, but I would not rule it out."

In 2022, the M department will celebrate its 50th anniversary as an independent company. The safe money is on seeing something special then.

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