1981 E26 M1: Gordon Medenica/Lance White
1981 BMW E26 M1 #4301232
3.5-liter M88 inline six-cylinder, 277 hp/239 lb-ft
March 13, 1980
Lance and Diane White (since 1997)
The M1 looks and feels like no other BMW. A two-seat coupe whose wedge-shaped body by Giorgetto Giugiaro sits on a tube-frame chassis, it’s powered by a race-ready 277-hp 24-valve M88 six mounted just behind the cockpit. From 1978 through 1981, BMW built only around 450 examples of its one and only supercar. Only a handful were delivered new to the US, but plenty came in through the “grey market.”
The car you see here, #232, was sold first in Italy. By 1994, it was at the KTR race shop in Massachusetts, where it was purchased by Gordon Medenica, the BMW CCA’s first executive director. After completing his MBA at Harvard, Medenica joined The New York Times’ strategic planning division.
“In 1992, I got an E30 M3 and immediately called Scott Hughes and Lance White and said, ‘Hey, let’s do One Lap of America!’ We finished 16th—a decent finish, but great fun,” Medenica says. “In 1994, I entered One Lap with Chris Yerkes. I was at Road America, late in the day, driving right into the sun, and I ended up oiling about half the track before I saw the red light on the dashboard. An oil filter had come loose and all the oil had come out of the engine.”
The motor rebuilt, Medenica set out for another One Lap in the M1, this time winning the vintage class with Hughes. By then, Medenica had created the M1 Register now operated by Mike Ura. He was deep into M1s, but he’d always disliked his car’s color. “I was getting tired of everyone asking me if it was a Ferrari,” he says. “I really wanted a white one. M1 values were collapsing in the late 1990s, and you could get a nice one for about $70,000.”
Medenica found a white M1 and sold #232 to Lance White, who considers the M1 a highlight of his collection.
“I used to take it to the track all the time,” White says. “At Road Atlanta, Hans Stuck noticed that the paint on the top was sun-faded. He told me not to repaint it, ever.
“I eventually got frustrated and had it repainted, taking it back to the Euro bumpers at the same time. Now I know what Hans meant: It wasn’t about originality, it was about how your brain clicks to a different place. I haven’t taken it to the track since it’s been repainted.”
White’s no fan of red cars, either, but he makes an exception for the M1. “When I was coaching soccer, kids used to ask why I put BMW emblems on my Ferrari. I’ve grown to like it, though. Having Gordon’s car is key. It’s an interlock between cars and passion and the club.”