Whether Nürburgring fan, motorsport enthusiast or sports car aficionado: anyone who sees the three BMW M colours knows that it’s all about high performance.

What’s interesting: The famous M with the three colour bars attached to it is not the first logo of BMW M GmbH, which was founded in 1972 and was called BMW M Motorsport until 1993. The original logo was round and featured staggered semicircles in the colours blue, purple and red with the BMW logo of the parent brand in the centre. It first appeared on the legendary BMW 3.0 CSL in 1973. According to Jochen Neerpasch, then Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW M GmbH and Head of Racing, the design of this first emblem came from the Swiss graphics agency Müller.

BMW Motorsport Logo 1972

The first logo of BMW Motorsport GmbH in 1972.


The familiar M with the three stripes first appeared on the BMW M1 presented in 1978, which featured both the BMW and the M logo and was the first car developed entirely in-house by BMW M GmbH.

Who ultimately chose the colours blue, purple and red is no longer entirely clear. What is certain is that three people were involved in its creation: Racing director and managing director Neerpasch, Wolfgang Seehaus, BMW interior designer at the time, and Manfred Rennen, the BMW exterior designer at the time. The three colours not only had to work well on the bonnet, but also on clothing, paperwork and the racing cars.

Red BMW M1 bears the new logo in 1978.

The BMW M1 was the first to bear the new logo at the rear.

BMW 3.0 CSL on the race track.

The BMW 3.0 CSL in stripe design.


The striking stripe design first premiered in 1973, long before the finished logo, on the famous BMW 3.0 CSL. The final look of the racing cars was created by external graphic designer Pierre Mendell in collaboration with Manfred Rennen. To this day, the BMW M GmbH racing cars still bear these colours, which are adapted in terms of position, size and design.

But why exactly these colours, red, purple and blue? Marc Thiesbürger, automotive and racing historian at BMW Group Classic, says: “Blue stands for BMW, the red was probably inspired by the Texaco company and violet was chosen pragmatically as a mixed colour of blue and red.”

For the sake of completeness: Designer Manfred Rennen claimed to have been involved in finding the colour and denied the Texaco connection, but there are no documents on this in the archive. The official version from BMW M GmbH: “Blue stands for the BMW brand, red for motorsport and purple for this unique connection.”

“Blue stands for the BMW brand, red for motorsport and purple for this unique connection.”

The three colors of the BMW M logo.

Today’s BMW M colours.

Design by Wolfgang Seehaus with Texaco logos.

Design drafts by Wolfgang Seehaus from 1972 with sponsor Texaco.


There is further evidence in favour of the Texaco theory: Seehaus’ 1972 design drafts for the BMW 3.0 CSL bore the logo of the American oil company. Marc Thiesbürger: “Texaco’s red was most likely incorporated into the BMW Motorsport colour scheme, although the sponsorship negotiations with Texaco broke down at the end of 1972 and the deal ultimately did not materialise.” Texaco didn’t come, the red remained. Interior designer Seehaus also saw an advantage in the selection of the three colours: they were clearly different from the black and white photos that were mostly used at the time. They are colours that also work without colour.

Evolution of the logo.

Evolution of the BMW M communication logo.


Although the history of the choice of colour cannot be clarified down to the last detail, it is clear who invented the first version of the complete logo with the M and its three echoing stripes: It was the designer of the BMW M1, Giorgio Giugiaro with his design studio Italdesign. The bevelled shape of the three stripes is intended to symbolise dynamism and speed.

Anyone who sees a BMW M today might be surprised: Where has the violet colour gone? Over the years, it has become a blue colour. Designers have reworked the legendary logo several times. The last update of the BMW M communication logo for brand communication alone was in 2020. It has a 2D look and uses the four colours light blue, dark blue, red and white for the M. The light blue colour has also been matched to the blue of the BMW logo. The high recognition value, which stands for the unique high performance of M automobiles, has been retained to this day.

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