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Did Manhart just create the BMW M8 that should have been?

The MH8 is a tantalizing ‘what if’

This is a BMW M8 from an alternate universe where Manhart made it. PHOTO FROM MANHART

When BMW unveiled the E31 8-Series back in 1989, many fans of the brand were excited by the prospect of a proper new sports car from Bavaria.

The spiritual successor of the M1 sure looked the part, and the spec sheet appeared to back it up with a 5.0-liter, 300hp V12 engine hiding under the hood at launch.

Unfortunately for hardcore speed-seekers, the 850i turned out to be more of a GT cruiser than a proper supercar. Back then, many wished that BMW had made an M8 to rectify this, but that idea didn’t get any further than one single prototype.

Now, German tuner Manhart is turning five 850s into the M8 that could have been.

It's not a V12, but this V8 produces more than enough oomph. PHOTO FROM MANHART

Manhart is no stranger to reimagining classic BMWs, as we already saw with the MH3 3.5 Turbo.

Now the Germans are putting on a small series of just five modified E31s that promise to be a lot more engaging than the original car. There is a big difference between the factory prototype M8 and the Manhart MH8, though, and it might just be a deal-breaker for some.

Where the original 850 and the famous one-off M8 had 12 cylinders, this one only has eight. Not the eight from the 840Ci, as that would have been too easy.

No, the Manhart team removed the M70B50 V12 block and replaced it with a S62B50 5.0-liter V8 from the E39 M5. Tuned to 420hp and 560Nm, it sends its power to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual box and has a Manhart sports exhaust fitted to give this ensemble a worthy soundtrack.

It should handle itself better, naturally. PHOTOS FROM MANHART

This restomod-light also rides lower and wider than the original, thanks to a new suspension setup that includes H&R lowering springs and Bilstein B6 dampers, as well as the company’s own wheel spacers.

The wheels attached to them are 20-inch Manhart Concave One alloys that have upgraded brakes sitting behind them, with four-piston fixed calipers and perforated 340mm discs taking pride of place on the front axle.

This 850i resembles a higher-grade 850CSi in the same way an M car would have beefier cosmetics. PHOTOS FROM MANHART

True BMW experts will notice that the base car might be an 850i, but the optics are more 850CSi. The reason for that is simple: To give it a beefier appearance, the Manhart team installed the front and rear skirts of the range-topper, together with new M-style wing mirrors and a small bootlip spoiler.

It may not look like it, but this is peak BMW interior design. PHOTOS FROM MANHART

The interior has been left pretty much as it came from the factory, except for some new leather on the seats, the door panels, and the dashboard.

The curved cockpit of that era was peak BMW, and there really isn’t much you could improveso refreshing that it makes perfect sense.

The tuning firm promises that this rejuvenated 8-Series is a lot nippier and more engaging than the original, even if there are fewer cylinders under the hood. Manhart hasn’t revealed the price of this latest creation, but we have few doubts that it will sell all five of them pretty quickly.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.