B. M. W.

History of BMW

The 1920s: A successful aircraft engine manufacturer

Born in the early 1930s with a great knowledge of aeronautical mechanics to her credit, an activity which earned her its logo evoking the propeller, and which will continue this activity until the end of the 1940s, the most famous Bavarian firm claims for its models have a "grand touring" spirit like Alfa Romeo, even if its models are designed for the general public.

The story begins in 1916 with the union of two Bavarian manufacturers specializing in aeronautical mechanics, Gustav Otto drawing the fruits of his father's patent, who put into practice the four-stroke engine invented by the French Beau de Rochas in 1962, and the engineer Karl Friedrich Rapp who founded his own aeronautical firm in Munich in 1913. Shortly before 1914, Austria-Hungary entrusted Austro Daimler with the production of the future V12 engine for its aircraft. The latter, unable to ensure this production, was advised the very young Rapp Motorenwerke through Franz Joseph Popp, an AEG defector. Rapp's specialization interests him. Engineer Max Friz joined the team, and in 1916 the Bayerischer Motorenwerke GmbH was founded. It launched in 1917 after a major reorganization and new premises, in the production of 224 V12 engines of 350 hp. The order will be increased tenfold by the army a few weeks after the first deliveries. This engine will even be produced under license by a number of manufacturers, including Opel. At the end of the war, the company, which in the meantime had changed status, quickly reconverted to civilian life by offering all kinds of engines, but it was in the field of two-wheelers that success was quickly going to be achieved. to show.

In 1922, the financier Emilio Castiglioni of Vienna became the owner of BMW, to whom he gave new premises and the ambition to produce his first motorcycles entirely (until now, the twin cylinders struck by the propeller were affected on many motorcycles. various small brands.) The transverse engine R32 was released in 1923. It will experience the success which makes BMW still today one of the best European manufacturers in this field. In parallel, the firm is interested in 4-wheels and is offered the manufacture of a small car without chassis and 4 independent wheels by the engineer Kamm. But too difficult, the project is finally declined by Popp, who then seeks to produce a model quickly and in addition, a simple car and having already proven itself. His gaze is on the little Dixi, a tiny cart produced for a few years, which was bought by BMW in 1928. This was in fact one of the many licensed productions of the Austin Seven, very inspired by the Ford T, and built by Austin since 1909. By falling under the fold of BMW, Dixi makes this one of the principal manufacturers of Germany, since the sales volumes of this popular small are considerable.

The 1930s for BMW

But Popp wants to step up a gear and move upmarket. Alongside the first cars of 1931 equipped with 4-cylinders, one seeks to develop the 6-cylinder in-line which will make the fame of the mark, under the influence of Schleicher, who returned from Horch. The first model to be fitted with it will be the 303 in 1933. Its name comes from the displacement and power of this engine block: 3 liters and 3 HP. Subsequently, this will be the serial identifier followed by the displacement. The 303 was followed by the 309 and 315 in 1934, the 319 the following year, the 329, 326 in 1936 and the 320 in 1937. Almost all of them are available in small sports two-seater, But Popp wants to boost the brand's image. with a landmark model. It is more particularly aimed at competition, an area where BMW and its small cars was absent. A team is formed around the engineer Fritz Fiedler, Alfred Böning, the in-house stylist, and Alex Von Falkenhausen who worked in the 2-wheel division. From conceptions to trials in 1937, Project 328 lasted only one year. The big test will take place on the Nürburgring in June 1936. Its driver wins in the 2 Liter class. It's only a beginning. It will be available until 1940 in many sports bodies including the Touring Superleggera will prove to be the most efficient, alongside the wiser, longer touring 327s, available in two-seater or 4-seater sedan and convertible. They will be supported by the "fat" 335, released in 1938 with the extended chassis of the 326 and a more powerful engine, bodywork mainly in sedans. The 321 will be the last produced, in 1939, to 3637 copies. It was about a mixture having the dress of the 321, the back of the 335, the suspensions of the 326. But the war occurs and the parenthesis which opens for BMW sees it starting again to produce engines of planes, faithful to its origins, but also the small 325, often used by the army as a dispatch rider, and the robust motorcycle R75, one of the pillars of the sinister Wermacht.

The postwar era

At the end of the war, BMW, divided between its two specialized factories, that of Eisenach located in the Soviet zone and that of Milbersthofen in the American zone. The latter will be dismantled and dispersed in war damage, but the first is renamed "Autovélo" and restarts on behalf of the east from the end of 1945. Until 1950, thousands of 321, a handful of 326 and the new 340 from the 326 are built. They will subsequently display the same logo in red and the name "EMW". On the other hand, the Milbersthofen factory had to wait until 1948 to resume small-scale production of motorcycles. The allies categorically oppose any study of 4-wheelers. After considering for a time the production of a small BMW equipped with a motorcycle engine inspired by the Italian Topolino, the 335, the chains began again to produce in 1952 a radically opposed model, presented in 1950, the 501, in a way the ancestor of the 5 series. The management had fallen to the banker Hans Grewening, who envisages nothing but a plush sedan intended for the elite. Her baroque dress, elegantly statutory, is due to the new house stylist, Schimanowski. Equipped with the old 6-cylinder 2 Liter, it is able to accommodate 6 people in a comfort that wanted to be English. The series will then continue with the 502 and its 8-cylinder V 2.6, then 3.2 liters until 1964. The latter, still awarded a "baroque angel", could reach 190 km / h. But it is in 1955 that made its appearance the German "Rolls" of the time, the 505 produced in small series with an extended chassis and a more powerful engine, limousine intended to counter the Mercedes 300.

In 1954 the legendary Mercedes 300 SL made its appearance in the salons. BMW neither wanted nor could find it a direct rival, because at the insistence of Max Hoffman, controlling the entire American network of BMW dealers, it will produce two luxury coupes equipped with the same V8 as its sedans. He convinced the management to take a niche, between the expensive 300 SL and the light but underpowered little English girls of the time, MG, Austin-Healey, Triumph ... The 507 appeared on the Bavarian brand's stand in 1955 with the 503, a touring coupe which was a commercial failure. The 507 is superb, but its production costs will only increase, putting it on the same level as the 300 SL. Much less powerful and efficient, it will then be produced in small quantities, which are still the passion of collectors today.

The year 1955 also saw the irruption on the market of a model bearing the badge on the propeller and as far as possible from the recent image that it had forged itself: It is a "car minimum ", with a BMW R25 motorcycle engine. It allows a modest buyer, able to get a two-wheeler but having a small family, to take it with a vehicle that is barely more expensive and just as economical in terms of maintenance and consumption. The Isetta produced by Iso, the firm of Count Renzo Rivolta, in Italy, had had some success with a 2-stroke rear scooter engine, and a tiny two-seater body. Renzo Rivolta, subject to Fiat law with his 500, is associated with the Bavarian firm through Eberarth Wolff, responsible for the development of the brand, and, revised, the little Isetta is equipped with a seat sufficient for two adults and a child, with a more voluntary engine and four wheels including a very short rear engine drive. 12 hp, 360 Kgs unladen, 85 Km / h ... and access through a single front door. The first Isetta-BMW 250 series was quickly backed up by the more powerful 300, and in 1957 a four-seater Isetta with rear doors was born. In all, until 1962, this "micro-BMW" affectionately nicknamed by the Germans the "rolling egg", will be drawn to almost 200,000 copies in different series. It completed the range very low, like the Smart currently for Mercedes.

But the financial situation of the brand at the propeller was not at its highest, and the management began the study in 1958 of an intermediate with a 4-cylinder engine. It will be the 700, designed in a more classic and modern style by Michelotti, and available as a coupé (his presentation model), a convertible and a 4-seater and 2-door sedan. Its basic engine is a twin cylinder, the most powerful developing 30 hp. But the reduced weight of the body allows it a top speed of 123 km / h. The commercial success of this model is emerging and preserves BMW from bankruptcy, but the study of cars from 1000 to 1500 cm3 equipped with 4- cylinders remains relevant. It will lead to the emergence of the BMW 1500 series, a formidable lineage with that of the 2002, completing in 1960 the range in the middle.

BMW sportscar Models

  • Dixi-BMW sport
  • BMW 320 sport
  • BMW 327/278
  • BMW 328
  • BMW 328 Spider Superleggera
  • BMW 328 LM
  • BMW 502 coupé
  • BMW 503 coupé
  • BMW 507
  • BMW 700 coupé sport
  • BMW 3200 CS
  • BMW 3.0L CSi
  • BMW 3.0L CSL
  • BMW E20 2002 Turbo coupé
  • BMW M.1
  • BMW M635 CSi
  • BMW M.3 (1985)
  • BMW Z.1
  • BMW 850 CSi
  • BMW M.5 (1988)
  • BMW M.3 (1993)
  • BMW 750 IA V12 (1995)
  • BMW Z.3M Roadster
  • BMW Z.3M Coupé
  • BMW M5 (1998)
  • BMW 330i coupé
  • BMW 330i cabriolet
  • BMW Z.8 (2000)
  • BMW M.3 (2000)
  • BMW M.3 CSL (2002)
  • BMW 760I (2003)
  • BMW Z.4 (2003)
  • BMW 650I (2003)

BMW 328 LM (1937)

Matched with a Touring "Superleggera" body, the coupe had the rigidity to push the engine to its limits.

Berlinette 2 places
Front engine - rear transmission
6 cylinders in V, 2L, from 80 to 135hp DIN
Weight: 750 Kgs Length: mm; Width: mm; Height: mm; Wheelbase: 2362 m

Deriving from the much wiser Grand Touring model, the Superleggera Streamlined Roadster and Coupe series was well ahead of its time. The roadster line also strongly inspired that of the post-war Jaguar XK.120. The principle patented by touring consisted in installing an extruded aluminum tubular trellis - cage, covered with thin panels of the same material. The whole crate weighed only 80 Kgs. The Solex three-carburetor engine made it possible to reach 160 km / h. Their track record was impressive: In 1936, a 328 won the Nürburgring. It will be the kickoff. Nearly 200 events won in 1937, almost as many in 1938. The following year, it is the apotheosis, with the victory at Le Mans, and in 1940, the coupes and Roadster 328 take the first 5 places (except the second) at the Mille Miglia, then renamed GP de Brescia. They are powered by the same 6-cylinders doped with a petrol / alcohol mixture and developing 135 hp. Their average speed was 166 km / h. They will continue to garner success after the war, and their excellent engine will be bought by Bristol, which will make it the basis of its first models.

BMW 503 (1954)

(illustration in preparation) Classic lines, the 503 is, unlike the 507, intended for Europe.

Coupé / Cabriolet 2 + 2 seats.
Front engine - rear transmission.
8 cylinders in V, overhead valves, 3 Liters, ACL, 150 hp DIN @ 5200RPM.
0-100 Km / h: sec. ; 1000 D.A .:; Max speed: Km / h.
1500 Kgs.
Length: mm; Width: mm; Height: mm; Wheelbase: mm
26,500 DM

The "big sister" of the very beautiful 507 had remained in the shadows. However, his physique was not ungrateful, quite the contrary. It sort of predated the 507 although the latter was produced in parallel by hand, the 503 succeeding the 502 on the assembly lines. Its price was all the more reduced, and its greater success attests to it. This elegant and tasteful coupe was the work of Count Albrecht Goertz, although many frames found among the great Italian designers a dress to measure. In some ways, the 503 was the ideal rival to the Mercedes 190 SL. However, it was taller and above all had two rear seats. As a result, her measurements were relatively generous and her performance suffered: She had to reach 100 per hour in 13 seconds, against 10 for the 507, more frail. It therefore perfectly complements the range, which only needed to expand downwards, which it will do with the Isetta.

BMW 507 (1959)

Although designed by mass product stylist Count Albrecht Goertz, the 507 remains one of the finest GTs ever produced.

2-seater Coupé / Cabriolet.
Front engine - rear transmission.
8 cylinders in V, overhead valves 3 Liters, 2 ACL, 150 hp DIN @ 5000RPM.
0-100 Km / h: 10 sec. ; 1000 D.A .:; Max speed: 200 Km / h.
1330 Kgs.
Length: 4380 mm; Width: 1700 mm; Height: 1200 mm; Wheelbase: 2480 mm
$ 9,000 / DM 29,500 / Frs 42,000.

It is the idea of ​​producing a grand touring coupe for the American market, placing itself below the very elitist Mercedes 300 SL, which will motivate the production of this two-seater coupe / convertible. It will be the work of the considerable influence of Max Hoffmann, post-war importer of the most beautiful European sports cars, which he offers to the Happy Few in his showroom in New York. He notes that a place is free between the SL, the Ferraris, and the classic little English girls. His arguments are based on the "blow" he imagines by offering the wealthy middle classes a vehicle with a V8, common engine in the USA, of a solidity and a Germanic finish enjoying an excellent image, handling to European standards and a dazzling line designed to speak to emotions. Fritz Fiedler, returned from Bristol for whom he developed almost rebadged BMW models, took responsibility for the project. It took over the mechanics of its sedans and limousines, but with modifications allowing to develop 150 hp. His style should have been attributed to Ernst Loof, house designer, who had prepared a dress close to the Veritas that he produces elsewhere. But there again, Hoffmann succeeded in imposing Goertz whose trait had noticed during a show. The latter officiated at Raymond Loewy, and was especially noted for his taste in the dressing of refrigerators and other television sets, icons of the American Way of life, and had participated in the design of some models including the flamboyant Studebaker "Starliner". It was very well finished because produced by hand, which explained its prohibitive cost, which despaired Hoffman, who thought to sell 5000 cars per year at 5000 $. The 507 had fairly soft suspensions, and despite a light chassis and aluminum body, displayed a penalizing weight. All this explains the low volume of sales until 1960, but it is this very rarity associated with its line that today makes it a model still sought after, priced at 17,000 Euros.

BMW 700 sport coupe (1959)

No illu yet
The tiny 700 coupe, for 700 cm3, was skillfully but unsurprisingly designed by Michelotti.

2 + 2-seater coupe.
Front rear engine - rear transmission.
2 flat cylinders, 0.7 Liters, 40 hp DIN @ 5200RPM. and N / M
0-100 Km / h: 13 sec. ; 1000 D.A .:; Max speed: 140 Km / h.
630 Kgs.
Length: 3540 mm; Width: 1480 mm; Height: 1270 mm; Wheelbase: 2120 mm
several thousands

With the Isetta 250, 300 and 600 series, BMW had proven that it could market quality popular carts. The 600, with its 4-seater chassis, could lend itself to a lighter and more elegant version. Also, the task of designing a small coupé fell to Giovanni Michelotti, the good Italian personified since he had previously cut his teeth with the biggest, from Bertone to Ghia via Vignale. BMW executives were enthusiastic about the result, who decided to launch production, including a 4-seater sedan and convertible. All are content with a boxer twin of 697 cm3 developing 30 hp, sufficient for peaks at 123 km / h ... Tiny and equipped with an improved motorcycle twin, the 700 sports coupe could gain its class in competition thanks to its weight / power ratio. Its handling was comparable to that of the Mini Cooper, which made it a great potential rally car.

BMW 3200 CS (1961)

This coupe was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, then working at Bertone.

4-seater coupe.
Front engine - rear transmission.
8 cylinders in V, 3.2 Liters, 2 ACL, 160 hp DIN @ 5600RPM.
0-100 Km / h: sec. ; 1000 D.A .:; Max speed: Km / h.
Length: mm; Width: mm; Height: mm; Wheelbase: mm

The 3200 Cs coupe was the last to use the house's V8, then in its final evolution. Less expensive and more livable than the 507, this vehicle was the new vector of the image that the Munich firm wanted to give itself in Europe. It was a relatively plush machine, well considered for the time in terms of its performance, which will be produced until 1965.