BMW has an enviable reputation worldwide which has been primarily based upon a car that has pleasant design, power, safety and comfort. The BMW’s handling prowess has always been evident throughout the model range. BMW’s history stretches back over 90 years and contains numerous achievements that have helped to establish it as a benchmark in the automobile world.
The birth of BMW traces back to 1913 when Karl Friedrich Rapp, a Bavarian aircraft engineer formed Rapp Motoren Werke in a suburb of Munich. The company specialized in airplane engines and Rapp Motoren Werke secured a contract with Austro-Daimler to build V12 Aero engines under license. By 1916, Rapp resigned, and Franz Josef Popp and Max Friz, two Austrians, took over the company. In March 1916, Rapp Motoren Werke merged with Gustav Flugmaschinefabrik to form Bayersiche Flugzeungwerke. It was shortly afterwards renamed Bayersiche Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works), or BMW. Perhaps we should all be thankful that Herr Popp and Herr Friz didn’t name their company after themselves the way that Daimler and Benz did – you’d feel bit silly walking into the average Sydney dealers and asking to see the latest Popp-Friz models…
In 1917, BMW’s first aircraft engine went into production,. In 1919, Franz Zeno Diemer set an altitude record of 9,760 metres (32,013 ft)in a BMW aeroplane. Twenty-nine world records in aviation were set with BMW. BMW’s famous blue and white logo was introduced in 1920 and was based on the circular design of an aircraft propeller.
Then BMW turned its attention from the air to the land: BMW’s first motorcycle, the R 32, went into production in 1923. This 2-cylinder 494cc motorcycle could reach a top speed of 59 mph (95 km/h) – this BMW was a real speedster of its day.
In 1928, at the Eisenbach factory, the Dixi 3/15 PS marked the beginning of BMW automobile production. It was built under license from Austin and was essentially the same model as the US Bantam and the Japanese Datsun. Its top speed was 80 km/h. , and in 1930 the Dixi scored its first wins in motor racing. In 1932, BMW produced the 3/20 PS, the first production car to be built entirely in-house by BMW. The next year marked the introduction of the 303 saloon and the first BMW inline-six cylinder power unit. The 303 was the first BMW to use the twin-kidney shaped radiator grilles, which are a feature of all BMWs you can see at the dealers today. In 1936, the BMW 328 was introduced, ready to take advantage of Herr Hitler’s new autobahns. Using a 1971cc inline-6 cylinder engine with three carburettors that produced a healthy 80 horsepower at 5000 rpm, the 328 could reach a maximum speed of 150 km/h. 462 units of this classic were produced in total.
In 1935 BMW entered the record books once again, this time on two wheels. Riding a streamlined 500cc compressor machine developing 108 hp and an amazing power-to-weigh ratio (282 lb curb weight), Ernst Henne set a world speed record for motorcycles of 173.7 mph (279.5 km/h) in 1937. It stood for nearly two decades.
After the Second World War, the company lay in ruins. Its factories had been destroyed or dismantled and a three-year ban on any production activities was imposed by the Allies in response to the production of aircraft engines and rockets by BMW during the War. The first post war model, the V8 equipped 501 luxury sedan was produced in 1951and did not even come close to meeting BMW’s expectations. BMW slowly began to claw its way back to success, introducing the BMW 507. More models followed, becoming popular from Munich to Melbourne. By the 1980s, BMWs were the success symbol, displayed proudly in the driveways in the wealthy suburbs of Sydney and Brisbane. Today, the Z3, Z4, Z8 and all of the 1, 3, 5, 7 and Motorsport series models continue the BMW tradition of building excellent automobiles with a special emphasis on performance, style and technological advancements. BMW has of course very successfully entered the four wheel drive market with the X5, X3 and X1 models too.
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