BMW – The products

The Motorcycle for the Die-Hard Rider

It is said with pride that for a long time, BMW motorcycles were more famous than the automobiles and that they were compared to Triumph, BSA, Norton and Harley Davidson after the war. But oh, then came the Japanese flood causing the demise of most of the European manufacturers.

All except a few Italian ones … and BMW. Why?

In France, the motorcycle patrols of the Garde Nationale (National Guard) ride BMWs and are imitated in that in more than a hundred countries. But the orders of these “die-hard” riders cannot explain the production volume. At the end of the 70’s, BMW decides to develop the GS 800, a recreational machine to participate in the Paris-Dakar Rally. Success comes and proves that BMW has glamorously made the switch from a utility to a recreational motorcycle. The company is soon going to celebrate 80 years of motorcycle production.

GS 800 bmw

Incidentally, this longevity is explained very well in Munich. The motorcycle has twice allowed BMW a rebirth. It is logical that the car had to push the motorcycle somewhat, too.

The motorcycle department has attacked the Japanese on their favourite ground – the cycle for young people – and BMW has produced the F 650, the first “European” motorcycle (the engine is by Rotax; Aprilia is responsible for the assembly). This machine shows that the brand is able to compete in all areas.

F 650

Production of the F 650 can barely keep up with the demand, which proves that the goal has been reached: The motorcycle pays for itself and supports the image of BMW.

In 1999, the appearance of the C 1 hits like a rocket. This two-wheeler provides a roof (or: a survival cell) that protects against bad weather, and a seat belt. In other words, the advantages of a motorcycle without its disadvantages. All that for less than DM 13,000.

Once again, this hits the jackpot, and the order books are full.

A One-in-a-Million Car Mechanic

At BMW, the engine cult goes back to the first days of the company in 1917. The 30’s were rocking with the sound of the six-cylinders. Ten years ago, the company re-introduced the V 12 after 50 years’ absence. Not to mention the two-cylinder boxer and the current turbo diesel with direct injection.

Before BMW became a design engineer, it was an excellent metalworking shop. The style and the aesthetics of the characteristic engines contribute to the success of the models.

However, instead of racing to the bitter end which often leads to excess, the people from Munich bank on refinement. The buyer of a BMW demands an engine with a generous torque, to be sure, but it should also be quiet, pleasant and sporty. Primarily, however, it needs to be beautiful. BMW wins first prize here in every aspect, and the whole world cherishes the typical “Old World” engines.

The group accepts any technological challenges: The 750i (V12) uses no more than a six-cylinder of 1992, and the extremely abstemious 330d and 530d are at the same time the most powerful on the market for turbo diesels with direct injection. Continue reading “BMW – The products”

BMW Saga

Acquiring an engine factory on the eve of the 1929 crash could lead you to fear the worst.

Fortunately, in the 20s, Eisenach had bought from Austin the licence for a small English car: the Seven in England, the Bantam in the USA, Datsun in Japan and Rosengart in France. Germany christens it Dixi. It will be the first BMW.

Dixi_bmw

In 1927, the launch of the Dixi is perfect timing to save BMW’s independence.

But Emil Georg von Strauss, director of Deutsche Bank, dreams of merging BMW and Daimler-Benz. This is natural, since he is Daimler-Benz’s Chairman of the Board, BMW’s as well!

On April 15, 1926, a merger agreement is signed, defining the companies’ activities: BMW will build airplane and motorcycle engines, as well as a small-engine car. Daimler-Benz will make airplane engines, and Mercedes brand sedans. The wedding seems inevitable.

In 1929 Daimler-Benz dealerships showcase the Dixi and Mercedes side by side.

But the engagement goes on and on. At the end of six years, the parties get cold feet, and BMW launches its 6-cylinder 303 model. Daimler-Benz does not appreciate this breach in the contract.

In 1933, they both decide to regain their freedom. The divorce is announced before the wedding takes place!

The Reich über alles!

The 303 is launched in 1933, 11 days after the elections placing Hitler in power. BMW counts on the 303 to consolidate its technological advances, and to demonstrate its ambition.

The 303 bmw

This requires a distinctive mark. The “double kidney” logo appears for the first time in 1933; 70 years (and several evolutions) later, it still adorns each BMW’s bonnet. Produced in small batches, the 303 is elegant and prestigious, but its price rather steep. But it captures 5% of the German market in one year.

The company continues with its offensive. The 303 becomes the 309, then the 315 in various models: coupe, convertible, and roadster.

In 1937, the 328 is launched

On April 28, 1940, two men drive the 2-litre 328 Coupe Sport into the history books, by winning the most prestigious of road tests: the Mille Miglia. These men are baron Fritz Huschke von Hanstein (29 years old), nicknamed “the Racing Baron” and Walter Bäumer (32 years old). Their “Mille Miglia” Coupe 328 bearing number 70 follows all the racing stars, but in Brescia it stuns everyone by crossing the finishing line barely 9 hours later, having covered 1600 km with a remarkable average of 170 km/h! Although Hanstein (1911-1996 ) was able to rest on his laurels for a lengthy period, Bäumer died tragically at the wheel one year later, in his own driveway!

For BMW, these 1940 Mille Miglia races are a complete triumph, with 3 other 328 roadsters taking respectively 3rd, 5th and 6th places!

The 328 record list is impressive. It wins the German Grand Prix and the Coupe des Alpes in 1938, the Brookland Speed Trials in 1939 and the Australian Grand Prix in 1948! Continue reading “BMW Saga”