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.
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.
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”