Historic Car Brands


A German aircraft engine manufacturer, called Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG, was formed in 1916 and was officially renamed Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) in 1922, after WW I. However the name BMW dates back to 1913, when the original company used the name BMW (Rapp Motorenwerke). 


BMW IIIa – Arjun Sarup


BMW’s first product was a straight-six aircraft engine called the BMW IIIa. Following the end of World War I, BMW produced motorcycle engines, farm equipment, household items and railway brakes. 

The company produced its first motorcycle, the BMW R 32, in 1923.


BMW 3/15 – Clayton Tang


BMW became an automobile manufacturer in 1928 when it purchased Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach, which, at the time, built Austin Sevens under licence under the Dixi marque.The first car sold as a BMW was a rebadged Dixi called the BMW 3/15. Throughout the 1930s, BMW expanded its range into sports cars and larger luxury cars.


BMW 303 1934 – Martin HansV


BMW’s first automotive straight-six engine was released in 1933, in the 303, which was larger and more conventional than its 3/20 predecessor.The 303 was also the first BMW to use the ‘kidney grille’ that has continued as a characteristic of BMW styling.

The 303 spawned the four-cylinder 309 and the larger-engined 315 and 319, while the 315/1 and 319/1 roadsters were built using the chassis of the 303 and the restyled 329.

The 303 platform was supplemented in 1936 by the 326, larger luxury car with a more rigid frame. The 326 was BMW’s first four-door sedan.

A shortened version of the 326 chassis was used in the 320 that replaced the 329, in the 321 that replaced the 320 and in the 327 coupé.


BMW 328 – Lothar Spurzem


Also in 1936, the famous BMW 328 sports car replaced the 315/1 and 319/1. Unlike its predecessors, the 328 had a purpose-built chassis and a unique BMW M328 engine that produced 59kW (79 bhp).

The engine was notable for its use of pushrods to operate inclined valves in hemispherical combustion chambers. Cross-over pushrods operated the exhaust valves.


BMW 328 six-cylinder engine – Lothar Spurzem


The 328 was highly successful in motor racing, with more than 100 class wins in 1937 alone.

The BMW 335 luxury car was produced from 1939 to 1941 and was built using an extended version of the 326 chassis with the larger BMW M335 straight-six engine.


BMW 335 1939 – Martin HansV


During World War II, BMW concentrated on aircraft engine production, with motorcycles as a side line and automobile manufacture stopped altogether. 

BMW’s factories were heavily bombed during the War and its remaining West German facilities were banned from producing motor vehicles or aircraft after the war. Again, the company survived by making pots, pans, and bicycles. 

In what became post-War East Germany, the BMW factories were seized by the Soviet Union. The factory at Eisenach  – the home of the Bach family and the monastery where Martin Luther translated the bible into German – was taken over by the Soviet Awtowelo Company that resumed production of the BMW 321 in 1945. 


BMW 340 1945-1955 – Seeteufel


A mildly revised 327 entered production in 1948, followed by the 340 in 1949. These were sold under the BMW name with the BMW logo affixed to them.

To protect its trademarks, BMW AG legally severed its Eisenach branch from the company. 

Many BMW factories in West Germany had been heavily bombed during the war and the Munich plant was completely destroyed. BMW was also banned by the Allies from producing motorcycles or automobiles. During this ban, BMW used basic secondhand and salvaged equipment to make pots and pans, later expanding to other kitchen supplies and bicycles.

In 1948, the Bristol Aeroplane Company (BAC) inspected the factory, and returned to Britain with plans for the 327 model and the six-cylinder engine as official war reparations. Bristol then employed BMW engineer Fritz Fiedler to lead their engine development team.


1948 Bristol 400 – Brian Snelson


In 1947, the newly formed Bristol Cars released the 400 coupé that was a lengthened version of the BMW 327 and even featured BMW’s double-kidney grille.

In 1948, BMW restarted motorcycle production and, in 1952, car production resumed in Bavaria, with the BMW 501 luxury saloon. However, it was expensive and underpowered, so, in 1954, the 501 became the 501A , with a price reduction and an upgraded version of the six-cylinder engine. 


BMW 502 V8


A new 502 flagship model was introduced, with BMW’s first 2.6-litre OHV V8 engine.

The range expanded downwards in 1955, through the production of the cheaper Isetta microcar, under licence. It was intended to be stepping stone from BMW’s motorcycles to its passenger cars.


BMW Isetta – Koosha


The 507 sports car was aimed at the lucrative US market and was powered by the lightweight V8 – now out to 3.2-litres – but proved to be too expensive. Only 252 were made and BMW lost heavily on its investment.


BMW 507 – Jagvar


Slow sales of luxury cars and small profit margins from microcars sent BMW into serious financial trouble and, in 1959, the company was nearly taken over by rival Daimler-Benz. A large investment in BMW by Herbert and Harald Quandt resulted in the company surviving as a separate entity. 


BMW 700 coupe – Charles01


The company’s recovery was aided by the BMW 700 small car that had a rear-mounted 697cc engine, based on the BMW R67 motorbike engine. The 700 was available as a two-door sedan, a coupe and a ‘RS’ model for racing.

The BMW 700 was successful and assisted in the company’s recovery, but the 1962 introduction of the BMW New Class compact sedans set BMW on the path of being a leading manufacturer of sport-oriented cars. The New Class had front disc brakes and four-wheel independent suspension that helped establish BMW’s reputation for sporting cars.


BMW 1500 – Michael H


In 1965, the New Class range was expanded with coupés and luxury models. The following year, the two-door version of the 1600 was launched, along with a convertible in 1967. These models began the BMW 02 Series, of which the 2002 sports sedan model was the best known.


BMW 3.0 CSL 1973 – Stahlkocher

The 5 Series mid-size sedan range was introduced in 1972; followed by the 3 Series compact sedans in 1975; the 6 Series luxury coupes in 1976 and the 7 Series large luxury sedans in 1978.

The BMW M division released its first road car – the M1 mid-engine supercar – in 1978. This was followed by the front-engined M5 in 1984 and the M3 in 1986. In 1986, BMW introduced its first V12 engine, powering the 750i luxury sedan.


BMW 840Ci – JanS


Under the possible heading of: ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time’, BMW purchased the Rover Group in 1994, but that soon resulted in large financial losses. In 2000, BMW sold off most of the Rover brands, retaining only Mini and Rolls Royce.

The 1995, the BMW Z3 expanded the line-up to include a mass-production two-seat roadster and the 1999 X5 was the company’s entry into the SUV market.


BMW Z3 3.0i 2001 – CarSpy


The first mass-produced, turbocharged petrol engine was introduced in 2006, with most engines switching to turbocharging over the following decade. The first hybrid BMW was the 2010 ActiveHybrid 7 and BMW’s first electric car was the i3 city car, which was released in 2013.


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