By: Tyler Clark
Bavarian Motor Works or as most people know it (BMW) is one of the most prestigious automobile manufacturers in the world. But they didn’t get there reputation from most models, in fact it was the cars from the last two decades that BMW really got known for their automobiles. the history of the marque stretches back almost 90 years and contains numerous achievements that have established it as a benchmark. The origins of BMW trace back to 1913 when Karl Friedrich Rapp, a Bavarian who had been a well-known engineer in a German aircraft company. The company specialized in airplane engines however Rapp found that they were problematic and suffered from excessive vibration. Nearby, Gustav Otto, also an airplane specialist, set up his own shop, Gustav Flugmaschine Fabrik, building small aircraft. Because of the faulty engines, Rapp Motorenwerke secured a contract with Austro-Daimler, who was unable to meet its demands, to build V12 Aero engines under license. The company expanded too quickly, however, and by 1916 Rapp resigned from the company because of financial troubles. In his place Franz Josef Popp and Max Friz, two Austrians, took over the company. In March that same year, Rapp Motorenwerke merged with Gustav Flugmaschine Fabric to form Bayerische Flugzeugwerke. It was shortly afterwards renamed Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works), or BMW, forming the company we know today.
In 1917, BMW's first aircraft engine went into production, the 6 cylinder Type IIIa. In 1919, using an aircraft powered by its successor, the Type IV, Franz Zeno Diemer set an altitude record of 9,760 meters (32,013 ft). After the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the same year, prohibiting BMW from building aircraft engines, production switched to air brakes for railway cars. When BMW started once again to build aircraft engines in 1922, no fewer than 29 world records in aviation were set with them. The current BMW logo, introduced in 1920, was based on the circular design of an aircraft propeller. The first BMW motorcycle, the R 32, went into production in 1923 at the newly constructed Eisenach factory next to the Munich airport of the day. The R 32 used a flat-twin engine transversely mounted in a double-tubular frame producing 8.5 horsepower at 3300 rpm. The 2-cylinder 494cc motorcycle could reach a top speed of 59 mph (95 km/h). BMW manufactured 3090 of them during its 3 year life span. It was 1928 that made history in terms of the BMW car. Produced 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. The first Dixis used an open roof and were powered by a 743 cc 4 cylinder engine producing 15 horsepower. Top speed was in the neighbourhood of 50 mph (80 km/h). In 1929 a new improved version was launched, the DA2, which employed an all-steel body and 4-wheel brakes, and in 1930 the Dixi scored its first wins in motor racing. Total production: 18,976 units. BMW's first "real" car - went into production. The AM 4, also called the 3/20 PS, was the successor to the Dixi and the first production car to be built entirely in-house by BMW. The powerplant was a 782cc 4 cylinder unit which featured suspended valves and a double chain driving the camshafts, producing 20 horsepower at 3500 rpm and providing the saloon with a 50 mph top speed. The next year marked the introduction of the 303 saloon and the first BMW inline-six cylinder power unit. The 303 was also the first BMW to use the twin-kidney shaped radiator grilles, another current trademark. Using a welded tubular steel frame, independent front suspension and rack and pinion steering, the 303 was a benchmark in technological achievements. Its 1173 cc engine provided 30 horsepower and a top speed of 56 mph (90 km/h).
3 years later, in 1936, the BMW 328 was introduced. It was...