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1957 BMW Isetta
1957 BMW Isetta


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BMW History

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG
Petuelring 130
D-80809 Muenchen, Germany
Phone: + 4989/384-0
Website: www.bmw.com

BMW cars are considered to be one of the most luxurious and well-built vehichles that compete with the cars built by Mercedes-Benz and Porsche



The Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) was established in Germany in 1916 to make aircraft engines. Its logo still being used today is a three-blade propeller.

Bayerische Motoren Werke was fully a decade old before it built its first automobile. Formed by the merger of two aero engine manufacturers during World War I, the firm found itself casting about for a new purpose, when postwar strictures forbade the German company to make aeronautical components. Accordingly, the company branched out into motorcycle and heavy truck powerplants. In 1923 came the first complete motorcycle, establishing a pattern opposed cylinders and shaft drive that would characterize it for all time. The engines were also used in some small German cars. A few prototype cars were built using flat twin engines, but none reached production.

When real automobile production came, it was not with a BMW design but a concept imported from England. Purchasing the Dixi Werke of Eisenach, BMW continued manufacture of the smallest Dixi product, a license-built version of the Austin Seven. The BMW badge was adopted for these cars in January 1929, although Dixi remained part of the marque name for a further six months.

In March 1932 the Austin license was given up in favor of a larger BMW design. This was the 3/20PS Typ AM. It had a 782 cc engine, slightly larger than the Austin-based unit, but with overhead valves. A backbone chassis frame supported independent rear suspension by swing axles and leaf springs, and swing axles at the front. Bodies came from Daimler-Benz at Sindelfingen.

In the spring of 1933, BMW introduced the Typ 303, a 1,173 cc six with tubular chassis. The rear swing axles were replaced by a rigid member, while the front continued independent with transverse leaf spring suspension. The grille was "nierenformig," kidney-shaped, a hallmark that continues to this day. Up-to-date features included rack-and-pinion steering and hydraulic brakes. A Typ 309 four-cylinder car of 845 cc was also offered.

Growth was rapid. 1934 brought the Type 315, a 1,490 cc car, which was available in 40 brake horsepower triple carburetor tune. This was the first BMW designed by Fritz Fiedler, an engineer formerly with Stoewer and Horch. Fiedler would influence every subsequent BMW model until his retirement in 1964.

The 1936 Berlin Auto Show heralded an important BMW development, the 326. The company's first four-door sedan, it had a 1,971 cc, 50 brake horsepower engine, and was capable of 72 mph. More streamlined than earlier BMWs, its styling would set the pattern for the marque until World War II. Chassis was a new box-section frame, and torsion bars were now used at the rear. More significantly, the 326 begat several variations that overshadowed the parent model; the 320, a cheaper four-cylinder car, and the 327, a short chassis, two-seat coupe or convertible.

However, it was the sporting 328 that made the biggest news. The 328 had the same 1,971 cylinder block, but a new crossflow head with hemispherical combustion chambers and used short horizontal pushrods to operate opposed exhaust valves from the single camshaft. This gave twin-cam performance with less complexity and lower cost. A twin-tube chassis was used, topped with a two-seat sporting body. Top speed of the standard model was 96 miles per hour, but the renowned British driver S.C.H. "Sammy" Davis clocked 102.16 at Brooklands in a lightweight prototype. Higher compression and ported heads gave even better performance. A streamlined 328 won the two-liter class at LeMans in 1939, and the same car, part of a five-car team, won 1940's Mille Miglia outright. Just 462 were built through 1939, against nearly 16,000 of the "bread and butter" 326 cars.

After World War II and the partioning of Germany, the company was moved from Eisenach in East Germany and re-established in Munich.

In 1994 BMW bought the British Rover Group which included the MG and Rover marques.

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