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History moves with us Mobile Tradition live Facts and background 2004 brings with it a very special anni- versary: 75 Years of BMW Automobiles. Few car manufacturers can look back on a more diverse and exciting past than that of the Bayerische Motoren Werke. From the simplest driving machines to top-flight sports cars, from small delivery vans to luxury saloons with 12-cylinder engines – in the course of these 75 years BMW has offered vir- tually every form of mobility on four wheels. The latest models of the new 6 Series, the X range and the forthcoming 1 Series ensure that this history also points firmly into the future. www.bmw-mobiletradition.com | Mobile Tradition | 75 Years ofBMW Automobiles Special | 2004 Marking the start of an exciting 75-year history: the BMW 3/15 PS. 75 Years of BMW Automobiles 1929 – 2004 Special Looking back on the history of BMW car production and its major milestones.

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History moves with us

Mobile Tradition liveFacts and background

2004 brings with it a very special anni-versary: 75 Years of BMW Automobiles.Few car manufacturers can look backon a more diverse and exciting pastthan that of the Bayerische Motoren

Werke. From the simplest drivingmachines to top-flight sports cars, fromsmall delivery vans to luxury saloonswith 12-cylinder engines – in the courseof these 75 years BMW has offered vir-

tually every form of mobility on fourwheels. The latest models of the new 6Series, the X range and the forthcoming1 Series ensure that this history alsopoints firmly into the future.

www.bmw-mobiletradition.com | Mobile Tradition | 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special | 2004

Marking the start of an exciting 75-year history: the BMW 3/15 PS.

75 Years of BMW Automobiles1929 – 2004


Looking back on the history of BMW car production and its major milestones.

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Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 03

A story of courage, determination and a commitment to the values and objectives that mark BMW out to this day: to build cars that are more than ameans to an end but have the power to stir emotions and convey the pleasure of motoring – from the very first car of 1929 to the latest 6 Seriesmodels. ba Walter Zeichner

75 Years of BMW Automobiles

This year marks the 75th anniversary ofBMW series car development and produc-tion. As such, the Bayerische MotorenWerke do not belong to the pioneers ofmotoring history, as many believe, but theydo rank among the most fascinating carmanufacturers in the world.

Barely another motor company canlook back on a more exciting and multifac-eted past. From the simplest of drivingmachines to top-flight sports cars, fromsmall pickup vehicles to luxury limousines –over 75 years BMW has offered the motor-ing world virtually every category and classof four-wheeled mobility. BMW did notbegin its serial car production until 1929. Itwas a time of straitened economic circum-stances, and seen from today such a moveseems both bold and visionary. Indeed,there were many sceptics who would haveliked to put a lid on this “escapade” as soonas the first BMW model series had beenlaunched. Many other such ventures weredoomed to failure.

explosion of new models, technologiesand ideas that has reached its currentzenith today. The fascination of this story isnot so much the fact that BMW has sur-vived at all, but rather the highs and lowsthat invite comparisons between the histo-ry of the BMW company and a human des-tiny. BMW has always been sports-mind-ed, has fought against superior opponentsin the competitive arena and the market-place, has had to suffer defeats, but hasalways found a way of surviving and ulti-mately turning its dreams and visions intoreality. BMW has always had a talent forbuilding cars that stir the emotions.

The world has never before witnesseda broader or higher-quality range of carsthan today, and never has the enthusiasmof the motoring world for BMW beengreater, as mounting sales figures haveregularly demonstrated for years. It has tobe something very special that makesthose cars with the blue and white emblemamong the most desirable in the world …

But in just ten years, during the decadeleading up to the Second World War, BMWmanaged the 0 to 100 km/h dash, as itwere, in record time. By the end of thisshort period of time, which had begun witha small car of distinctly fragile appearance,the company had turned out legends likethe BMW 327 Coupé and the 328 racingmodel, which have since evolved into carsthat countless enthusiasts today can onlydream of.

After 1945, BMW had to start fromscratch once more. It had lost its entire carmanufacturing facilities, and its coredesigners had scattered to the four windsor been killed in the war. Yet the company’srevival proved sensational. A plethora ofhigh-calibre cars alongside ingeniouslysimple vehicles such as the Isetta were toleave their stamp on the era of the eco-nomic miracle before BMW found its wayback to its intrinsic style in the early 1960s.

The rest is a remarkable, frequentlybreathtaking story of success, a veritable

Bonnet debut: the logo of the Bayerische Motoren Werke on a BMW 3/15 PS.


Page 02

Dear Friends of the BMW Group,

in 1929 the first BMW four-wheeler was built at a hired assembly plant. It was a smallcar that met the personal transport needs of broad segments of society. In 2004, 75years on, BMW is about to launch another innovative, compact car in the shape of the1 Series. In the intervening seven-and-a-half decades, the Bayerische MotorenWerke have turned out more or less every type of automobile that has ever appearedin the marketplace, from the microcar of the economic miracle years and legendarysports cars whose elegant lines still excite car aficionados, all the way to luxury

limousines driven by large, powerful engines. In BMW car production, the attribute “sporty”has been writ large from the very beginnings: the company’s path has traditionally led fromproduction car to sports car and from sports car to production car.The creative freedom of the engineers who repeatedly came up with and drove forward newconcepts even if they didn’t appear to suit the market, and the determination of the companyleaders to stay on course even through difficult times, have made BMW one of the world’smost renowned and reputable car manufacturers. Among the ranks of BMW’s products are many of the most famous and beautiful cars of alltimes. Our task is not only to preserve and cultivate this heritage, but also to use occasionssuch as this anniversary to vividly convey the continuity as well as the disruptions and upheav-als of the past. A number of brand-new photographs have been taken to reflect the theme of75 Years of BMW Automobiles, most of which can be seen in this special issue. The begin-ning of this success story is described in a new publication entitled From Vision to Success.The Development History of BMW Automobiles 1918 – 1932. There will be many opportuni-ties at many venues for you to join us in celebrating 75 Years of BMW Automobiles in suitablefashion.

Happy reading!

Holger Lapp

Holger Lapp, Leiter BMW Group Mobile Tradition

Responsible: Holger Lapp(see below for address)

BMW Group Mobile TraditionSchleißheimer Straße 416 / BMW Allee

D-80935 Munichwww.bmw-mobiletradition.com

Pictures: BMW AG Historic ArchiveRealization: von Quadt & Company

Publication details


1929 to 1939: the first ten yearsHistory and profiles: BMW 3/15 PS, BMW 328 Page 04-11

1939 to 1954: hard timesHistory and profiles: BMW 335, BMW 502 Page 12-19

1954 to 1972: on the offensiveHistory and profiles: BMW 507, Isetta, BMW 1500, BMW 2002 Page 20-33

1972 to 1988: new generationsHistory and profiles: BMW M1, BMW M3, BMW 750i, BMW Z1 Page 34-45

1988 to 2004: the road to the futureThe history of the most recent past Page 46-47

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BMW’s new two-litre sports car, the 328, by contrast, had a muchsmaller production run but enjoyed far greater popularity andfame. It was none other than BMW motorcycle world record-hold-er Ernst Henne who presented the new lightweight roadster withits 80 bhp engine at the Nürburgring on 14th June 1936, going onto win the two-litre class before a delighted crowd. From spring of1937, this sports car was also available to any private customerswho could muster the 7,400 reichsmarks it cost. It marked thestart of a racing success story unrivalled in its class. There wasbarely a race involving the BMW 328 that was not won by one ofthese two-seaters, generally appearing in white racing livery andwith trademark leather straps lashed across the bonnet. But it wason an international scale, above all, that this once-in-a-lifetimemodel made the breakthrough. The 328 won its class in the 1938Mille Miglia, as well as in the Le Mans 24 Hours, which marked thefirst appearance of a roadster and a coupé with ultra-lightweight,streamlined special bodies. With a BMW 328 Coupé fitted with abody by coachbuilders Touring of Milan, BMW ultimately tookoverall victory in the 1940 Mille Miglia – a sensational success thatremains unforgotten to this day.

Shortly before the Second World War, the BMW 335 cameonto the scene – the last car model for the time being to be pro-duced by the company. It was available in saloon and convertiblevariants with bodywork based on the 326, though driven by a 3.5-litre in-line six-cylinder engine. Generating 90 horsepower, this carmanaged over 140 km/h on Germany’s newly built autobahns. Nomore than around 400 models were completed before the produc-tion of cars for civilian use was halted on account of the war.

History 1929 to 1939

political changes were giving the economy a much-needed boostand encouraging the production of more cars. BMW quickly castoff its image of the small-car producer. Based on its experienceswith the new BMW 303, a number of attractive new modelsappeared in quick succession, moving steadily up the hierarchy ofcar categories. But it didn’t mean that motorists on a more mod-est budget were forgotten: as of February 1934, the new modelwas also available with the four-cylinder engine derived from theBMW 3/20 PS, at a not inconsiderable savings of 400 reichsmarkscompared with the more powerful version.

Barring minor detail improvements, the new bodywork withthe first kidney grille was retained until 1937. In 1935, for example,customers could choose between models with a 1.5 or 1.9-litresix-cylinder engine. Generating 34 and 45 horsepower respec-tively, these now gave a top speed of around 100 km/h, which wasample for the time since only rarely did road conditions allow forsuch speeds while keeping within relatively safe limits. Beyondthat, BMW buyers could choose from a wide range of bodyworkvariants, such as a saloon, convertible-saloon, convertible or two-seater sports convertible. Those in search of true exclusivity couldsimply order a chassis and have a special body of their choicemounted on it by a coachbuilding company. Such personalization– inconceivable today – was widespread in the 1930s, and numer-ous coachbuilders such as Gläser in Dresden, Baur near Stuttgartand Drauz in Heilbronn ran flourishing businesses.

BMW 328 – the legend

Needless to say there was also a new BMW sports car. The BMW315/1 launched in 1934 weighed just 750 kilograms and generat-ed 40 horsepower, making it a force to be reckoned with as a basicracing model. When it was joined by a new version displacing 1.9litres to deliver 55 horsepower, the foundation for a new successstory in BMW motor racing had been laid.

The year 1936 marked the inception of two landmark modelswhich would point the way forward for BMW’s automotive history.So far the company had offered albeit attractive saloons, but withjust two doors and rather confined interiors. Then at the BerlinMotor Show in February 1936, BMW unveiled an all-new modelfeaturing a spacious four-door body that already showed clear indi-cations of modern aerodynamic design – it was the BMW 326. Asin the case of the first BMW saloons of 1929, the vast AMBI-BUDDpress shop in Berlin provided the bodywork. Prior to that, BMWhad been collaborating with the Daimler-Benz body plant in Sin-delfingen. The new model, which also came in convertible variantsby Autenrieth in Darmstadt, turned into a big seller for BMW: by thetime its official production run came to an end with the outbreak ofwar in 1939, more than 15,000 326 models had been built.

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 05

By 1932, the initial BMW small cars were already being replacedby new models which no longer depended on the Austin licence.The Type 3/20 PS, built in Munich, had a markedly more generousbody, accommodated four adults, and boasted an engine outputthat had been raised from 15 to 20 horsepower. At the same time,the BMW designers were working on a completely new car des-tined for a higher category. The special feature of this Type 303,on sale from 1933, would be a small six-cylinder engine whichprovided 30 horsepower from a displacement capacity of just 1.2litres. It was the first model to be given the trademark “twin kidneygrille”, whose stylized version on the front of current BMW mod-els still lends them their unmistakable countenance. A modern,lightweight tubular frame design and precise wheel control madethis a small car with sporting flair and a certain exclusivity, despitewhat appears from our present-day perspective to have been amodest output of 30 horsepower.

The BMW 303 came on the market at just the right time, for

The history of BMW car production began with the BMW 3/15 PS, which marked its debut in 1929. In the decade that followed, BMW not onlysecured an increasing share of the market thanks to this car, but also steadily gained new customer groups with its ever-larger and more exclusivemodels. The high point of this development would be the unforgotten BMW 328.

1929 to 1939: the first ten years

Page 04

by Walter Zeichner

Historical records show that the first BMW car, a small Type 3/15PS saloon featuring a modern all-steel body, rolled out of the fac-tory in Berlin on 22nd March 1929. Yet long before this, cars hadbeen a subject of discussion within the company. Documentsgoing back to the year 1918 – when BMW was exclusively anengine manufacturer – contain entries indicating that an experi-mental vehicle must have existed at the time, all trace of which hasbeen lost, however. Soon afterwards, BMW began providingengine units for four-wheeled vehicles.

The first images of a test model then appear in the year 1926,when BMW designers Max Friz and Gotthilf Dürrwächter wereofficially commissioned with designing various prototypes for aseries production model. A range of cars took shape on the draw-ing board – models with four and eight-cylinder engines, as wellas a handful of prototypes which were taken out for test drives.

18 horsepower and 100 kilometres and hour

At the same time, BMW recognized that an affordable, qualitysmall car would have good sales prospects. A short time later, atthe end of 1928, the Eisenach car factory – which produced justsuch a car – came up for sale, and BMW made its move. The car inquestion, a Dixi 3/15 PS generating 15 horsepower, was a licensedmodel of the world’s most successful small car of the time – theAustin Seven. Given a new, modern all-steel body and furtherdetail refinements, this first BMW four-wheeler initially went intoproduction in March 1929 at a rented factory in BerlinJohannisthal. Soon, however, it was being turned out in a numberof variants at Eisenach. Although BMW’s automotive history beganduring the Great Depression, this small BMW four-wheeler madeits mark. The company now had a second, important foothold nextto its successful motorcycle business. In 1930, BMW was evenproducing a small sports car in a limited production run. Namedthe Wartburg, this was BMW’s very first roadster. Its 18 horsepow-er engine took it to a top speed of nigh-on 100 km/h.

A BMW test model of 1926. BMW 3/20 PS with room for four adults. The six-cylinder engine of the BMW 303.

1929: the first BMW 3/15 PS leaves the BMW assembly plant in Berlin.

The BMW 328 sports car at the start of the Hohensyburg-Rennen 1937.

Brochure for the 50 bhp,four-door, five-seater saloon326 (left) and the BMW logoshowing a BMW 3/20 PS(right). This image appearedin the letterhead of a circularsent out at its market launch.

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This model signalled the relatively late start of car production at the Bayerische Motoren Werke. Timeswere difficult, but the small BMW was a success – by 1932, more than 15,000 units of the BMW 3/15 PShad been sold.

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 07

Profile BMW 3/15 PS

Still popularly known as the “Dixi”, this small car with theofficial model designation BMW 3/15 PS DA 2 (DeutscheAusführung – German version No. 2) was the first pro-duction car to be built by the Bayerische Motoren Werke.After BMW had made an exceptional name for itself inaero-engine production from 1917 and in motorcycleproduction from 1923, it was high time at the end of theeconomically straitened 1920s to build the first car tobear the reputable blue and white emblem.

After various experiments and trials with prototypesbuilt in Munich, it was decided in 1928 to build an alreadyexistent and highly promising model under licence. Thechoice eventually fell on the Dixi 3/15 PS small car builtin Eisenach. This was itself a licensed model – a faithful

copy of the Austin Seven manufactured in England since1922. It was a small, simple vehicle with a four-cylinderengine and looked like a genuine car. The famous ModelT Ford had served as inspiration for this Austin model. Atgreat expense BMW took over the plant where it wasbuilt, the Eisenach car factory, which was part of theGothaer Waggonfabrik AG, and set about turning the Dixiinto a new small car that would display the BMW logo.

As time was of the essence – other manufacturerswere putting new small cars onto the market – effortswere largely focused on creating an entirely new body. Atthe time, Germany was witnessing the appearance of thefirst all-steel bodies using modern production methodsand built for several companies at the large AMBI-BUDD

BMW 3/15 PSHow it all began.

The BMW 315/PS, popu-larly known to this day asthe “Dixi”, was a robustsmall car with a top speedof 80 km/h. Shown here,the 3/15 PS DA 4 withswing axle.

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Page 08

Profile BMW 3/15 PS

body plant in Berlin. The first BMW wouldalso be endowed with a superstructure ofthis kind.

Modelled on the small Rosengart carfrom France, which was yet anothermodel built under Austin licence, a newall-steel body was developed. As the pro-duction site for this first BMW saloon,BMW rented a factory building fromAMBI-BUDD in Berlin. By March 1929 thefirst BMW 3/15 PS DA 2 models wererolling out of this facility near the oldBerlin-Johannisthal airfield, to be storedfor later distribution to BMW dealers. Itwasn’t until 9th July 1929 that BMW pre-sented its first car to the public. A high-profile launch ceremony in the new BMWshowroom in the centre of Berlin and afull-page announcement in the pressalerted the public to the new car. A shorttime later, production of a tourer versionbegan in the Eisenach factory, though itstill featured the conventional steel/woodbody construction with leatherette cover-ing. By spring of 1930, BMW had expan-

ded its range of small cars by further vari-ants such as a two-seater Sport model, atwo or four-seater convertible and whatwas known as the “express delivery vehi-cle”. About a year later it was joined by the18 horsepower “Wartburg” sports carmodel along with a coupé version.

Within a remarkably short space oftime, BMW had a wide range of small carsup and running that met the most diversecustomer requirements. In 1931, the DA4 series even allowed for technicallyrevised models, though the new swingaxle threw up a few problems which hadto be swiftly rectified. By the time produc-tion of this first BMW model seriesceased in spring of 1932, almost 16,000buyers had opted for the small BMW.BMW had thus defied the doubts con-cerning its “automotive venture” to estab-lish itself from the start as a car manufac-turer with serious credentials and onewhich – unlike many another newcomer inthose years – had promising prospects ofsurvival.

BMW 3/15 PS


Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

Top speed

four-cylinder in-line

56 x 76 mm

15 bhp at 3,000 rpm

three-speed stick shift

550 kg

cable-actuated inside shoe brakes

749 cc

2,500 reichsmarks

15,948 (1931 – 1932)

approx. 75 km/h

Profile BMW 328

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 09

Nürburgring – Nordschleife, 14th June1936, rain:

“Henne coaxed an awesome per-formance out of his new two-litre. Whatincredible acceleration! He’s off like amissile, down the long straight and intothe twists and turns of the Ring … this

sports car is proving faster than all itssupercharged rivals! With overwhelmingsuperiority Henne crosses the line aswinner . . .“ (Motorwelt commentary)

The designers, mechanics and con-structors in BMW’s Munich develop-ment department had had a limited

amount of time and money to create thissports car. They had to restrict them-selves to the essentials, and perhaps itwas here that the secret of this car’ssuccess was to be found. Within a shortspace of time, the BMW 328 woulddominate its class in an unprecedented

The BMW 328 set the hearts of car fans racing the moment it appeared on the roads. Its elongated bonnet secured with heavy leather straps, itselegant lines and its rejection of anything superfluous make it the epitome of the sports car.

BMW 328The legendary sports car.

The BMW 328 was an ingenious coup on the part of BMW’s designers. As time was at a premium, its design focused on theessentials to create a model that has come to epitomize the sports car per se. Thanks to its racing successes, the BMW 328entered the motor sport history books and was associated with such famous names as world record-breaker Ernst JakobHenne an Mille Miglia winner Huschke von Hanstein.

Thanks to its light weight, even 15 horse-power were sufficient to negotiate Alpine

passes safely.

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Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 11Page 10

The BMW 328 set the hearts of car fans racing the moment it appeared onthe roads. Its elongated bonnet secured with heavy leather straps, its ele-gant lines and its rejection of anything superfluous make it the epitome ofthe sports car.

they are now historical motoring gems ofinestimable value. These cars wouldcross the Alps under their own steam inadventurous circumstances to take partin the “Gran Premio delle 1000 Miglia”,the toughest car race in the world.

A total of 464 BMW 328 modelswere built between April 1936 andSeptember 1939. By 1940, they hadtaken part in 172 national and interna-tional events. The final tally: 141 wins,including legendary achievements suchas overall victory and the team trophy in

the 1940 Mille Miglia. After the war, thisrun of success was to be continued formany years, albeit under other names.Right up until 1958, sports cars werebeing created that owed their appeal notleast to the engine of the BMW 328 –even names like Veritas, Bristol andFrazer-Nash had, and still have, connois-seurs pricking up their ears on thataccount. Anyone privileged to drive aBMW 328 today is experiencing motor-ing history in one of its most sensuousmanifestations.

fashion, frequently even outclassing higher-performance rivals.One of the secrets of the new BMW two-litre sports car was sys-tematic lightweight construction.

The production model tipped the scales at little more than 800kilograms which, coupled with its 80 horsepower engine, made foran unrivalled power/weight ratio, ensuring rapid acceleration and atop speed of up to 150 km/h. At production launch in 1937, thelightweight roadster was one of the fastest German cars next to thepowerful Mercedes supercharged models.

There followed the special versions with Superleggera bodies.Here the 328 swapped its everyday outfit for a tailor-made suit fromItaly when a handful of beautiful and successful ultra-lightweightmodels were built. Pacesetters in automotive design of their day,

BMW 328


Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

Top speed

six-cylinder in-line

66 x 96 mm

80 bhp at 5,000 rpm

four-speed stick shift

830 kg

drum brakes

1,971 cc

7,400 reichsmarks

464 (1936 – 1939),including race models

150 km/h

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What did those who could afford it get for their money? Theyowned a car that immediately occupied a special status onaccount of its dynamic styling alone. Without drawing on thefashionable American design influences then so popular inGermany as well, and without harking back too much to thetried and tested styling of the pre-war years, as many a com-petitor did, the BMW 501 embodied an unmistakabledynamism and prestige. Popularly dubbed the “BaroqueAngel”, the first BMW to be produced after 1951 soonbecame a symbol of Germany’s economic miracle. BMW hadunquestionably taken a major risk in producing this model,but only much later did it become clear to what extent thecompany’s reputation was sustained in the face of all mannerof adversities thanks to this particular car.

Although there were many arguments against continuingto produce cars at this regrettably unprofitable level, BMW’sBoard of Management stuck to its guns and there were soonplans to broach new territory at a much higher level. Munichhad spent a long time studying the V8 engines built byAmerican motor manufacturers …

History 1939 to 1954

adverse conditions and considerably later than all other sur-viving German car manufacturers, BMW had made an asto-nishing comeback.

But it would be the end of 1952 before the first customerswere able to take delivery of their new BMW. In Munich, wherepreviously only aero-engines and motorcycles had been man-ufactured, BMW had to build a new car plant from scratch, andcrucial production equipment could not as yet be acquired.This meant that during the initial phase, car bodies were builtby the Baur company outside Stuttgart and sent to Munich tobe fitted onto the cars. Building each car in those daysinvolved a great deal of time-consuming and expensive man-ual labour, and it quickly became clear that BMW would notmake any profit from this model. Nor was the time really ripefor a car of this size. Most people were using bicycles (withmotor assistance), motorcycles or laboriously repaired pre-war car models. Those in a position to buy a new car were fewand far between. With a price tag of over 15,000 deutsch-marks, the big new BMW was clearly well beyond the pocketsof ordinary mortals.

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 13

In 1946, with a staff of just a few hundred, the company beganproducing items such as cooking pots and hardware made ofaluminium as a stopgap, with a handful of lightweight bicyclesto follow. When the authorities finally gave the go-ahead for ascaled-down production of motorized vehicles, BMW wasable to unveil its first new motorcycle, the R 24 with a 250 ccfour-stroke engine, in December 1948, about six months afterthe currency reform. Hopes slowly began to emerge of oneday being able to return to building cars again.

After initial experiments on a very modest scale with smallcars, which rarely extended beyond the drawing board,thoughts turned to BMW’s reputation for building sporty, ele-gant cars, and it was decided to continue that tradition. Onthe technical basis of the pre-war 326 model, plans and draw-ings emerged for a new BMW with four doors, a classic six-cylinder engine and a new-look, curvaceous body. BMWunveiled its secret model at the first Frankfurt Motor Show in1951, presenting an as yet unfinished prototype of the 501model. This big black saloon stood alone on the BMW stand,an impressive symbol of the fact that, despite the most

At the end of the Second World War, BMW appeared to face insurmountable difficulties. The production facilities in Munich were largely in ruinsand the BMW car factory in Eisenach had been confiscated and was now under Soviet administration. It would be 1952 before BMW was able toreturn to car production. The legendary “Baroque Angels” – models 501 and 502 – eventually paved the way for the company’s revival and beca-me a symbol of Germany’s economic miracle.

1939 to 1954: hard times

Page 12

by Walter Zeichner

Although car production in Germany came to a standstillbetween 1939 and 1945 to allow for the manufacture of warmatériel, BMW received special permission to continue pro-ducing cars on a small scale until 1942 for the German author-ities. Alongside this, the development of new models wasclandestinely pursued in anticipation of peacetime, which itwas hoped would soon come. Thus at BMW’s main plant inMunich, plans, drawings and prototypes for new cars based onthe 328, 326 and 335 models emerged. All these draftsrevealed a noticeably streamlined design and clearly reflectedthe influence of trends in automotive styling in the USA.

When the war eventually came to an end in May 1945,there was not the remotest prospect of resuming car produc-tion at BMW. For one thing, the occupying forces would notgive permission for such activities, and for another the BMWproduction facilities had been confiscated or largelydestroyed. The car factory in Eisenach was under Sovietadministration, and at the partially destroyed plant in Munich,machinery and tools were in the process of being dismantledby way of war reparations.

Chief stylist Meyerhuber and model-builder Schmuck with a scalemodel of the BMW 335 made in 1940.

1952: the first BMW 501 models, soon dubbed “Baroque Angels”.

Going through its paces: a BMW 501 test model during a dirt test inautumn of 1950.

1951: the BMW 501 premieres at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

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The BMW 335, which had its premiere in London in 1938, was the mostpowerful BMW of the pre-war era, its 90 horsepower engine satisfying the hig-hest demands.

Page 14

Moving into the luxury class.

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 15

By the late 1930s, BMW had become one of Germany’s mostfamous automobile manufacturers. Within just ten years theyhad managed to evolve from the producers of a simple smallcar under licence to an automotive manufacturer that offereddiscerning customers a wide range of sporty car models. AfterBMW had joined the ranks of luxury car makers with its 327Sport Convertible, soon to be followed by an elegant coupéversion, all that was missing from the portfolio of BMW carsfrom Eisenach was a large, prestige saloon.

At the turn of 1937/38, it was decided not to produce such

a car from scratch but to base the design closely on the four-door 326 model. At the same time, the automotive designdepartment under the management of Fritz Fiedler was relo-cated from Eisenach to Munich. To draw a clear line betweenthe new status car and the optically very similar BMW 326, thedecision was made to build a new six-cylinder in-line enginewith a displacement capacity of 3.5 litres. When completed in1938, the unit showed few similarities with the previousengines in terms of its design. The spark plugs were differ-ently positioned, the cooling system had been improved and

BMW 335

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Page 16 Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 17

Profile BMW 502Profile BMW 335

The BMW 502, sibling of the 501 that stillleaned heavily on pre-war engineering, intro-duced a true innovation in the form of the firstlight-alloy V8 volume-production engine inmotoring history. With this unit, the BMW502 was clearly targeted at the upperreaches of society and reflected the com-pany’s aspiration to return to the leadingranks of car manufacturers.

Return to the top echelon with a light-alloy V8.

With its BMW 501 model launched in1951, the company had impressivelystepped out of the shadow of the post-war years of privation, by which it hadbeen particularly hard hit. Yet the newcar’s powerful appearance could notdisguise the fact that, at least in itsengineering, this was no all-new prod-uct. It wasn’t until 1954 that BMWunveiled a genuine innovation in theshape of its sibling, the 502. One crucialinnovation was a completely newengine, hitherto unseen in Germany. Itwas a light-alloy V8 unit with a 2.6-litredisplacement and an output of 100 bhp.Following comprehensive preliminarystudies beginning in the early 1950s, afirst test engine was already undergoingtrials on the test stand in March 1952,long before the series-productionlaunch of the six-cylinder 501.

By mid-1954 the first productionengines were being turned out. Thepowerplant with its twin carburettoreasily produced an output of 100 bhp,and in trials with four carburettors itdelivered 150 bhp. With this V8 engine,BMW presented the first post-warGerman unit of its kind. Worldwide it

BMW 502

the underhead camshaft was driven bycylindrical gears rather than a chain.The engine effortlessly produced anoutput of 90 horsepower, making it themost powerful BMW production unit yetto be built.

In order to signal this increasedpower even when the car was station-ary, the designers extended the frontsection of the 326 by more than 23 cm,while a redesigned bonnet with verticallouvres served to differentiate it fromthe two-litre model. To demonstrate theinternational credentials of such a pres-tige car, the premiere of the new model

badged as the BMW 335 was relocatedto the London Motor Show. From 1934on, BMW cars had been offered for saleto the Commonwealth by an Englishimporter as Frazer-Nash B.M.W. mod-els, some of them featuring specialbodies made in England. 1939 saw thefirst cars being delivered to a few privatecustomers, but above all to governmentaddresses. Apart from the saloon withits price tag of 7,850 reichsmarks, therewas soon also the choice of a two orfour-door convertible with Autenriethbodywork to meet the most exactingrequirements. The open-top variant

came at a price of 9,600 reichsmarks,matching that of a contemporary Horchwith a V8 engine.

In the end, the outbreak of war andradical constraints on the production ofcivil goods put paid to any further suc-cess on the part of this “heaviest” BMWmodel of the pre-war era. Only a limitednumber of cars, commissioned by theauthorities, were produced up until theearly 1940s. In all, only around 400units of the BMW 335 were built, andthe few that have survived to this dayare counted among the rarest classicsin the history of BMW.

Two lovely sisters: the 501 and 502 had thesame bodywork. Shown here a 501, affectio-nately known as the “Baroque Angel”.

Only few motorists wereprivileged enough to sitbehind the wheel of aBMW 335 from 1939onwards. 90 horsepowerallowed for cruisingspeeds in excess of 140km/h on the new auto-bahns.

BMW 335 Saloon


Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

Top speed

six-cylinder in-line

82 x 110 mm

90 bhp at 3,500 rpm

four-speed stick shift

1,300 kg

drum brakes

3,485 cc

7,850 reichsmarks

233 (1939 – 1941)

145 km/h

The high-quality interior fittings and details of the BMW 335 exuded style and class. They finally helped the Bayerische Motoren Werke carmakersto carve out their niche in the highest automobile category.

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Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 19Page 18

Stuttgart. With a price tag well in excessof 20,000 deutschmarks, such dreamswere fulfilled by very few. But even salesof the saloon did not come up to expec-tations. More and more variations onthe 502 theme, with different enginesand various equipment levels, were pro-duced, and even the model designa-tions experienced three significantchanges within six years.

The BMW 502 3.2 Litre became theBMW 3.2 and ultimately the BMW 3200.At its highest performance level, theengine driving the 1961 3200 S gener-ated 160 bhp, making the car thefastest saloon in Germany with a topspeed of 190 km/h. It even left plenty ofsports cars trailing. But the days of thebig BMW saloons were numbered. By1958, production of the 501 six-cylin-der model was phased out, and 1963saw the end of the V8 saloon as well.BMW had long been successful in sell-ing modern medium-range cars, andthe era of the “dinosaurs” was over. Yeteven though these models never heldout the hope of much profit, BMW hadcontinued to build them. As a symbol ofthe brand’s strength in being able tooffer extraordinary products in difficulttimes, they maintained BMW’s prestigeat a high level even through the smallcar era.

The BMW 501 and 502 had very highspecifications, though it largely shunned1950s fashion trends.

The BMW 502 with its innovativeV8-cylinder light-alloy enginereflected BMW’s aim to join theranks of the most exclusive post-war carmakers.

BMW 502


Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

Top speed


74 x 75 mm

100 bhp at 4,800 rpm

four-speed column shift


hydraulic inner shoe brakes

2,580 cc

17,800 marks

12,896 (1954 – 1963)all V8 saloons

160 km/h

was the first example with an engineblock and cylinder heads made of lightalloy. To endow this prestigious driveunit with a suitable “housing”, the bodyof the BMW 501 was lent a more exclu-sive appearance. Additional headlampsmounted in the wings and a strikingchrome strip below the windows clearlyindicated that BMW was movingtowards the top end of German carmanufacturing with this model. Qualitymaterials and fine wood applications inthe interior also bore witness to BMW’saspiration to create a car for society’selite. On the bootlid, a large eightembedded in a “V” proudly proclaimedthe singular status of this model 502.

Buyers wishing to acquire the carand propel it along the as yet emptyautobahns at up to 160 km/h had to partwith 17,800 deutschmarks. A steeringcolumn shift and an ivory-colouredsteering wheel were a concession to theprevailing zeitgeist, but beyond thatBMW avoided any form of fashionableattributes. Just a year later, an evenmore powerful car was to follow. A 3.2-litre engine now provided for an outputof 120 bhp, and the car cost a mere fiftymarks more than the first V8, which hadalso come down considerably in price.At the same time, customers with high-ly individual requirements could orderspecial hand-built models in the shapeof a coupé or a two or four-door con-vertible. These collectors’ items wereonly available on commission from therenowned coachbuilders Baur near

Profile BMW 502

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modern V8 coupés with Bertone bodywork, badged as the 3200CS. It would take until the early 1990s before BMW returned tobuilding cars with V8 units.

To make it easier for a larger circle of customers to enter theworld of BMW, a new line of particularly compact and sporty two-door saloons appeared in the showrooms in 1966: they would goon to make history as the 02 Series. Based on the drivetrain andchassis technology of the New Class, this model series saw a rapidsuccession of further good-looking models whose appeal residedin attributes hitherto unseen in this class of car. Available in con-vertible and touring models as well, the 02 Series quickly turnedinto cult cars, a status they have maintained to this day. Highlightssuch as the immensely powerful 2002 Turbo cemented the lastingappeal of this series. With a total production run of more than800,000 units to 1975, BMW exceeded sales of all previous carmodels produced by the company since 1929.

Encouraged by the success of the new medium-range modelseries, BMW was emboldened in 1968 to turn to the production ofmodern cars for the upper echelons of the car hierarchy onceagain. New six-cylinder engines with a displacement capacity of2.5 to 3.3 litres and saloons and coupés with remarkably compactand sporty-looking bodies for their class also turned this particularsegment into a successful area for BMW again. It was in thoseyears that BMW laid the foundations for a model policy thatremains valid to this day.

History 1954 to 1972

into a financial fiasco for the company. Leaving aside the slowlystagnating motorcycle business, BMW seemed to be climbing toincreasingly unreachable heights for the company’s motoringdevotees.

Rescue initially came in the form of a bold move in the diamet-rically opposite direction. In 1954, BMW engineers in search of anurgently needed, affordable small car had come across the Isettabuilt by the Iso company of Milan. This comical, egg-shaped vehi-cle was striking for its extraordinary details, such as a front-open-ing door and an offset mid-engine, but also presented a persuasiveconcept for the time in providing a simple, cheap vehicle thatafforded protection from the elements. BMW acquired the licenceto build the Isetta and further developed the model in Munich inpreparation for its production launch in spring of 1955. Thanks pri-marily to its tried and tested single-cylinder, four-stroke engine,this BMW Isetta proved far superior to the Italian original poweredby a two-stroke unit. In the years that followed, the BMW Isettaemerged as a resounding success. By the end of production in1962, more than 160,000 models had come out of the BMW pro-duction plant. This lovable “bubble car” had won over a large fol-lowing thanks to its unique design, its quality and its affordability.

Since the mid-1950s, there were also plans afoot at BMW fora medium-class car, which was as yet sorely absent from themodel range on offer by BMW. However, the realization of such anall-new design for volume production lay well beyond the compa-ny’s investment potential. And so BMW resorted to using compo-nents from its motorcycle manufacturing programme to developsmall cars such as the BMW 600 and the BMW 700 series, the lat-ter evolving into a highly successful stepping stone on the way tothe new medium-range class. The Italianate bodies of these smallsaloons, coupés and the convertible were made unitary construc-tions – a first for BMW – and high sales figures helped the compa-ny to survive these turbulent times.

Thanks to the intervention of the Quandt family in late 1959,the route was marked out for the future survival of the company, itfinally became feasible to complete the development of the “mid-dle-class car”, which would subsequently enter the history booksas the “New Class”. This modern, four-door saloon with an all-new1.5-litre four-cylinder engine had its premiere at Frankfurt in 1961,marking the start of a radical realignment of BMW’s model strate-gy. In quick succession, BMW launched further, higher-perform-ance variants onto the market, followed in 1965 by attractivecoupés with two-litre engines and bodies built by Karmann inOsnabrück based on BMW designs. The last of the “dinosaurs”were built between 1962 and 1965 in a small production run of

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 21

featured more luxurious specifications to become the 502, the pre-cursor of a generation of very different, upmarket cars sporting theblue and white emblem. Principally with the aim of competing inthe expanding export market for sporty, high-class cars abroad, itwas at the same time decided to build the 507 sports car as well asthe luxury coupés and convertibles of the 503 series. Designed byNew York-based industrial designer Albrecht Graf Goertz and mak-ing its debut at motor shows in 1955, these models created aninternational stir on behalf of the Munich car makers. However, withtheir exclusive power units, generating 150 or 140 horsepower,their ravishing bodywork displaying a highly individual design lan-guage, and their sporty yet classy interior, these models remainedvirtually unattainable dream cars in Germany. For export purposes,too, it was really too late. British and Italian motor companies hadlong since established themselves in the exclusive US market forcars of this sort, and even the new engine appeared in a modestlight when compared to some of the heavyweights produced bythe competition. Even more so than the 501 and 502 series, thesebig, entirely hand-built sports models and coupés were turning

During this period, BMW’s model portfolio initially spanned opposite ends of the spectrum: the Isetta microcar and the BMW 507 dream sports carwere launched in the same year. Not until the early 1960s with the introduction of the New Class did a systematic, modern product policy emerge.

1954 to 1972: on the offensive

Page 20

by Walter Zeichner

Despite the difficulties and financial challenges the hugely appeal-ing BMW 501 brought in its wake, the year 1954 saw BMWembark on a concerted offensive that remains unrivalled in the his-tory of German car manufacturing after 1945. Even as the compa-ny struggled with the problems that arose during production of theBMW 501, BMW’s designers were working on an engine neverbefore seen in the world. Inspired by the example of America’s V8power plants, BMW produced its own eight-cylinder V-shaped

engine made of light alloy, itsdisplacement capacity of 2.6litres generating an output of100 horsepower.

Beginning in 1954, it wasmounted in the 501, whichremained largely unaltered but

Sketch of the BMW 507 from a sales brochure.

“…a motorcycle you can stepinto!” ran the caption of this Isettaphoto of 1955.

Not just well-built, but powerful as well: the BMW 2002 turbo was thetop-of-the-line model in successful 02 Series.

While the BMW 700 (shownleft in a 1950s advertisement)was still a typical “economicmiracle” car, the BMW 1800 ofthe New Class (right) promised“More power. More drivingpleasure. More safety” – attri-butes associated with BMWcars to this day.

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Profile BMW 507

The BMW 507 Roadster ranks among the most significant andvaluable cars in design history. From its inception, it was regardedas one of the most beautiful cars of all time. With a production run ofjust 251, it was a short route from rarity to coveted classic.

The design classic.

The years following 1945 proved more dramatic for BMW inMunich than for any other of Germany’s major car manufactur-ers. The entire car production plant in Eisenach was under

BMW 507 Soviet control and as such irretrievablylost. There could be no thought of build-ing motorcycles, let alone aero-engines,in Munich for the foreseeable future.The stopgap production of items suchas cooking pots, hardware, agriculturalimplements and a handful of bicyclessignalled a modest revival. But when thefirst motorcycle – based on a pre-warmodel – was proudly unveiled at the endof 1948, thoughts began to turn to newcars as well. Yet despite severalattempts, it was not a timely small carthat would be the first post-war produc-tion model to sport the blue and whitecompany logo.

At the Frankfurt International MotorShow in the autumn of 1951, BMW tookthe wraps off a large black saloon with astrikingly curvaceous body: it was theBMW 501, soon dubbed the “BaroqueAngel” for its sweeping curves. A mas-sive box-type frame and a six-cylinderengine with detail improvements com-pared with the pre-war power unit of the326 made this an imposing car, but not amodern or even typically dynamic BMWmodel. At the same time, however,attempts were made to design a V8engine which leaned heavily on contem-porary American designs but was con-structed of light alloy in a world first for

volume production engines. This 100horsepower engine debuted in 1954under the bonnet of the BMW 502, andat the same time there was talk of creat-ing a large sports car. Under the man-agement of racing designer Ernst Loof,a first up-and-running prototypeemerged. The bodywork lines were con-sidered too conservative, however, andit was rejected. On the suggestion ofluxury car importer Max Hoffman in theUSA, BMW was persuaded to engageNew York-based industrial designer andRaymond Loewy pupil Albrecht GrafGoertz. He duly delivered sketches for aravishing roadster. The first bodies were

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The BMW Isetta, a development of an Italian concept, became one of the most successful vehicles of the small carboom of the 1950s. The quirky design of this “bubble car” attracted a large following, and even today the sight ofthe Isetta sparks affectionate comments. It was the cuddly car for an entire generation.

Page 24

The economic miracle car.

BMW Isetta

eventually hand-built of sheet alumini-um beaten over a wooden form. By1955, BMW was ready to present a pro-totype of the model in New York’sWaldorf Astoria hotel. A little later thistwo-seater bearing the model designa-tion 507 created a similar stir at the1955 Frankfurt Motor Show. The sub-sequent development of these proto-types to production stage consumed aninordinate amount of time. Not until theend of 1956 was a 150 bhp variant ofthe light-alloy V8 completed, and inNovember of that year the first proudcustomer – a member of the highernobility – took delivery of a BMW 507.

For 26,500 deutschmarks plus anextra grand for an optional hard top, thebuyer received a sports car which,depending on the final gear ratio,reached speeds of up to 220 km/h andoffered a spacious interior as well as a

Elegant lines: the BMW 507 Roadster created by industrial designer Albrecht Graf Goertz is deemed by many to be one of the most aesthetic carsever built. Its 3.2-litre engine generated 150 bhp and took the two-seater up to a speed of 220 km/h.

body design that ranks to this day asone of the most beautiful of all time.There was nothing remarkable about itsengine performance, however. AMercedes-Benz 300 SL or Italian sportscars of a similar category clearly out-stripped this gorgeous roadster in theperformance stakes. As a result, the carfailed to make inroads in the perform-ance-oriented US market, while the OldWorld lacked the solvent clientele tobuy this kind of upmarket model.

By 1959, production numbers hadrun to no more than 253 BMW 507Roadsters, 251 of them with standardbodywork. Two of the chassis weregiven bodies by Loewy and Michelottirespectively. The majority of these leg-endary sports cars have survived downto the present and count among themost exclusive four-wheeled classics ofthe post-war era.

In the early 1950s, as the economic sit-uation began to improve, there was aboom in small motorized vehicles of alldescriptions. Bicycles were fitted withtiny auxiliary motors, dozens of mopedand motorcycle manufacturers sprangup, and – inspired by the legendary

Vespa – the motor scooter began its tri-umphant advance. In tandem with theconsiderable improvement in livingstandards, demand for the quality ofvehicles also rose and the call for“weather protection” gathered pace. Itwasn’t so long ago that riding a motor-

cycle, perhaps with a sidecar, was asource of pride. Now, however, the trendwas towards abandoning heavy, weath-erproof gear in favour of getting from Ato B with a roof over one’s head.

Within a few years this led inGermany alone to more than 20 manu-

Profile IsettaProfile BMW 507

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 25

BMW 507


Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

Top speed


82 x 75 mm

150 bhp at 5,000 rpm

four-speed stick shift

1,330 kg

drum brakes

3,168 cc

26,500 marks

253 (1955 – 1959)

190 – 220 km/h

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Profile Isetta

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 27Page 26

facturers offering a huge variety of bub-ble cars and small cars to suit everytaste and most wallets. Necessity andsheer inventiveness turned out somestrange fancies. Two passengers mightbe sitting one behind one another in aMesserschmitt, for example, or evenback-to-back, such as in the aptlynamed Zündapp Janus.

Although in the mid-1950s BMWhad returned to car manufacturing, aswell as having survived as a motorcycle

BMW Isetta 300 Export


Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

Top speed


72 x 73 mm

13 PS bei 5,200 U/min

four-speed constant mesh

360 kg

drum brakes

298 cc

2,860 marks

70,350 (1956 – 1962)

85 km/hHeading south: for manyGermans the Isetta was the firstpost-war cary.

producer, its large, expensive carswould only sell in limited numbers with-out returning any profit, while themotorcycle business had passed itszenith. As a means of survival it wasdecided – reluctantly – to take a highlysaleable microcar up into the produc-tion programme. This belated insightmeant there was no time for BMW toproduce a new car of its own, since eventhe boom in small cars would not lastforever in the further flourishing eco-nomic miracle.

And so BMW engineers set out totrawl all manner of motor shows insearch of a microcar that would be suit-able for production under licence inMunich. It led to the discovery in Turinof the extraordinary Isetta, built by theIso company of Milan, which had thusfar been successful in the field of cool-ing technology, as well as in the two-wheeled business. Despite its ratherunusual first impression with a front-opening door, laterally offset two-strokemid-engine and narrow rear wheeltrack, the BMW engineers neverthelessrecognized the potential of this egg-shaped vehicle. The noisy, low-perform-ance two-stroke unit was easilyreplaced by a smooth-running BMWmotorcycle engine, and at least in thistiny vehicle the occupants were able tosit next to each other as in a proper car.The front door was especially unique,opening as it did together with thesteering wheel and dashboard to enablepassengers, as it were, to walk right intothe car.

It took a certain amount of courageto opt for such an unconventionaldesign, but terms were quickly agreedand BMW took on the first specimenmodels for further development inMunich. When the first BMW Isetta waseventually presented to the press at theTegernsee lake in spring of 1955, it wasgreeted with great astonishment.Visually and technically, BMW had mod-ified and improved the Italian original innumerous small ways. Different head-

Egg-shaped and bristling with original features, the BMW Isetta clearly stood out from all other microcars. The BMW badgeinspired confidence and contributed to the Isetta’s phenomenal success.

lamps and a new engine cover hadtransformed the tiny body, and the 125cc motorcycle engine generating 12horsepower promised a touch over 80km/h. The general public received thecomical Isetta with great enthusiasm. Itwas an opportune time for unconven-tional models, and the car’s Italian flairplayed no small part in its success asthe first wave of travellers headed southto warmer climes.

In 1955, its first year of production,no fewer than 13,000 Isettas rolled outof the Munich factory. While the IsoIsetta recorded sluggish sales in Italy,production numbers in Germany rose toalmost 40,000 in its peak year of 1957.In the meantime, a “higher-perform-ance” version had been launched with a300 cc engine giving 13 bhp, a modern-ized body and special variants in theshape of a convertible, a tropical versionand even a micro-delivery vehicle. Nextto the Goggomobil by Glas, the Isetta“bubble car” became the most suc-cessful vehicle of its kind in Germany.There were even regional versions inEngland, Spain, France and even Brazilmodelled on the BMW Isetta. Hard tomatch in terms of its originality, theIsetta that BMW designated a“Motocoupé” remains one of the mostlovable witnesses to the motoring past.

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BMW’s pride in its all-new 1500 model, unveiled in 1961, could not be dis-guised. Indeed, BMW really did set new benchmarks with this medium-rangecar. It was a model that made the image of BMW’s large luxury models affor-dable for new customer groups from the middle classes. With the 1500, BMWtapped into a completely new market segment with tremendous sales poten-tial. This was also the model that finally enabled the company to make itsname as an internationally renowned car manufacturer. Its successful conceptwas perpetuated with a range of engine variants before being replaced by thefirst 5 Series in 1972.

Page 28

The New Class.

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 29

BMW 1500“In the history of automobile productionthere can be few models that have beenthe subject of such exhaustive discus-sion in public prior to their launch as thenew middle-class car by BMW.

In its car designs, BMW had tradi-tionally struck a very individual note thatcombined dynamic driving with therefinement of true motoring comfort,and matched timeless elegance – oneneed mention only the unforgettableBMW 327 – with exceptional drivingsafety. The large BMW eight-cylindersonce again proved and cemented thishigh standard in terms of top speed,acceleration, tracking stability, secure

cornering ability, roadholding and brak-ing ability. But they were in a price bandthat imposed a clear limit on their distri-bution right from the start.

The desire so often and emphatical-ly conveyed to the company to see a carin the medium displacement classendowed with such BMW credentialstallied with the task the engineers hadset themselves following the launch oftheir eight-cylinder model. And so theBMW 1500 looked back on a lengthydevelopment phase during which itsdesign, naturally enough, was continual-ly being adapted to ongoing technicaladvances. “A car in the BMW tradition,

however, has an obligation to be aheadof its time.” … Thus ran an excerpt fromthe press kit accompanying the presen-tation of the new BMW 1500 at the1961 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Indeed, a great deal of time hadelapsed since the mid-1950s whenBMW had realized the urgent need for amodern medium-range car andlaunched initial development work. Atthe time, however, the company was inno financial position to carry through aproject for the creation of an all-newmid-range car. Only when the Quandtfamily interceded in 1959 did the com-pany’s situation change.

BMW’s fascination with high-quality cars,long demonstrated in the luxury category,now focused on the BMW 1500, the new“middle-class” car. A mature design langua-ge and attractive details contributed to thecar’s success as much as its all-new engine,which propelled it to a blistering speed forthe time of 150 km/h.

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The Munich carmakers landed an extraordinary coup with their 02 Series. Partly built from tried and tested components, it waspractical and dynamic at the same time: a formula that turned the entire series into a sweeping success.

Page 30

Powerpack with success guaranteed.

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 31

fans of BMW classics of the morerecent past.

Frequently featuring typical 1970spaintwork, such as Golf yellow orColorado orange, these 100 bhp, com-pact four-seater models united the hall-

The BMW 2002 came to symbolizewhat was by far the most successfulBMW model to date, the 02 Series.From 1968 to 1975, the 2002 was anobject of desire for sports-mindedBMW drivers, and remains so today for

BMW 2002

The new “middle-class car” was even-tually conceived as a four-door saloonwith a unitized body, its design arisingfrom a collaboration with Italian stylistGiovanni Michelotti, who had alreadyplayed a major part in creating the bodyfor the BMW 700 small car. As for itsengine, eventually an all-new 1.5-litre,four-cylinder in-line unit was developedunder the direction of BMW’s “engineguru” of the time, Alexander vonFalkenhausen. It generated 80 bhp, tak-ing the car to a top speed of 150 km/h –an outstanding figure compared withthe competition of the time. While the1961 Frankfurt Show witnessed a pro-totype version, by the autumn of 1962the first production models were com-ing off the assembly line in Munich.

Soon the talk was of the “NewClass” – another genuine BMW at last!In the years that followed, this newBMW 1500 would constitute the engi-neering and design basis for an entiremodel series offering a range of differ-ent engines and equipment levels,including the basic racing model 1800TI/SA and the fuel-injected BMW 2000tii variant. The new coupé rangelaunched in 1965, featuring the 2000 Cand CS models, was based on the New

Class, and even the 02 Series unveiledthe following year was closely related tothe four-door models at least in terms ofits engineering.

For BMW, the sweeping success ofits New Class finally brought about thecompany’s breakthrough as a manufac-

turer of modern cars with internationalappeal. Although the original BMW1500 was only produced until 1964, theentire model series – almost identical inappearance – would remain in produc-tion until 1972, when it was replaced bythe first BMW 5 Series.

Practical and progressive: the instruments indicated that the BMW 1500 marked the inceptionof a “New Class” on the inside as well.

BMW 1500


Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

Top speed

four-cylinder in-line

82 x 71 mm

80 bhp at 5,700 rpm

four-speed stick shift

1,050 kg

front: disc brakesrear: drum brakes

1,499 cc

9,485 marks

23,807 (1962 – 1964)

150 km/h

Two popular siblings: the BMW 1500 and BMW 2002 laid the foundation for unprecedentedsales figures for BMW.

mark BMW virtues of dynamism andfunctionality to a far greater degree thanthe models of the New Class: they were“family carriages” and sports cars rolledinto one. What the two-door 1600model began for BMW in 1966, the

Profile BMW 2002Profile BMW 1500

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Profile BMW 2002

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 33Page 32

The circular tail-lights were one of the most striking details of the 02 Series, which also claimed major successeson the race track.

A BMW 2002 in a colour that typifiedthe 1970s – Inca orange – and sportinga striking array of extra headlamps.

BMW 2002


Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

Top speed

four-cylinder in-line

89 x 80 mm

100 bhp at 5,500 rpm

four or five-speed stick shift

940 kg

front: disc brakesrear: drum brakes

1,990 cc

8,400 marks

339,092 (1968 – 1975)

170 km/h

2002 raised to lofty heights. In early1967, two BMW 1600 two-door modelswere experimentally given the two-litreengine of the New Class. The “test driv-ers” were no less than engine designerand racing driver Alexander vonFalkenhausen and planning directorHelmut Werner Bönsch, who took greatpleasure in driving the two test modelson a day-to-day basis. BMW’s Board of

Management was initially somewhathesitant, but in the end sales directorPaul Hahnemann once again managedto persuade the men on BMW’s execu-tive floor that such a car could not fail tosucceed. He was to be proved right.

It wasn’t only the German andEuropean markets that were interestedin and ready for a fast compact model ofthis kind; above all the now buoyant USmarket could undoubtedly be enlargedwith this model, since the fastest two-door car until then, the 1600 TI, couldnot be exported to the United States onaccount of its unfavourable exhaustemission figures.

Already announced by BMW’spress department as a “powerpack”,the BMW 2002 in no way disappointedthe great expectations placed in it. Theprice of the new model, too, was a gen-uine sensation. Since all its compo-nents had already been tried and testedand were present in BMW’s “construc-tion set”, the 2002 went on sale with aprice tag of 8,400 deutschmarks. Forthe same price as a 90 bhp Opel Rekord1900 S, which took 16 seconds fromstandstill to 100 km/h, sporty BMW fanscould now acquire a four-seater with alarger boot that did the sprint in 10.7seconds flat. It now took a bona fidesports car such as a Porsche 911 or aFerrari Dino to leave a BMW 2002 trail-ing in its wake.

Not surprisingly, then, this BMW2002 became the symbol of an entire,highly diverse model series to which iteventually gave its name – the 02Series. In order to clearly differentiatethe new two-door model from the stillhigh-selling four-door New Class modelwith its two-litre engine, the 2000,

BMW came up with the model name2002, in which the last digit referred tothe number of doors. It wasn’t longbefore all model designations in thisseries, with the exception of the con-vertible, ended in a “2”. On account ofits superior performance, the BMW2002 had no need for ostentation. Itdidn’t even have a script badge on theradiator grille, only at the rear. With thismodel, the meaning of “understate-ment” took on a new dimension inGerman car manufacturing.

In its debut production year, BMWsold around 29,000 examples of the2002 model. Up until 1972, that figurewould steadily rise to almost 60,000units a year. Around 20 percent of thecars went to the USA in an unprece-dented export achievement.

The BMW 2002 as an emblematicrepresentative of the BMW 02 Seriesproved to be economically fortuitous toan unimagined degree. The benefitsthat came as standard with this model,and above all the phenomenal motorsport success story it was about toembark on, perfectly complementedeach other to make the BMW 2002 anobject of desire for an entire generationof performance-conscious motorists.

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bodywork suppliers again, leaving BMW to concentrate onthe engineering. Here too, BMW gravitated in the direction ofluxury and exclusivity while – true to the BMW ethos – ensur-ing that customers who wanted a sportier performance wereby no means sidelined. When the M635CSi entered the ringin 1983 powered by a 286 bhp engine with four-valve tech-nology derived from the M1, the meaning of “gran turismo”was dramatically redefined in Germany. Bristling with all theluxury attributes of the day, the M635CSi became a hot tip foranyone hankering after a luxury coupé with a genuine high-performance engine. With a price tag of around 100,000deutschmarks, this experience was denied to all but a few,which explains why this particular BMW has already joined theranks of rare collectors’ cars.

In 1977, the first BMW 7 Series (E 23) rounded off thisunparalleled BMW model offensive during the 1970s. Closelymodelled on the 6 Series in style, the first 7 Series models –driven exclusively by straight-six engines with between 170and 252 bhp – provided considerably more interior space andoverall comfort than their very compact predecessors. Thetop-of-the-range BMW 745i was the first car of its class tofeature an engine with an exhaust turbocharger.

Unforgotten: the BMW M1 super sports car

The most extraordinary car of that particular era of BMW his-tory, however, was the now legendary mid-engine M1 sportsmodel. In collaboration with Italian sports car buildersLamborghini and several other partners, BMW unveiled itssurprise high-performance car in Paris in 1978. It was a modelthat could self-confidently assert itself in circles previouslydominated by the products emanating from well-knownnorthern Italian factories. Following a very limited series ofstreet versions of the M1, this story was destined to come toan early end in 1981, but the spectacular racing events of theM1 Procar series remain unforgotten to this day.

History 1972 to 1988

code name of E 21, would soundly break all previous salesrecords of BMW cars up to the end of its production in 1983.With sales of 1.36 million examples, the company crossed themagical million threshold for the first time in its history.Compared to the 02 models, the first BMW 3 Series cars weremuch more comfortably designed, while the addition of sev-eral six-cylinder models to the range also appreciably raisedthe company’s prestige in this class. For those in search of aparticularly exclusive car, there was the possibility of acquir-ing a so-called “Topcabriolet” from Baur of Stuttgart. Fixedwindow frames and a roll bar ensured that the requisite safe-ty standards were met, and the entire spectrum of BMW 3Series engines was available. The Stuttgart coachbuilderswould go on to produce modified open-top versions of theBMW 3 Series range well into the 1990s.

Year on year further model series made their appearance,starting with the large coupés of the 6 Series. Finally, in 1977,by way of capping the range, the 7 Series was launched. Aswith the previous six-cylinder coupés, Karmann were the

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 35

1972 – the year of the Munich Olympics. In the years to come,BMW 5 Series customers could choose between four and six-cylinder engines generating an output from 90 to 218 bhp.

1979 saw the launch of the BMWM1 super sports car and the firstBMW saloon on general sale toinclude the letter “M” in itsmodel designation: since then ithas been an unmistakable hall-mark of all BMW models endeav-ouring, through this “most pow-erful letter in the world”, to showthat their engineering is closelyakin to that of the brand’s racemodels.

Three years after the first 5Series was launched, the highlysuccessful 02 Series was alsoreplaced by models featuring thenew-look styling. This new BMW3 Series, known by the internal

In the early 1970s, BMW ushered in a new model policy which has essentially remained in place to this day. The company introduced a systema-tic scheme of model series, each designated by a number. It began with the 5 Series, which was followed by the incredibly successful 3 Seriesrange, the exclusive coupés of the 6 Series, and finally, in 1977, the first models of the 7 Series. It was an era that also saw the inception of the Mvariants and the launch of the legendary BMW M1.

1972 to 1988: new generations

Page 34

by Walter Zeichner

With the introduction of the first 5 Series range in the early1970s, BMW launched a model offensive that was unprece-dented in the company’s history. Within just five years, theentire spectrum of BMW cars wasredefined and fitted into a schemeto which BMW has remained large-ly faithful to this day. It even left suf-ficient latitude to develop a sportscar of the calibre of the BMW M1.

The first BMW 5 Series, whichmarked the start of BMW’s numeri-cal series designation, distin-guished itself chiefly through an all-new design that would point theway ahead for BMW styling formany years to come. BMW’s chiefdesigner, Paul Bracq, was responsi-ble for the new, angular lines of theBMW 5 Series models that createdsuch a stir alongside the BMWTurbo concept also unveiled in Sporty motoring in many variants: a 1977 3 Series. 3 Series: the most successful BMW to date. 7 Series: launched in 1977.5 Series: introducing a new model policy.

BMW struck out in an unusual direction with the BMW M1, a racingmodel also designed for road use.

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The BMW M1 took shape from a brief to build a roadworthy sports racer. During its development and production,BMW took number of risks, but in the end a car was born which has lost none of its fascination to this day thanksto its engine performance, handling characteristics and highly distinctive design. When production was phasedout in February 1981, a total of 456 units had been built, including the racing versions. Above all its involvement inthe Procar Series racing events, specially designed for the M1, will remain unforgotten.

Page 36

For the race track and the road –a bold experiment.

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 37

Profile BMW M1


In the late 1970s, the BMW M1 sportscar ranked among the fastest of its kindin the world, and to this day it radiatesthe kind of fascination that turns carsinto classics and makes a mockery ofany deliberations on their measurableeconomic success.

Jochen Neerpasch, previouslyFord’s successful race manager andfrom May of 1972 the managing directorof the newly founded BMW MotorsportGmbH, returned to the task of creating athoroughbred sports racer in 1975. Theenergy crisis and the attendant throt-tling of both engine power and advertis-ing activity was almost forgotten, andthere was a new explosion of perform-

ance in the world of car manufacturing.The Porsche 911 and Ford Capri werenow the chief rivals to be vanquished onthe race track.

Once the E 26 project was given thego-ahead, the problem was how to com-plete development and production ofthis all-new model in the time thatremained. Due to insufficient capacity,BMW was forced to take the risky stepof commissioning outside companieswith crucial construction tasks. Anuncertain adventure was on the cards. Inlate 1975, BMW commissioned theItalDesign company, whose design chiefwas Giorgetto Giugiaro, with creating abody for the intended super sports car.

The rest of the car, with the exception ofthe engine which naturally had to comefrom BMW, was to be built at the world-famous sports car factory of FerruccioLamborghini in close collaboration withthe specialists at BMW Motorsport.

Needless to say, the heart of thenew M1 had to bear the signature of theBMW engineers. A team led by enginespecialists Paul Rosche and MartinBraungart were given the task of provid-ing the new sports car with a superiorpower unit that was suitable not just forthe road but above all for the race trackas well. In the end, it was decided toupgrade the new 3.5-litre six-cylinderengine as used in the 635CSi Coupé.

A super sports car down to the last detail: the BMW M1never disguised its racing heritage. It was the only BMW

with two logos on the tailgate.

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Profile BMW M3

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 39Page 38

With the M3 BMW finally made the economic breakthrough with itsultra-sporty models. The 5,000 units required for homologation pur-poses were easily sold, encouraging BMW to produce more andmore M3-based versions, some in very limited editions.

The sporty success formula.

BMW M3 The M3 was derived from the BMW 3 Series E 30 rangeintroduced in 1982 and marked the dazzling start of anextraordinary success story which continues undimin-ished to this day.

The M3 unveiled in Mugello in 1986 was the latest,emphatically sporty, top-of-the-line BMW 3 Seriesmodel. This street sports car boasted a 195 bhp/143 kWengine (200 bhp/147 kW without a catalytic converter)with a cylinder head featuring four-valve technology. Itsbody sported muscular flared wheel arches, door sillsand a front and rear apron. It was in every way geared to

But the “tuning” job turned out to be farmore extensive than anticipated. Onlythe cylinder block could be taken overfrom the production engine. A dividedcylinder head with four-valve technologyhad to be developed from scratch.Furthermore, the new engine – namedthe M 88 – was given a Kugelfischermechanical fuel injection system anddry sump lubrication. The final resultwas 277 bhp/204 kW for the street ver-sion.

But the joint venture withLamborghini ran into problems, and newpartners had to be sought. One of thesewas BMW’s longstanding collaboratorBaur, who had developed a number ofspecial models for BMW at their premis-es outside Stuttgart. With their custom-ary meticulousness, the Swabiansimplanted the “heart” into the newsports car in the shape of the power unitsupplied by BMW Motorsport. Thebrakes, wheel suspensions, pedals,steering column and all the other com-ponents were similarly installed by Baur.Only after painstaking fine-tuning, align-ment and test drives were the complet-ed M1 models delivered to BMWMotorsport, where they underwent afinal inspection before being taken to aspecial showroom ready to be present-ed to their customers.

The official debut of the M1 at the

Paris Motor Show in October 1978 cre-ated a stir among fans of high-calibresports cars, but it wasn’t until February1979 that the first customer was able totake delivery of his BMW M1. All thoseinvolved in Project E 26 had succeededin creating a highly impressive sportscar. Even when parked, the M1 emanat-ed supreme dynamism. Less than sixseconds for the standstill to 100 km/hsprint and barely more than 20 secondsfrom 0 to 200 km/h were figuresmatched by no more than a handful ofcars worldwide. The suspension sys-tem, designed with the 470 bhp Group 4M1 models in mind, coped easily withthe kind of braking, acceleration and lat-eral acceleration forces associated withthe race track. Steering was commen-surately high-geared and had no servoassistance in the interests of improvedroad grip. Yet the M1 driver did not haveto forgo comfort features such as airconditioning, electric window lifts and asteering wheel with axial adjustment.The cost of the street version was113,000 deutschmarks.

Yet the high hopes placed in the rac-ing career of the M1 would be only par-tially fulfilled. Too much time had beenspent on development work, making itimpossible to keep within schedule forGroup 4 homologation. But whatremained for the public to enjoy was the

Procar racing series specially devisedfor the M1. In early February 1981, final-ly, the last two M1 models out of a totalproduction run of 456 – including therace versions – were completed at theBaur assembly plant. Uniquely in thehistory of the brand, each M1 displayedthree BMW logos – symbolizing theutterly unique status of this tamed driv-ing machine.

The BMW M1 has remained unforgotten in motor racing, particularly for its involvement in the Procar racing series that was conceived for thismodel and contested by Formula One drivers in identical models.

BMW M1 (production model)


Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

Top speed

six-cylinder in-line

93,4 x 84 mm

277 bhp at 6,500 rpm

five-speed stick shift

1,300 kg

disc brakes

3,453 cc

113,000 marks

399 (1978 – 1981)

262 km/h

Profile BMW M1

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Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 41Page 40

and a concept was quickly devised.Unlike the mid-engine sports car, theM3 was not to be a hand-built limitededition but a volume-production car offthe assembly line. It was earmarked fortouring car racing, which involved carsin near-standard production trim. Moreprecisely, it was to be a Group A racingcar, defined as a “production car”according to Annex J of the internation-al motor sport regulations, which stipu-lated that at least 5,000 units be builtwithin twelve consecutive months.

The 2.3-litre four-cylinder in-lineengine of the M3 was a synthesis of the

motor racing, and thus became theunofficial successor to the M1. In com-mon with the M1, the new M3, as a pro-duction car, was already fitted with allthe technical armoury to make it apromising motor sport model. TheBMW M3 wasn’t simply a higher-per-formance 3 Series, but an independentvehicle concept based on the 3 Series.It was the first BMW to be developed byBMW Motorsport GmbH and to go intoseries production at BMW AG.

In summer of 1981, the idea ofusing the new 3 Series as a basis for asuccessor to the M1 came to fruition,

“The most powerful letter in the world”: thesuccess of the M Series has continued intothe present – in motor racing as well.

BMW M3 (E30)


Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

four-cylinder in-line

93,4 x 84 mm

200 bhp at 6,750 rpm

five-speed stick shift

1,200 kg

disc brakes

2,302 cc

58,000 marks

17,184 (1986 – 1990)

235 km/h

experience gleaned from racing andinsights into production engine design.The cylinder head with four-valve tech-nology was clearly related in design tothat of the M1 engine.

A four-cylinder engine was chosenbecause the shorter crankshaft com-pared to a six-cylinder unit promisedhigher engine speed reserves. Keenattention was also given to the chassis,which received a special, lower set-upwith a new front axle geometry, moredirect power steering and a high-per-formance braking system with ABS. Itall made for performance (0–100 km/h

in 6.7 seconds, top speed 235 km/h)that was unmatched worldwide in thisvehicle class.

Despite its basic price of a substan-tial 58,000 deutschmarks, the 5,000 M3production units required for homologa-tion purposes were easily sold withinthe requisite period of time, and the M3race versions were able to embark ontheir now legendary career in touringcar racing. Inciting special interestamong fans of exceptional sports carswere several special editions of theBMW M3, usually limited to around 500units, such as the “Evolution”, “Sport

Evolution” and “Cecotto”, which arealready sought-after today as absoluterarities. 1988 saw the appearance of anM3 convertible variant with highly exclu-sive specifications, which saw a pro-duction run of just 786.

In the light of the sweeping successof this, the sportiest of all BMW 3 Seriesmodels, it comes as no surprise thatBMW went on to reinterpret the M3 forthe subsequent E 36 and E 46 3 Seriesranges. Only recently, the BMW M3CSL was launched as a particularlydynamic and technically intriguing ren-dition of the now classic M3 theme.

Profile BMW M3

Top speed

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the most beautiful automobiles of alltime. Then things went quiet at BMW onthe roadster design front. The companywas going through a phase of realign-ment and had to produce successfulhigh-volume cars in order to create afresh, healthy foundation on which newroadster models could be evolved as well.

In 1985, BMW Technik GmbH wasset up as a small think tank with the aimof developing forward-looking productsand processes. With a staff of just 60 or

cesses in Le Mans and the Mille Migliaare vividly remembered.

After the Second World War, theBMW 507 Roadster caused an interna-tional sensation and many regard this lim-ited-production V8 sports car as one of

The BMW Z1 was an impressive continuation of BMW’s great roadster tradition and featured a raft of technical innovations, a high-performanceengine, a monocoque-style unitary frame, retractable doors, plastic body panels and a specially developed Z axle. Only the engine stemmed fromthe volume-produced 325i.

Page 42

Innovative roadster of the 1980s.

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 43

Profile BMW Z1

with six-cylinder engines and attractivebodywork that ranked them among themost desirable models of their kind inGermany. With its celebrated BMW 328Roadster, finally, BMW created a legendof international motor sport whose suc-

Since BMW’s very first roadster, the“Wartburg”, was launched in 1930, theroadster theme has always been afavourite of the Bavarian car manufactur-ers. The 1930s saw the appearance ofthe 315/1 and 319/1, open sports cars

BMW Z1 Roadsters had been a speciality of the Munich carmakers since the early days.With the Z1 launched in the 1980s, BMW created an extremely innovativeconcept that has lost none of its appeal and fascination.

so top-flight specialists, the team hadby 1987 already come up with a near-complete test model for a highly mod-ern BMW roadster. In its design, BMWhad struck out on entirely new paths.The two-seater featured a monocoque-type unitary construction frame made ofnon-corroding sheet steel, while thebody was made of recyclable thermo-plastic components. A particularly eye-catching feature of the very progres-sive-looking body were the integrated,electrically retractable side panels thatreplaced conventional doors.

Only the engine came “off theshelf”. The decision was made to givethe car the 170 bhp six-cylinder produc-tion engine of the BMW 325i, whichpropelled the roadster – known by theinternal development code name “Z” –to a top speed in excess of 220 km/h.One year after its press launch, whichhad triggered keen public interest themodel went into series production.

At the Geneva Motor Show in March1988, the production version of thisinnovative sports car concept was final-ly unveiled before the public. The skill ofthe engineers had lain in taking readyunits from BMW’s existing range andintegrating them in the roadster con-cept. Thus the 170 bhp six-cylinderengine of the 325i was also selected forthe production Z1 as it matched thegeneral character of the roadster partic-ularly well. It was mounted behind thefront axle, making the Z1 a so-called“front mid-engine” car. It made the clas-sic standstill to 100 km/h dash in lessthan eight seconds and clocked animpressive top speed of 227 km/h. Itspower was conveyed via a five-speedgearbox in a fixed transaxle tube to therear axle. The sporty suspension con-sisted of a spring-strut front axle takenfrom the 3 Series and an all-new Z rearaxle, with disc brakes on all four wheelsas standard. The interior trim andcolours were designed entirely to matchthe character of this modern roadster.Initially, there was a choice of just fourcolours specially selected for the Z1:

black metallic, green metallic, yellowand red. The driver and passenger sat insports seats specifically developed forthe Z1, while the instruments werepared down to the essentials in the truespirit of the classic roadster, thoughwithout appearing overly spartan.

In January 1989, the first Z1Roadster models, largely hand-built,were delivered to customers. A basicprice tag of 83,000 deutschmarksensured their long-term exclusivity, andeven special accessories weredesigned and manufactured for Z1 driv-ers. Production of the BMW Z1 ended inJune 1991 after 8,000 units had left thefactory. Today, thanks to its limited pro-duction figures, its fascinating conceptand, not least, the high levels of drivingpleasure it provides, the Z1 countsamong the recent classics in the historyof BMW automobiles.



Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

Top speed

six-cylinder in-line

84 x 75 mm

170 bhp at 5,800 rpm

five-speed stick shift

1,180 kg

disc brakes

2,494 cc

83,000 marks

8,000 (1988 – 1991)

227 km/h

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Page 44

Luxury saloon with impressive engineperformance from 12 cylinders.

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 45

BMW 750i

With the introduction of the new 7Series (E 32 line), BMW made, as itwere, a quantum leap in the bid for suc-cess in the luxury saloon category. The7 Series had a very compact, evensporty appearance compared to itscompetitors, and blended dynamism,modernity and prestige in a way rarelyseen in this class.

The BMW 7 Series positioned the company firmly in the automotive luxury class. Thiswas enduringly demonstrated by the BMW 750i, whose 12-cylinder engine put allother rivals in the shade and revived a tradition that had last been seen in Germany’smotoring industry back in the 1930s. Equipment levels and engine performance leftnothing to be desired, with many a sports car struggling to keep pace with this spee-dy saloon. With such impressive specifications it comes as no surprise that the 750iwas a big seller despite its hefty price tag: more than 48,500 short and long-wheelba-se versions of this luxury saloon left the factory.

Just ten months after this impressivelaunch, BMW unveiled the 750i, a carthe likes of which Germany had notseen since the 1930s – a 12-cylinder.The two model variants, the 750i andthe 750iL with a wheelbase extended bysome 12 cm, were in every respect in aclass of their own.

Naturally the new BMW flagshipcould not deny its close kinship with itssix-cylinder counterpart. But it wasmainly the extended range of standardfittings that revealed the subtle differ-ence in visual terms alone. Full Nappaleather upholstery in a choice of sevencolours, electrically adjustable frontseats with memory function in the750iL, electrically adjustable rear head-rests and seats, automatic climate con-trol, an infrared locking system, cruisecontrol and self-levelling suspensionleft no gaps in the luxury attributes ofthe 750i. There were many luxury-classsaloons on the road, of course, but thenew 12-cylinder engine ensured thatthe BMW 750i stood out from the crowdof four-wheeled status symbols.

Identifiable by its very discreet exte-rior featuring a broader “kidney grille”and a wider scoop on the bonnet, aswell as angular rather than roundexhaust pipes, it was only with theengine compartment lid open that thefull glory of this pinnacle of engine

design was revealed to the owner of aBMW 750i. The BMW V12 had beenconceived with the aim of combiningthe highest standards in performance,compact design, fuel economy andemission levels. The result occupied aleading position in the internationalarena. The brief had been fulfilled

thanks to the use of cutting-edge tech-nologies and the systematic implemen-tation of innovative ideas. Tipping thescales at just 240 kg, the 5-litre V12unit set a benchmark in terms of itsweight alone. An output of 300 bhp/220kW at 5,200 rpm and peak torque of 450Nm at 4,100 rpm surpassed similar

engine concepts in the market. Despitean overall weight of at least 1,800 kg,the cosseted passengers in the BMW750i were propelled from 0 to 100 km/hin a matter of 7.4 seconds. The car’sspeed was cut off at 250 km/h by anelectronic limiter.

Nobody was surprised when this

milestone in BMW’s automotive historybecame a triumphant success. Up tothe end of production in 1994, morethan 48,500 BMW 750i/iL models of thefirst E 32 series were produced. To thisday, BMW has remained faithful to thisexclusive engine concept for the luxuryclass.

BMW 750i / iL


Bore x stroke






Original price

No. of units

Top speed


84 x 75 mm

300 bhp at 5,200 rpm

four-speed automatic

1,780 kg

disc brakes

4,988 cc

98,000 marks

48,500 (1987 – 1994)

250 km/h (electronicallygoverned)

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Series and the forthcoming 1 Series will provide the steadilyexpanding circle of BMW drivers with a renewed wealth of mod-els that promise to turn the BMW slogan “Sheer DrivingPleasure” into tangible reality.

History 1988 to 2004

complete novelty in the BMW range went into series produc-tion at the Spartanburg plant: the X5 “Sports Activity Vehicle”(SAV). This upmarket combination of a sporty five-door modeland an off-road all-wheel drive was just what motoring fanswith a sense of adventure were waiting for. The model linebuilt at BMW’s US plant was powered by six andeight-cylinder engines, and also proved a globalsuccess story.

On the threshold of the third millennium, a new,superlative BMW roadster was launched on themarketplace. Already at its premiere it was beingdescribed as a classic. First unveiled as a designstudy at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1997, the newBMW Z8 roadster united classic styling elementswith innovative aluminium lightweight design andthe most powerful engine to be mounted in a pro-duction car in BMW history. 400 bhp propelled thisexciting two-seater from standstill to 100 km/h in anastonishing 4.7 seconds and lent it a literally breath-taking performance even beyond the 200 km/hmark. Largely hand-built in a special assembly shopat the Munich plant and produced in limited num-bers, the Z8 – following the example of its rolemodel, the BMW 507 – will similarly go down as amilestone in the history of BMW automobiles.

The latest enhancements to the BMW modelrange in the shape of the X3 variants, the new 6

Mobile Tradition live / 75 Years of BMW Automobiles Special Page 47

in 1989. The development brief for the new 850i luxury coupéhad been to build the best and most modern sports coupé in theworld. The highest comfort levels, a design that was an impres-sive fusion of dynamism and exclusivity, BMW engineering andtechnology at the limit of what was then physically possible,powered by the V12 unit, of course, plus highlights such as four-wheel steering (active rear axle kinematics), all catapulted thiscar well into the lead among the rarefied competition worldwide.It was yet another unparalleled international success, with salesof more than 20,000 8 Series V12 Coupés up to end of produc-tion in 1999.

The 1990s and early 21st century were and are marked bythe expansion of the company’s brand portfolio, the develop-ment of innovative and alternative technologies such as hydro-gen-powered drive units, and a further diversification of theBMW model ranges and variants.

Based on the technology of the third generation of the 3Series, a new BMW roadster was unveiled at the 1995 DetroitAuto Show – the Z3. Built entirely at the new BMW productionplant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, this open-topped two-seater with its exciting styling enjoyed widespread publicitywhen it debuted in the James Bond movie GoldenEye, andquickly became a sensational success. The first roadsters werelaunched with four-cylinder engines, soon to be followed byhigh-performance six-cylinder sports cars, all the way to the Mroadster with an output of well over 300 brake horsepower. Thesibling Z3 coupé with its fixed roof and distinctive tail end was aparticularly striking model.

Towards the end of 1999, a vehicle concept that was a

By the 1980s BMW had lost none of its innovative prowess, turning out such forward-looking models as the BMW Z1 Roadster with its famousretractable doors, or the 12-cylinder 750i luxury saloon. It also unveiled interesting new concepts in the shape of its 8 Series Coupés. It is a tradi-tion to which BMW remains faithful in the present and beyond: in launching the new 6 Series or the X3, the company is fusing its own past andfuture in characteristic BMW style.

1982 to 2004: the road to the future

Page 46

by Walter Zeichner

What had begun in the 1970s with a remarkable diversity ofmodels and variants based on BMW’s precise alignment of itsmodel ranges would be expanded further during the followingtwo decades thanks to the company’s highly successful modelpolicy. But it would be beyond the scope of this publicationeven to broach the most important developments, model vari-ants and innovations which BMW presented to the motoringworld in this short space of time. So we shall turn instead tosome of the outstanding automobiles that are unquestionablythe stuff of classics.

Anyone who thought that in the mid-1980s BMW hadreached the apex of exclusivity was in for a fascinating surprise

BMW 850CSi: the launch of the 8 Series marked the impressive conti-nuation of BMW’s large coupé tradition.

Classic lines, high-tech and 400 bhp – theBMW Z8. BMW 645Ci – the new Grand Tourer.

BMW X5 Sports Activity Vehicle with six or eight-cylinder engine.

With the BMW X3, BMW takes the expansion of its model portfolio into the 21st century.

Z3: the BMW Roadster fromSpartanburg, USA.

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High time for an autobiography.

BMW GroupMobile Tradition

This year BMW celebrates 75 years of BMW automobile production. To look back is also to look forward.The story begins in the year 1929 with the launch of a modern small car, followed by such milestones asthe BMW 328 and the iconic 2002. Today BMW continues writing this story with each new model. That ishow visions of the past have become today’s history. And that is how visions of today will in turn writetomorrow’s history. There’s no future without a past.

BMW GroupMobile TraditionSchleißheimer Straße 416D-80935 München

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BMW 335 1939

BMW M1 1978

BMW Z1 1988

BMW 1500 1962

BMW 501 1952

BMW 507 1955

BMW M3 1986

BMW Isetta 1955

BMW 2002 1968

BMW 750i 1987

BMW 328 1937

BMW 3/15 PS 1929