BMW, which stands for Bavarian Motoren Werke has a long and interesting history that involves more than just cars. In fact, they were in the business of building airplane engines long before they started making automobiles. Here are a few things you should know about BMW’s history:
Origins of BMW
BMW originated in Germany in 1916 as BFw (Bayerische Flugzeugwerke). BFw primarily made aircraft engines. Rapp motors was one of Bfw’s constituents and also became part of the merge into BMW. After WW1 Germany was prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles from producing warplanes and engines for these planes for six months. As a result of the treaty, BMW began manufacturing automobile engines.
In 1923 BMW decided to manufacture its first motorbike, the R 32. In 1929 BMW became an automobile manufacturer (when they bought Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach). This resulted in their first car, the Dixi 3/15. BMW didn’t design this car though because it was actually an Austin, which originated in England. The design and chassis created by Austin was under license to be used around the world. Sales of the Dixi were good despite the fact that it was the Depression. However, Dixis were popular for racing at the time. In 1932 BMW designed and built its own car, the 3/20 PS being its first. The 3/19 sedan was produced between 1935 and 1937. It was a reliable family car. By 1940 BMWs were synonymous with affluent German lifestyle.
Impact of WWII
When WWII began, much of the company’s attention was diverted to the war effort. Though cars were still being manufactured during this time, the design and development resources were significantly cut. BMW played such a large part in the war effort that their factories were bombed. After the war, BMWs Munich factory would produce pots, pans, and once again, motorbikes. Their motorbikes would be popular for both on the road and for racing. BMW didn’t produce another car until 1952 with the 501. When the V8 engine became available, the 501 was replaced by the 502.
BMW Sports Cars
BMW’s first sports car was the 3/13 1. It was not only elegant, but also fast, reaching speeds of 75 mph. This car was built in 1935 and 1936. Only 242 of these sports cars was produced, but this car would lead the way for the BMWs that were to follow. In 1936 BMW released the 3/28. It reached speeds 90 mph. This model came with a choice of gearboxes: one for competition or one for the road. This car has become a classic and popular with collectors. In 1937 BMW set a record for the fastest motorcycle in the world.
Notable BMW Cars
In the 1950s BMW produced a bubble car called the Isetta, which was designed by an Italian refrigerator manufacturer. Despite their small size and interesting look, they were a popular seller, but didn’t produce much profit. In 1972 BMW debuted its first electric car, which contained 12 batteries and could drive 19 miles at a time. While innovative, only two prototypes were built. In 1999 BMW began to produce cars outside of Germany beginning with a factory in Russia.
Today, BMW is still known for its luxury cars and people all over world enjoy driving them.