Unofficial BMW E24 website



Unofficial BMW E24 website

Unofficial BMW E24 website


BMW History

BMW logotype

racing the origins of BMW in car manufacture means travlling to the East German town of Eisenach and remembering December 3rd 1896. It was here in the Thuringia's forested and hilly terrain that armaments specialist and multi-talented inventor Dr Heinrich Ehrhardt formed Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach on that date. Dr Ehrhardt had already played a prominent role in the emergence of Rhinemetall Konzern, second only to Krupp in the scale of armaments manufacture within Germany.

1928 Dixi works in Eisenach

Eisenach was within the borders of East Germany. BMW took over the Dixi works in October 1928, but BMW badges did not dominate the Austin 7-based cars they made, until 1929.

In view of their connections it was not surprising that the first Eisenach vehicles were military designs such as munitions carriers, ambulances and gun carriages, but that was not an overhelming commercial success. Thus in 1898 Ehrhardt foresaw modern industry practice and made an agreement with Decauville in France to make a small, voiturette, class of car. By the turn of the century they were using the emblem and name of the Wartburg castle that overlooks Eisenach.

From 1889 to 1903 it is estimated that about 250 Wartburg cars were delivered from Eisenach.

Ehrhardt resigned the chair at Eisenach to form his own company away from Rhinemetall, who also got rid of the embryo Wartburg outfit, Ehrhardt leaving in 1903. The first use of the Dixi name had occured some time before the 1904 Frankfurt Motor Show, but it was confirmed with a touring car displayed under that name for this important hardy annual.

Dixi evolved from 1904 to 1927, manufacturing giant 7.3 litre racing and touring cars, along with lorries that naturally found increased demand through the First World War.

After hostilities concluded Eisenach's Dixi marque were in trouble, along with much of the rest of German industry and the take-over trail that leads to BMW today began.

It should be noted that there were two 1916 dates that featured formation of companies entitled to use BMW initials:

July 20th 1916 saw the creation of Bayerische Motorenwerke GmbH from the unified Gustav Rau and Rapp Motorenwerke. Yet today's company name, proudly displayed over the portals of the four cylinder building, Bayerischen Motoren Werke AG, came when Castiglioni purchased the Lerchenauer Strasse site next to the post-war defunct Bavarian Aeroplane Works. They had registered the name that is used today in the Munich city register on that March 7th 1916 date we gave earlier.

Like most others in the Germany if the twenties, BMW were pretty near broke in the conventional banking sense. Financial magician Camillio Castiglioni perfomed with his customary persuasive manner and the share capital was upped some 60 per cent to allow BMW financial control at Eisenach during November 1928, althrough the deal was actually recognised when Dixi at Eisenach became a BMW subsidiary from October 1st that year.

With the 1200 Dixi employees came a ready-made production car that BMW decided to keep on, and which eventually became the first BMW four wheeler.

25,000th BMW 3/15 has left the Eisenach works in September 5th 1931

September 5th 1931, less than three years since BMW took over Dixi's factories and debts and the 25,000th BMW 3/15 adaptation of the Austin Seven four cylinder saloon has left the Eisenach works.

The machine was known as the Dixi 3/15, but it was actually a modified Austin Seven that Mr Schapiro had acquired for Dixi, when it was realised they could no longer afford to develop their own machinery.

Gradually modifying the Seven concept further and further — including a batch of derivatives for army use and an apparently rather unpleasant swing front axle — BMW tramped their way inexorably toward a true BMW car; by 1932 they had delivered over 25,000 Seven “cousins” but in March they ceased to be licencees of the British small car.

That spring BMW brought their own 3/20 to the market place, which still had a small (782cc) four cylinder production producing 20 bhp at 3500 rpm with Overhead Valves (OHV), rather than the Seven's sidevalve engine, which was providing 15 horsepower at 3000 rpm on the same 5.6:1 compression ratio.

The first BMW had a three speed gearbox and would reach around 50 mph, with BMW recalling a 37 mpg equivalent as typical of its everyday consumption.

In fact you could see that BMW had returned to their original first love of perfomance aero engines by analysing the 1933 deployment of staff: over half were working on the revived aero industry's behalf... As the second bout of World War approached, BMW diversified their activities beyond engine manufacture, but the car business was far from neglected.

Wartburg castle in Eisenach

Wartburg castle in Eisenach.

The first Wartburg cars

The first Wartburg cars had two cylinders engine 479cc with the air-cooling system which was providing only 3,5-5 horsepower.

1933-36 BMW 303

The 1933-36 BMW 303 introduced two significant BMW traditions, that for inline six cylinder engines and the Nierenforming, or kidney-shaped, front grille. Then of 1173cc and 30 bhp, this six cylinder breed provided the basis for the 1.9 litre and 2-litre BMW sixes that were so widely copied in countries outside West Germany during the post war years. In the 303 the 1.2 litre provides about 60 mph and an overall 28 mpg.

1934-36 BMW 315/1 Sport

The BMW sporting tradition on four wheels can be traced back to rakish machines such as this 315/1 Sport of 1934-36. It used a 1911cc version of the pre-war BMW six, it was fed by triple Solex carburettors and could reach 75 mph in normal road trim.

Increasing general company prosperity allowed funds for further BMW model development. The six cylinder inline engine design that would lead to the now highly-prized 328 classic sports car traced its roots back to the 1933 BMW 303. This was a modest looking saloon, but it ran smoothly and sweety to its 56 mph maximum. This BMW engine had 30 bhp delivered from the usual long stroke relative to bore ratio of the period (56x88 mm gave 1173cc).

The sixes continued with the 1934-37 BMW 315 of 1490cc and 34 horsepower, which had a sporting 315/1 brother that had the same cubic capacity, but featuring three sidedraught Solex carburettors and a 6.8:1 compression ratio, instead of the traditional ex-Seven 5.6:1 cr. This brought 40 bhp at 4300 rpm, and a capacity for tackling then newish autobahnen at up to 75 mph.

1936-39 BMW 328

Most famous pre-war BMW of all, and the ultimate expression of their six cylinder sporting philosophy at the time, was the 328. Some 462 of these 1936-39 machines were made, many racing at much higher speeds than the 93 mph the roadgoing model could achieve from 1971cc punching out 80 bhp. It was this 2-litre unit that was to stay in production for so many varied factories and duties during postwar years.

There were plenty of other six cylinder alternatives produced in comparatively small numbers by BMW at the Eisenach of the 1930s: 319/1 with 55 bhp from the 1911cc engine it shared with the less exotically carburated 319 and 329. Yet, most interest was generated, and continues to be generated if you are lucky enough to hear one operate with sewing machine precision and racing-orientated exhaust, by BMW's 328. Announced by the simple expedient of having Ernst Henne pound around the Nurburgring to victory in the Eifelrennen of June 1936, the 328 was sold from February 1937 with either Hurth or ZF four speed gearboxes and a production engine capacity of 1971cc extracted from a bore and stroke of 66 x 99 mm. Complete with a then high 7.6:1 compression ratio and three Solex 30 mm downdraught carburettors, it punched out 80 bhp at a then comparatively high 5000 rpm.

However most of the 462 BMW 328s produced probably had modifications of some sort applied, if not during the thirties, then almost certainly during of after that War, when a lot of 328 technology re-emerged in various guises as as enthusiasts endeavoured to enjoy motor sport / found a new sports marque.

For BMW, getting back on their feet post-World War II would probably be the hardest task ever faced by this resourceful concern.

The works at Milbertshofen had naturally been a number 1 allied target for saturation bombing techniques whilist Eisenach, althrough it is geographically to the west of Munich, fell into the arms of the eastern-based Soviet Army. Even in 1945 Eisenach had started to produce saloons based around the rugged 1971cc six under the Soviet-controlled brand name Autovelo BMW 321.

Munich 1945

Blasted from the air, 24 hours a day. Munich 1945, the unlikely site for a new BMW car manufacturing base, but not until 1950s.

It took BMW, now regrouped solely in Munich after the loss of Eisenach and Brandenburg (Berlin) until 1947 to resume motorcycle manufacture (R24).

BMW also had to exhume the 1971cc inline six cylinder engine for their first post-war model, the 501 saloon. This rotund machine with its unique bevel gear steering system, and a gearbox mounted virtually under the front seats, connected forward by a stubby propshaft, was shown at the Frankfurt salon of 1951m even though BMW had no tools to press-stamp its body! They managed to make the first 501s on their stout tubular chassis during 1952, using the facilities of Bauer at Stuttgart — who eventually contributed much to mid-eingined M1 contruction in 1979-80 as well. BMW's own press steel works were not available until 1955.

BMW 501 and 502 of the fifties

The BMW 501 and 502 series of large saloons attracted publicity and respect, typified by this picture of the TV police car of the fifties. The 1954 alloy V8 for the 502 was Germany's first eight cylinder in production postwar, and it developed into the 3.2 litre capable of producing 140 horsepower and 110 mph in this 4000 lb plus limousine.

BMW Isetta bubble car

Income from large cars 501 and 502, and minuscule machinery like the BMW Isetta four wheeler “bubble cars” was insufficient.

These 65 horsepower 501 saloons could waddle up to 84 mph despite their 2948 lb girth, but it understandably took them about 27 seconds to reach 62 mph from rest; acceleration not even up to pre-war levels. Gremany's post-war production V8, constructed in aluminium alloy, solved the 501's pace problems from 1954 onward with an initial 90 bhp that had reached 160 bhp in the 1962-65 ancestors of today's BMW coupes: BMW's elegant 3200 CS.

The 90° V8 engine started life with a capacity of 2580cc, featuring virtually square simensions of 74 x 75 mm, but measured 3168cc (82 x 75 mm) by the 1956-59 production span of the rare but extremely stylish 503 and 507. Both were styled by Graf Goertz and were based on the 501/502 saloon running gear, establishing a post-war BMW tradition for sporting cousins to production saloons that was later transferred to the coupe category. Althrough the 252 BMW 507s contructed were capable of stomping to 137 mph and 0-63 mph in 11.5 seconds.

The low production runs of these and other large BMWs were obviously not going to extract Munich from increasing financial woes. Motorcycles simply couldn't offset mounting losses in the car division, which offered big cars at one end of the scale (501, 502, 503 and 507) and flyweights like the 1955-62 Isetta 250 or the 1956-62 Isetta 300.

There was simply nothing to offer the vital middle classes who had emerged into the boom class of revitalised Germany.

The 600 four wheeler was a pace in the right direction, but it still had the flat twin motorcycle engine that also characterised tha later, more successful 700s. Cash was needed to develop that middleweight contender and to progress the logical 700 development of 600 to “hold the fort” until a 1.5-litre engined BMW could be introduced...

BMW 700

Coupe version of the BMW 700 with its motorcycle-derived flat twin engine was a strong seller and a good motorsport class competitor, but still the company looked for middleweight salvation, and the money to produce such a car.

Losses were apparent in 1958 and by 1959 crisis point was reached.

A general meeting in November 1960 saw BMW pointed along its present success route, initially guided by Dr Johannes Semler. He had the confidence of increased capital and an extremely warm reception for the rear engine 700, which had debuted in 1959 and went on to sell over 181,000 derivatives in saloon and successful sporting coupe styles. It was also the 700 that got BMW a reputation for agile sporting success in the sixties.

BMW's modern market strength stems from the September 1961-displayed, February 1962-produced, Neue Klasse 1500.

In this long-awaited mid-range contender were the key features on which the BMW revival has been conducted, many of which live on today.

BMW 1500. Wilhelm Hofmeister, Fritz Fiedler, Eberhard Wolff, Alex Freiherr von Falkenhausen

Key men in the design of the 1500, who also played a significant part in BMWs before and after the war were (left to right) Wilhelm Hofmeister (body design director who worked for 33 years at BMW prior to his May 1977 retirement); Fritz Fiedler (1949-64 Design & Development Chief) stands next to Eberhard Wolff and engines exponent / motorsport chief Alex Freiherr von Falkenhausen, responsible for leading the development work on both four and six cylinder overhead camshaft BMW designs.

Alex Freiherr von Falkenhausen headed the engine design team, which included the young camshaft specialist, Paul Rosche, “father” of later F1 and F2 racing powerplants as well as the seventies 24-valve sixes. Von Falkenhausen established the basis of combustion chamber shape allied to immense bottom and strength, and topped by an alloy head carrying chain drive for the SOHC and V-arranged valve gear that were later expanded into the six cylinder motors of the type that have powered both BMW coupes and saloons since 1968.

So the 1500 four cylinder engine, upgraded to 80 bhp at 5700 rpm and allowing the four door 1962 1500 up to 92 mph, started a BMW breed of engine that lived strongly into the eighties.

The 1500 also established BMW basis such as front engine rear drive in alliance with a trailing arm rear suspension and MacPherson front struts. In those days a mixed disk and drum brake system was the norm, along with worm and roller steering.

BMW 1500, 1961

A 1500 in 1961 prototype form, and proud to carry the BMW trademarks, including the rear side window “hook” and the kidney front grille. Nearly 24,000 were made before production ceased in 1964.

For BMW the 1500 was the most important model in the recovery, spawning a line on fleet four cylinders that escalated into the two-door (02) saloons from March 1966. These 02s took running gear like the twin carburettor / 120 bhp four cylinder engine developed for 1800 TI four door saloon, and ran them to greater effect in a lighter and cheaper body.

American influence is always credited with pushing BMW into the classic 02 alliance of the 1990cc / 100 bhp single carburettor engine in the two door body (2002), but given BMW's trait of inserting just about every engine in all possible model lines.

The well balanced 2002 TI with 120 bhp and 115 mph led to the exciting Kugelfischer injection 2002 TII and then Europe's first production turbo car, the 2002 turbo.

This generated 170 bhp, if you kept it round 6000 rpm, and astonishing 0-60 mph acceleration in 7 seconds or so.

Source: BMW 6-Series











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