BMW History: 21 Things You Might Not Know About BMW

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, commonly known as BMW was formed on March 7 1916 and the company promptly started making aeroplane engines, setting records for altitude and speed as well as building their very own Lamborghini and constructed a building shaped like an engine. To celebrate 98 years of the Bavarian based company, here are 21 facts you might not know about BMW.


1. Before BMW was officially established they built aeroplane engines.
During WWI, there was a high demand for cutting edge aeroplane engines. A small company named Rapp Motor merged with a Munich based aeroplane marker, Otto Werke. The company was managed by the son of the man who invented four cycle engines. The same technology was successfully used to manufacturer the engines of the fighter jets and were consequently labelled by legendary fighter pilot, the Red Barron as the greatest engine in the war.

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2. They decided to design their headquarters to look like a four cylinder engine to highlight the importance of their heritage.
BMW’s world headquarters in Munich, Bavaria was designed in 1972 by Karl Schwanzer, an Austrian architecture professor and was built to resemble a four cylinder engine. Since opening in 1973, it has become a Munich landmark and was declared a protected historic building in 1999. In 2004, the building underwent extensive renovation work which was completed in 2006.

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3. The early BMW aeroplane engines breaking records.
In 1919, the BMW biplane took 87 minutes to climb to a height of 9.760 metres, thereby setting a new altitude record.

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4. The iconic logo DOES NOT represent a spinning aeroplane propeller.
Contrary to popular belief, the logo never graced a propeller until the marketing team put it there in 1929 to promote the company’s aeroplane heritage.

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5. The logo’s really an homage to Rapp Motor and Bavaria.
“As Rapp grew into BMW, BMW assumed all the business segments, and the company wanted the logo to be oriented on Rapp’s logo. As you can see here on this example, Rapp has a black horse as a symbol on its logo. BMW chose the Bavarian national colours as a symbol, but arranged the letters exactly like Rapp. So you can see very clearly how the BMW logo was developed.” – Kai Jacobsen, Automobile Historian, BMW Group.

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6. The first car BMW produced only had 15 hp and only existed because of the Treaty of Versailles.
1928 marks the beginning in terms of the BMW car. The Treaty of Versailles mandated that German companies were banned from producing warplanes and warplane engines. Therefore, BMW bought a car factory and with it the license to build a small car called the Dixi 3/15. In 1929 a new improved version was launched, the DA/2, which employed an all-steel body and 4-wheel brakes, and in 1930 the Dixi scored its first wins in motor racing.

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7. The first BMW automobile was actually an English-made Austin.
Austin designed and built the chassis to be used under license around the world and several companies jumped at the chance to avoid the inherent development costs associated with the design process.

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8. From early on, they were on the forefront of aerodynamic tech.
The BMW 328 Kamm Coupé, named after the German aerodynamics pioneer Wunibald Kamm, was aerodynamically three decades ahead of its time. 70 years after BMW’s famous Mille Miglia victory, BMW Classic has recreated this legendary racing car, once again illuminating an important milestone in both motor sport history and the development of vehicle aerodynamics. “We are very proud to be able to bring this car back into the public spotlight.” – Karl Baumer, Director of BMW Group Classic.

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9. They also built the world’s fastest motorcycle.
In 1937, BMW built this awesome contraption which was aerodynamically slick, supercharged, and (while most of the world was still on dirt roads) it was capable of hitting 173.7 mph. But, since the bodywork fully covered the rider, he was unable to put his legs down when he eventually came to a stop.

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10. BMW also pioneered bike racing.
The concept of leaning out of a side car to improve cornering ability during a race dates almost as far back as the concept of sidecars themselves, but that doesn’t mean you’re any less crazy for doing so.

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11. BMW almost became Mercedes in the late fifties.
In 1959 BMW was nearing bankruptcy due to a multiple of factors surrounding the Cold War. Daimler-Benz, a parent company to Mercedes-Benz attempted to take over the company. BMW reacted by enlisting even the lowest mechanics in the organisation to buy back shares. They eventually found the help of a major private investor, whose family still owns a substantial about of the business today.

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12. The First “M” car, the legendary M1 was supposed to be a Lamborghini.
In the 1970s, BMW and Lamborghini agreed to jointly build a race car. Lamborghini withdrew from the project due to financial reasons. Instead BMW built the M1, marking another moment in history.

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13. The legendary M1.
The M1 was designed by the iconic Giorgetto Guigiaro who also designed the Delorean, the Lotus Esprit and the VW Golf.

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14. BMW have been making electric cars for over 40 years.
At the Munich Olympics in 1972, BMW introduced an all-electric 1602. It used 12 batteries, and could drive up to 19 miles at a time. The performance of the car was not as impressive, only reaching 43hp, roughly half that of a normal 1602 at the time.

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15. They Raced in Formula 1, and won the championship with a 20-year-old motor design.
BMW’s M10 four cylinder engine was an evolution of a motor that first hit the streets in 1962 with 75 hp. By 1983, they had managed to squeeze over 1,400 hp out of it, and Nelson Piquet won the world driver’s championship in it.

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16. They’re still making WWII-era parts.
If you’re planning on racing your classic BMW 328, you can still buy a brand new transmission for it via the BMW Classic program. That program is so thorough that a group of mechanics just built a factory new 1976 R90s Motorcycle by ordering all the parts from them online.

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17. BMW have recently bought back its old motorcycle factory in Munich.
BMW plan to make a number new BMW Classic parts. What better place than a classic BMW building!

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18. BMW also design aeroplane and train interiors.
BMW designed this interior for Singapore Airlines, creating a sophisticated, modern and comfortable look for passengers. Additionally, San Francisco’s BART system is set to replace some of their trains with new BMW designed models.


19. The BMW Z1 Doors.
The BMW Z1 attracted attention with its ‘quirky’ door design. It’s a shame they only mad a little over 8,000 of these.

20. They almost made a Z1 coupe.
While the BMW Z1 coupé never succeeded in getting on the road, the innovative platform strategy was used for the first time only a few years later during the development of a series vehicle. In 1995, BMW presented the BMW Z3 roadster. The two-seater immediately captured the public imagination as a symbol of sheer driving pleasure. By contrast, the potential for an expansion of the model range was not, however, obvious at first glance. The concept was realized in 1998 when the BMW Z3 coupé was launched in the marketplace.


21. BMWs are basically like Lego!
You can take a 1980s 3 Series, put on the rear suspension and brakes from an early 2000 M Coupe, the front suspension and brakes from a mid-1990s M3, the fender flares of a 1970s 2002 Turbo and the steering of a late 1990s Z3 and you have an amazing car!



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