Few BMW owners are aware that the roots of the company go back to 7th March, 1916 when an aircraft manufacturer called Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG was founded in Munich. This is the significance of the propeller symbol on BMW’s blue and white roundel.
The Armistice that forbade Germany from having an aircraft industry found the company becoming an engine manufacturer, and consolidating its business under the name Bayerische Motoren Werke AG or BMW AG in 1922.
By 1923, BMW had started to make motorcycles, the first of which was shown at the German Motor Show in Berlin that year. Typical of the advanced engineering applied by BMW, the engine was a horizontally opposed, two-cylinder boxer design.
Within five years, and after taking over Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach, BMW graduated to making cars. But rather than coming up with a design of its own, they manufactured a variant of the British Austin 7 under license as the BMW 3/15. This was produced as the BMW Dixi, (Dixi was the brand name of Farhrzeugfabrik Eisenach), between 1927 and 1929, and then as a BMW until March 1932 when they gave up the license.
The 303 Coupe of 1933 was the first BMW model to feature the beginnings of the now famous kidney grille. By 1937, BMW were producing their medium-sized touring coupe and cabriolet, which was made until 1941, and then again after WW2 from 1946 to 1955.
However, the lower volume but more glamorous 328 sports car, made between 1936 and 1940, overshadowed the 327. The 328 won its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1939, and continues to chalk up frequent wins on the modern Mille Miglia to this day.
In 1937, BMW designed a special streamlined 493cc motorcycle for the Land Speed Record attempt. Ernst Jakob Henne rode this machine to 279.503km/h (173.68mph) on the A3 autobahn between Frankfurt and Munich, a record that stood until 1951.