Not everybody knows that BMW started as a manufacturer of aircraft engines. In October 1913 Karl Friedrich Rapp establishes “Rapp-Motorenwerke” in a former bicycle factory near Munich.
Rapp was an engineer who arise through the Daimler system and “Rapp-Motorenwerke” was set up as a subsidiary of “Flugwerk”, an airplane maker. He starts manufacturing his own aircraft engines but unfortunately they suffered from problems with vibrations.
In 1917, BMW’s first aircraft engine, the Type IIIa, goes into production. It is a water-cooled six-cylinder inline engine, it features a unique “high-altitude carburetor” developed by chief engineer Max Friz that allows it to develop full power at altitude. Max Friz was a grand engineering mind who would dominate BMW’s product development culture on into the 1960’s.
BMW became an automobile manufacturer in 1929 when it purchased Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach, which, at the time, built Austin Sevens under licence under the Dixi marque.
BMW’s team of engineers progressively developed their cars from small Seven-based cars into six-cylinder luxury cars and, in 1936, began production of the BMW 328 sports car. Aircraft engines, motorcycles, and automobiles would be BMW’s main products until World War II.
7 March 1916
During the war, against the wishes of its director Franz Josef Popp, BMW concentrated on aircraft engine production, with motorcycles as a side line and automobile manufacture stopped altogether.
Towards the end of 1930, BMW attempted to introduce a new front axle with independent wheel suspension for both their models, the BMW ‘Dixi’ 3/15 DA4 and BMW ‘Wartburg’ DA3, but this resulted in accidents with the prototypes because of construction faults.
However, as the license with Austin would end in 1932, BMW decided upon the development of a completely new model and called in the help of German engineer Josef Ganz. He was hired as a consultant engineer at BMW in July 1931.
At first, Josef Ganz negotiated with BMW about possible manufacture of his innovative rear-engined Maikäfer prototype at BMW.
However, BMW decided for a different model, more along the lines of the previous Dixi model.
Therefore, with the assistance of Ganz, work started on the development of the BMW AM1, a small car with a front-mounted engine, rear-wheel drive, and independent wheel suspension with swing-axles.
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BMW Cars List
Keen observers will notice that this isn’t an exhaustive list of every BMW car ever or the latest model lineup. That’s because at Supercars.net we care about performance and concept cars. We want the list of BMW cars that get us excited and that are part of history. With that in mind here is our list of the most important performance BMWs throughout history.
Maybe a little nontraditional, but these are favorite BMWs over the years.
BMW loves to build futuristic concept cars that get people excited about the future. From futuristic electric hybrid sports cars like the BMW i8 concept that ended up becoming a reality to BMW hommage cars that are combination of history and the future, BMW knows how to do concept cars.
BMW has a rich motorsport history across both cars and motorcycles. When it comes to car motorsport BMW has competed and won in multiple categories including Formula One, Formula Two, sportscar racing and Touring car racing. Longtime readers will know we created our best BMW race cars ever article recently and it was a big hit.
Perhaps the most famous racing lump in history is the BMW M10 engine block. Starting out as a diminutive 1,500 cc with four-cylinders and only 75 hp (in 1961), it won in touring cars, developed over 300 hp (224 kW) in 1970s Formula Two and eventually made almost 1,400hp in the 1986 turbocharged BMW M12/13/1. This engine became widely regarded as one of the most powerful, if not the most, powerful engine in the history of Formula 1. Other impressive displays of engineering involve the production of the BMW S70/2 engine, implemented in the McLaren F1, which set the world record for “world’s fastest production car” on March 31, 1998.
BMW racing wasn’t just about the engines with some classic BMWs competing well in everything from Formula 1 to Touring Cars and everything in between. BMW also has a strong force of privateer racers who build on top of BMW products.
Popular BMW Models
The original CSL was introduced in 1972 and was basically a race car disguised as a regular daily drive. It was built so BMW could go racing in the European Touring Car Championship. The main thing to focus on is the “L” in CSL. It stands for “light” and in the first CSL that meant taking out a lot of it. Thinner steel for the body, taking out almost all the interior trim and soundproofing as well as aluminium alloy doors, bonnet, boot lid and a Perspex side windows.
|1973 BMW 3.0 CSI
1973 BMW 3.0 CSL
1973 BMW 3.0 CSL Group 2
|1976 BMW 3.0 CSL Group 5
2015 BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage
2015 BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage R
Perhaps the BMW car that caused the biggest stir ever was the BMW M1. It shocked the world when the newly formed BMW Motorsport GmbHit launched the car 1978. This high-performance car was mid-engined and was powered by a big straight-six engine displacing 3.5 litres that had 277 bhp (at the rear axle). Unfortunately, the M1 which was built expressly to race suddenly became obsolete when racing went from purebred prototype sports cars toward production cars which were more popular.
|1980 BMW M1
2008 BMW M1 Homage
|1980 BMW M1 Procar
1981 BMW M2 Concept
The BMW M3 is the dream car of many car fans around the world. We grew up with dreams of a high-performance version of the BMW 3 Series with a sweat inline 6 that revved hard and had upgraded suspension and chassis that made it the ultimate driving machine. First developed during the E30 BMW era by BMW’s M Division, it has now had six generations (E30, E36, E46, E90/E92/E93, and E80).
Over the years the M3 has never stood still and went from a straight six to a high-revving V8 engine and more recently (and controversially) to a twin-turbocharged inline six with gobs of torque. It isn’t just the 3 series either because now we have an M4 too (I know, it gets confusing). The formula has stayed true through the generations. Take the standard 3 series in saloon and convertible body styles and tickle the engine, chassis, suspension, brakes and bodykit and you transform your daily driver into a true sports car that is class leading performance, comfort and desirability.
The 5 series BMW sedan is the ultimate executive car. Luxurious, spacious, quick and perfect for the executive who likes to drive themselves. The BMW M5 version of the 5 series is a the 5 series turned up to 100. The BMW M5 is was the car that got me into cars. With work from the BMW Motorsport division it has always been the perfect balance between performance and practicality.
First built in 1986, the first incarnation of the M5 was hand-built utilizing the 535i chassis and a modified BMW M1 engine. It was the fastest production sedan at the time. There have been five generations of the M5 so far (E28 M5 from 1985–1988, E34 M5 from 1989–1995, E39 M5 from 1999–2003, E60 M5 from 2005–2010, F10 M5 from 2011–2017) with each generation getting even faster and more extreme. The current iteration has a potent twin turbo V8 and over 600hp (depending on edition) all in a car that carries four people in comfort and style.
|1994 BMW M5
2001 BMW M5
2005 BMW M5
2011 BMW M5
2014 BMW M5 30 Jahre Edition
2007 BMW M5 Touring
|2006 BMW M6
2007 BMW M6 Cabriolet
2013 BMW M6 Cabriolet
2012 BMW M6 Coupé
2013 BMW M6 Gran Coupé
2016 BMW M6 GT3
This is our list of the ultimate BMWs. See the full list of our BMW Best of the Best Lists.
We love BMW concept cars. We especially love BMW concept cars when BMW provides a fresh interpretation of an iconic BMW of old. BMW Hommage cars are real, running cars and we want BMW to actually build and sell every single one. We created a list of our favorites. Read the full article.
The BMW Art Car Project was introduced by the French racecar driver and auctioneer Hervé Poulain, who wanted to invite an artist to create a canvas on an automobile. While all 17 BMW Art Cars are beautiful and unique, we have our favorites, so we pulled together a list of the top 5 BMW Art Cars. Check them out.
The list of the best BMW engines includes an epic naturally aspirated supercar engine built for McLaren, a modern turbodiesel that made diesel’s cool again, a V8 that freaked out the enthusiasts until they drove it and were converted and even a classic straight six that helped define sporting BMWs for an entire generation. See the full list.
With so many M cars and the division stretching into more and niche segments, the cars now have a mixed reputation. Many recent models aren’t for ‘M Power’ purists like us. For car guys like us, we asked, “which are the legendary M cars?”, which ones make our list of the ultimate BMW M car. We pulled together our picks for the greatest BMW M cars ever (so far). See the list.
Apart from the factory efforts, many privateer teams enter BMW road cars in Touring car racing. Given its connection to road cars, it is clearly an area where BMW focused a lot of effort. Cars like the Schnitzer M3 (E30) Sport Evo and CSL Batmobile (E9) as well as the entire Procar M1 series added a lot of credibility when buyers showed up to showrooms to see BMWs they could buy.
Over its storied history, BMW also entered cars or provided engines in Formula One, Formula Two and sportscar racing. Learn more.