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From Aircraft To Racing Cars And Beyond

Jul 2, 2008
BMW has a very mixed heritage in terms of when the company was formed. The origin of BMW have been traced to back to the start of the 20th century when a man called Karl Friedrich Rapp, who was a very well known engineer in Germany working for a German aircraft company, set up his own business called Rapp Motoren, in a part of his home town of Munich. He specialised in building aircraft engines for planes of that time. In its early years the company was very successful and Rapp stepped down from the business due to personal financial problems.

Two Austrian men Franz Josef Popp and Max Friz took over the company and in that year (1916) they renamed the business to Bayersiche Motoren Werke or Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) which is the company that we know of today. They continued to build aircraft engines throughout the next few years providing the Luftwaffe with BMW powered aircraft during the First World War.

Then, in 1923, BMW made their first motorcycle called the R23, producing 3090 of them during its 3 year lifetime and production carried on until 1926.

It wasn't until 1928 that BMW made their first car. It was called the Dixi 3/15 PS and it used a 743cc 4 cylinder engine which produced 15hp. The car was capable of hitting 50 mph which was good for the time. Over the next two years it was improved with the DA2 and in 1930 the car scored its first wins in motorsport around Europe. Over the next few years production continued and a total of 18,976 Dixis were produced.

The BMW M1

Many enthusiasts consider the BMW M1 the most iconic BMW that has ever been produced. This is because the car is considered the only mid engined car that BMW have ever put into production. It started life as a racing project as BMW wanted to enter Group 4 and Group 5 racing. It was quoted at the beginning of its life as the 'Mid-Engined BMW M1 Project'.

To be allowed to race in Group 4 and 5, BMW had to produce 400 identical M1's in 2 years before the season started. The body was designed by Giugiaro and it was planned to be built by Lamborghini in their factory as a joint effort. But during the late 70's Lamborghini was in deep financial trouble and because BMW couldn't delay production they moved the assembly to their factory in Baur.

The car had a 3.5l straight 6 engine that was mid mounted, which produced up to 277hp and 243lb of torque. It was a fairly light car (weighed 2175lb) which enabled the M1 to sprint from 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds and had a top speed of 162mph. Production of the BMW M1 started in 1976 with the first car being completed in 1978. After all the delays the M1 was not compliant with the Group 4 or 5 rules so they turned their attention to the Procar series.

When BMW finally managed to sell enough models of the M1 they were no longer competitive enough in the Group 5 category due to new technologically advanced cars such as the Porsche 935. Finally in 1981 the final BMW M1 was completed and it was the end of an era for Mid engine BMW M1's. In total, 455 cars were built with 399 road cars being made and 56 race cars. In the current model range (the 1,3,5,6,7 and x3 and 5 series) there are no mid engine cars meaning that the M1 was truly the only Mid engine and rarest cars that BMW have ever produced.
About the Author
Vehicle expert Catherine Harvey discovers from James Parker exactly what it was that bought BMW to the success they enjoy today.
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