BMW, abbreviation of Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian motor works), is a German company and manufacturer of quality automobiles and motorcycles.

The 2003 BMW 3-series.

Table of contents
1 History before WWII
3 Aftermath of WWII
4 Post-war history
5 Models
6 Related companies
7 Motor Sport
8 BMW Motorcycles
9 External links

History before WWII

The BMW logo is a circle divided into four quadrants of alternating white and light blue colour. This is a stylised representation of an aircraft propeller - the company was originally an aircraft engine manufacturer. The colors of the logo are those of the flag of Bavaria. The company was founded by Karl Friedrich Rapp in October 1913 in the Milbertshofen district of Munich. The location was chosen to be close to the Gustav Otto Flugmaschinenfabrik site.

In 1916 the company secured a contract to build V12 engines for Austria-Hungary. Needing extra finance, Rapp gained the support of Camillo Castiglioni and Max Friz, the company was reconstituted as the Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH. Over-expansion caused difficulties, Rapp left and the company was taken over by the Austrian industrialist Franz Josef Popp in 1917, and named BMW AG from 1918.

The Treaty of Versailles (1919) prohibited the production of aircraft in Germany. Otto closed his factory and BMW switched to manufacturing railway brakes.

In 1927 the tiny Dixi, an Austin Seven produced under license, began production in Eisenach. BMW bought the company the following year, and this became the company's first car, the BMW 3/15. By 1933 BMW were producing cars that could be called truly theirs, offering steadily more advanced 6-cylinder sports and saloon cars. The pre-war cars culminated in the beautiful 327 saloon and 328 roadster, fast 2-litre cars, both very advanced for their time.


BMW was a major supplier of engines to the Luftwaffe and of engines and vechicles, especially motorcyles, to the Wehrmacht. The aero-engines included the 801, one of the most powerful available. Over 30,000 were manufactured up to 1945. BMW also researched jet engines, producing the BMW 003, and rocket based weapons.

The BMW works were heavily bombed towards the end of the war. Of its sites, those in eastern Germany (Eisenach, Dürrerhof, Basdorf and Zühlsdorf) were seized by the Soviets. The factory in Munich was largely destroyed.

Aftermath of WWII

After the war the Munich factory took some time to restart production in any volume. BMW was banned from manufacturing for three years by the Allies and did not produce a car model until 1952.

In the east, the company's factory at Eisenach was taken over by the state-owned Awtowelo group. That company offered "BMW"s for sale until 1951, when the Bavarian company prevented use of the trademarks: the name, the logo and the "double-kidney" radiator grille.

The cars were then branded EMW (Eisenacher Motoren Werke), production continuing until 1955.

In the west, the BAC, Bristol Aeroplane Company, inspected the factory, and returned to England with plans for the 326, 327 and 328 models. These plans, which became official war reparations, along with BMW engineer Fritz Fiedler allowed the newly formed Bristol Cars to produce a new, high-quality sports saloon, the 400 by 1947, a car so similar to the BMW 327 that it even kept the famous BMW grille.

BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany,
one of the few buildings built from top to bottom.

BMW Z3 Sports Coupé

Post-war history

needs to be written


Current and near future products

The current BMW model line-up is split into what they call "Series", traditionally identified by a single digit - e.g. the 3 Series. More recently they also started to use letters as Series designations beginning with the Z1 roadster.

The M letter was used even prior to that to designate special "Motorsport" models beginning with the M1 supercar. Later the M letter was used as a prefix to top-of-the-range models which had received special treatment by the BMW Motorsport division. The first such car was the M535i of 1979. As these models started gaining popularity the Motorsport division was split into a separate company. BMW M GmbH now makes sporty models based on the production cars with very extensive chassis and engine upgrades. The M3 and M5 are based respectively on the 3 and 5 Series and are recognized by enthusiasts all over the world as truly excellent sports cars while retaining the practicality of their lesser siblings.

With the advent of the SUV, BMW also added the X5 - and in 2004 the X3 - to their model range to capitalize on this growing market. A possible future V Series will offer MPV practicality for large families, similar to the Renault Scenic.

Series with odd-numbers are sedans or estates (BMW calls those models Touring), while even-numbered models are two-door coupes or cabriolets. This convention was started with the replacement of the Z3 roadster - the Z4. In future 2-door derivatives of the 3 Series will be called the 4 Series.

  • 1 Series: a new small car designed to compete with the VW Golf, coming out end of 2004
  • 2 Series: a coupe/convertible based on the 1 Series platform
  • 3 Series: the successor to the 2002; a compact high-performance sedan, now in its fourth generation; Mk5 is scheduled to be unveilled around 2005.
  • 5 Series: a midsize sports/luxury sedan
  • 6 Series: a large 2+2 GT, available as a coupe or convertible
  • 7 Series: a full-size luxury car, competing with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class

  • M3: initially a race-version of the 3-Series sold to the public for homologation reasons, this model has evolved into a maximum-power, maximum-price touring car
  • M5: one of the fastest sedans on the planet, it is temporary out of production because the entire 5 Series is being updated; the next M5 coming in late 2005 will be powered by a F1-inspired V10 engine

  • Z4: a two-seater roadster; much more capable than its predecessor - the Z3

  • X3: a small SUV with emphasis on practicality and affordability
  • X5: BMW's first SUV, this vehicle has all the dynamic qualities expected of a BMW, and set new expectations for SUV design

Out of production

  • M1: a 1970s mid-engine sports car, designed in conjunction with Lamborghini
  • M coupé: a high-powered version of the Z3 coupé, very popular with enthusiasts
  • 8 Series: a fast, high-technology coupe of the 1980s
  • Z1: a late 1980s two-seater with innovative modular construction; only around 10,000 were ever made
  • Z3 coupé: a compact two-seater sports car
  • Z8: flagship sports car; design based on the classic 507 roadster from the 1950s


BMW made many cars over the years which had a massive impact on the world of motoring.

  • Dixi, 3/20, 303, 309, 315, 319, 320, 321, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 335
  • Isetta, 501, 502, 503, 507, 600, 700
  • 3200 CS, 2000 CS
  • 2500 - 3.3
  • 1500 - 2000
  • 2.5 CS - 3.0 CSL
  • 1502 - 2002: acknowledged as the first modern sports sedan, the successor to which remains BMW's core product even today - the 3 Series

Related companies

Motor Sport

needs to be written

BMW Motorcycles

BMW motorcycles were first produced in 1923 and had an unusual "boxer twin" engine, with two air-cooled cylinders protruding from opposite sides of the machine.

Final drive was by shaft contributing to the excellent reliability of the machine.

Essentially, the same basic design is still manufactured by the company today, but other designs were also introduced.

See also:

External links