BMWs Through the DecadesSince the establishment of Bayerische Flugzeug-Werke as an aeroplane manufacturer in 1916, BMW has been striving to create the best and have done so for the past 100 years.
BFw changed its name to the more recognisable Bayerische Motoren Werke in 1917, with the focus of production aimed towards aeroplanes and small motorbike engines for the first 15 years of the company’s existence.
The first BMW production came thanks to a joint venture with Austin, who allowed the Seven to be produced under the BMW name. In 1928, the 3/15 DA-1, otherwise known as ‘Dixi’, rolled off the production line, and BMW cars were on the road. The DA-1 stood for the Erste Deutsche Ausführung or ‘First German Version’, and the BMW road car was born.
As the company adapted to the car industry, BMW started developing its own chassis and towards the end of the 1930’s, the first real success of the BMW era was the 328 Roadster.
The first sports car that the company produced, the 328 was a big success on the motorsport scene, with it winning class honours in the 1938 Mille Miglia, before winning the 1,000-mile race around Italy overall in 1940, at an average speed of 103.6mph.
Its success continued into modern times, as a 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupe won the 2004 event, making it the first car to win in both the old and new formats of the competition.
After the Second World War, production slowly built back up with pre-war levels, with the 340 saloon helping the company recover along with the 327 coupe.
Following a partnership with Italian company Iso, BMW released the BMW Isetta 250, or the ‘Bubblecar’ as it became affectionately known, in 1955. After revamping the original engine and redesigning much of the car, the 250 and subsequent 300 and 600 models were a great success, being sold and built in Germany and the UK, until production ceased in 1962.
After the success of the Isetta, the next major progression of the BMW brand came with the New Class or Neue Klasse line of sedans and coupes, which would lay the basis for the company’s saloon range up until the present day.
The New Class laid the groundwork for the world-renowned 5 Series saloons and 6 Series coupes, and was in production from 1962 through till 1977. It was also the origin of some of the sportier coupes and saloons, making the New Class an important base for much of the BMW range.
BMW’s E9 was a coupe built between 1968 and 1975, and helped to cement the company's standing as a sporty car manufacturer, mainly thanks to the success of the 3.0 CSL in both European Touring Car and German Touring Car Championships. With the iconic and instantly recognisable white livery with red, navy and sky blue stripes around the car, the 3.0 CSL was a match for anyone throughout the early 70s and because of the iconic nature of this model, BMW produced a concept 3.0 CSL Hommage, combining the famous colours into modern sporty BMW design.
Throughout the late 70s, the 3, 5, 6 and 7 Series lines made their debuts on the scene, showing the intent of BMW to dominate the market of both saloons and coupes, with all of the lines still in existence today.
The late 70s were also very important for the release of BMW’s first and only supercar, the M1. After deriving many of its styling points from a 1972 E25 Turbo concept car, the M1 was the first in the M ‘motorsport’ sports series of road cars, which has continued till this day. Released in 1978, the futuristic look has made it one of the most sought-after models in BMW’s history, with only 458 being produced between 1978 and 1981.
The M series’ reputation was compounded further thanks to the first M saloon, the E30 M3. Derived from the successful 3 Series with only minor changes to the bodywork and engine, the E30 was a large success both on the road and on the track in sports car championships.
Having produced quality roadsters before, BMW had a successful period with the soft-top concept in the 1990s, thanks to the Z3 and Z8 roadsters appearing in two of the three James Bond films that decade.
The Z8 had been developed from the 1997 Z7 concept, and thanks to its modern design it was a big hit. The 4.9-litre V8 was produced by the M subsidiary and helped get the lightweight Z8 from 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. As a premium roadster, it often bettered its rivals and was a good way to end the 20th Century.
1999 also saw the introduction of BMW’s first SUV, the X5, which has continued to be a popular premium 4x4 in the current market. Thanks to the unique selling point of being the first in the company’s history, the X5 has spawned further X models, such as the X3 and X6 SUVs to help branch the brand further across the motoring market.
Another first for BMW was the release of its first 1 Series in 2004, a compact hatchback, but with a premium finish to put it at the higher end of the hatchback market. With a subsequent M Series version, every series from 1 through 6 has had an M series production, showing the adaptability of the M motorsport line.
BMW has also shown that despite its illustrious history, the future is very much in mind, with the recent electric and hybrid powered i3 and i8 models, which can both achieve over 100mpg and help to keep BMW one step ahead of the development of the motoring world.
And with a look further into the future at a recent event in Munich, BMW showed off its concept of the future of motoring. The striking BMW VISION NEXT 100 is a celebration of the first centenary of the company and also shows what the company will be producing within the next 100 years. With adaptive bodywork and interior layout, this autonomous model has shown how far BMW as a company has come and also how far the motor industry can go in the next 100 years.