BMW is a well-established brand in the car industry and is possibly the best-known German car manufacturer. It has become synonymous with high-performance vehicles that are sophisticated in appearance and comfortable to drive. While many luxury car brands simply cater to the high-end of the market, BMW manufactures a wide range of vehicles with some aimed at the upper-end of the market and other models that are accessible to the regular Joe. While most people are aware of this company due to its long history and the high numbers of cars it has produced, not everyone knows specific details about this company and the vehicles they have manufactured over the years. Even hardcore car enthusiasts may not know many pieces of information about this German automobile company. With this in mind, here are 20 interesting facts you might not know about the car manufacturer BMW.
1. They Were Founded in 1916
In 1916, Franz Joseph Popp, Karl Rapp, and Camillo Castiglioni founded the company which is based in Munich Germany. They called the company Bayerische Motoren Werke which was later shortened to BMW. This was a sensible move as the original name is such a mouthful. Rappe had already left the company by 1917 and it wasn’t until then that they manufactured their first product. This was the BMW Illa aircraft engine. In the early years of the company, they manufactured a range of products, including railway brakes, household items, and agricultural equipment. They also manufactured engines for buses, trucks, farm equipment, and pumps. This was a necessity at the time as World War I was taking place. Not only did it make it difficult for BMW to find their forte, it was also a necessity of the time for themselves for financial reasons. Furthermore, they were meeting the needs of the surrounding community by creating such a wide range of products.
2. They Originally Manufactured Aircraft Engines
Although BMW is now best-known for producing cars, this was not the original purpose of their company; they actually manufactured engines for planes. When the company was first founded, it was during World War I. At this time, there was a huge demand for engines for warplanes. Rapp Motor and Otto Werke merged to create an airplane manufacturing company. The planes they produced were described by Red Baron as the greatest engines in World War I. Their aircraft engines became well-known for high-altitude performance and fuel efficiency. As the warplanes were in high-demand by the German military, BMW was forced to expand their business at a rapid rate to keep up with demand. Although they initially stopped manufacturing planes after World War I, they had to resume manufacturing of warplanes during World War II as they were producing aircraft engines for the Luftwaffe. The most successful of the World War II engine designs were the BMW 132 and the BMW 801. The BMW 003 axial-flow turbojet was also one of their pioneering engines. BMW continued to manufacture airplane engines until 1945.
3. The Treaty of Versailles is the Reason BMW Began Making Cars
Bizarrely, the Treaty of Versailles is responsible for BMW manufacturing cars. During World War I, the company had produced plane engines. Following the war, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles banned German companies from producing both warplanes and engines for warplanes. For this reason, BMW was forced to diversify their company to remain in business. Originally, they shifted their focus to motorcycles before beginning car production in 1929. It was only because of the Treaty of Versailles that they began to manufacture cars. If it had not been for World War I, the history of BMW would be an entirely different story.
4. Their First Car Was the Dixi
Since the company was founded, they have made many different models of cars. The first car they manufactured was called the ‘Dixi’. When they first moved into the automobile industry, they bought Automobilwerk Eisenach in 1928. This gave them the rights to build the Dixi car. When the cars were first produced, they were badged as BMW Dixi. IN 1929, the Dixi name was dropped from the car and an updated model was made. This was called the BMW 3/15 DA-2 and went on sale in 1929. Although the Dixi was their first car, they did not design it. It was actually an English Austin and the same car had been built in Japan as a Datsun and in America as a Bantum,
5. The Colors Used in the Logo Represent Bavaria
The logo for BMW is distinctive and easily recognizable. It consists of a black circle with the interior quartered and the sections within are an alternate blue and white. Many people mistakenly believe that the logo is supposed to represent a spinning propeller, but that is not the case. The symbol was designed and the colors were chosen to represent the colors of Bavaria which is where the main headquarters of BMW is located. Blue and white are the national colors of Bavaria but that is not the only reason why this log was designed. The roundel was part of the original logo of the Rapp Motor company who were involved in the founding of BMW. Therefore, the logo was an important tribute to them and the role they played in the creation of BMW.
6. BMW Was Ahead of the Times with the Production of Electric Cars
Many people assume that electric cars are a modern invention. However, this is not the case and car manufacturers have tinkered with the concept since the early 19th century. The very first electric car was produced in 1828 but the fashion for this type of car saw a huge decline which wasn’t really revived until the 1990s. It was during this decade that the larger car manufacturers began to produce electric versions of their own models. BMW were well ahead of the game, though, and they had built their first electric vehicle in 1972 and this was called the BMW 1602e. Sadly, this never made it to the market. This was because it had only half the performance of the manufacturer’s other models and it could only hold a charge of 20 minutes. This was not a standard good enough to introduce the car onto the market. Although it failed to make it to the market, it laid the groundwork for future electric cars produced by BMW.
7. BMW Owns Rolls-Royce and the Mini Brands
It is often difficult to work out which car manufacturer makes which car as it is commonplace for one manufacturer to take over another and then continue to produce models in the name of the former company. BMW is the perfect example of this as they took over two British firms; Rolls-Royce and Mini Cooper. BMW bought the British Rover Group in 1994. This means they now produce all the cars formerly produced by that company, including the Mini Cooper, Rover MG, and Land Rover. BMW then took over Rolls-Royce and produced their first car using this name in 2003. This was the Rolls-Royce Phantom. It often surprises people that two of the best-known British car brands are now manufactured by a German company.
8. The Headquarters is Designed Like a BMW Four-Cylinder Engine
The headquarters of BMW in Munich, Bavaria, have a rather unusual design. They represent the shape and design of BMW’s famous four-cylinder engines. BMW is famous for its four-cylinder heritage and designers of the headquarters wanted to reflect this. The headquarters were designed by an Austrian architect professor. In recent years, many models of BMW now have six-cylinder engines. The tower was added to the headquarters in 1972 just in time for the Olympics. This gave it a distinctive design and made the headquarters stand out from the surrounding landscape as an important landmark.
9. They Built a Lamborghini
It may surprise people to learn that BMW built a Lamborghini as the two companies are not connected to each other in any way and one is German while the other is Italian. However, it was by mutual agreement that BMW built the car. The two companies had agreed to build a race car together during the 1970s. The car was designed by Giugiaro and BMW were providing part of the suspension and the engine. Everything else was the responsibility of Lamborghini. For financial reasons, Lamborghini then pulled out of the project leaving BMW to pick up the pieces. They hired Baur, a private coachbuilder, to take over Lamborghini’s part in the project. This led to the birth of the original BMW M1 supercar.
10. BMW Almost Became Mercedes
During a particularly difficult period in BMW’s history in the 1950s, they were almost taken over by Mercedes. BMW had almost gone bankrupt by 1959 and one reason for this was the Cold War. Daimler-Benz, the parent company of Mercedes, attempted a hostile takeover of BMW. However, shareholders of BMW fought against the takeover and mounted a counter attack by buying back shares. Therefore, the takeover bid failed. Eventually, the company was taken over by Quandit. There has been a long-standing rivalry between Mercedes and BMW and the attempted takeover is still considered on of the highlights of their ongoing battle.
11. The Signature Grille is Called a Kidney Grille
One of the most distinctive features of a BMW is the grille. This is one of the features that people notice when they see a car and instantly recognize it as being a car manufactured by BMW. Some people even find this a more recognizable feature than the BMW logo. This grille is called a kidney grille and it has a longer history with this car brand than you may think as it was first introduced in 1933. The first model on which it appeared was the BMW 303. Few other car brands can claim they are recognisable by the grille alone.
12. They Built the World’s Fastest Motorbike
While most people associate BMW with cars, they have also manufactured motorcycles. IN fact, they manufactured the fastest motorcycle in the world in 1937. Their motorcycle division was called BMW Motorrad and they still make top-of-the-range bikes to this day. The bike they designed in 1937 was intended to be exceptionally aerodynamic. It was built with a supercharged engine that could reach speeds of up to 173.7 miles an hour. This made it the fastest motorcycle of the time. In the current day, the motorcycle division is constantly increasing its motorcycles sales and they set new records in 2016.
13. The BMW CSL Has a Stand Out Design
The BMW CSL is one of the most distinctive cars manufactured by BMW. Its stand-out design has often been compared to that of the bat mobile in the Batman series of films. This sports car has spoilers and arches that are not only an important element of the aesthetics of this car, they also play a vital role in this model’s dynamics. This car is considered one of the most desirable models ever produced by BMW.
14. Many Celebrities Own a BMW
As BMW has produced many models that are associated with quality and luxury, they are a popular option amongst the rich and famous. Kim Kardashian has a Range Rover and this is a car manufactured by BMW. She is not alone in the celebrity world when it comes to driving BMWs. Jessica Alba is often spotted out in her BMW X6 while NHL player Scottie Upshall is the proud owner of a BMW i8. Halle Berry drives a BMW i3 and Jerry Ferrara drives a BMW X5. Other celebrities who own a BMW include Clive Owen, Heidi Klum, and Reese Witherspoon.
15. BMW Are Involved in Both the Aerospace and Train Industries
Automobiles continue to be the main focus of BMW although they do also have a successful motorcycle division. However, they have not forgotten about their roots in the aerospace industry, even if they haven’t produced an airplane engine since 1945. They continue to design the interiors for airplanes, including those that fly for Singapore Airlines. The interiors of these are so comfortable and luxurious that once you are inside a Singapore Airline plane it is unlikely that you will ever want to leave. They have also diversified into the train industry and the BART system in San Francisco is replacing some of their train interiors with ones designed by BMW.
16. They Were at the Forefront of Aerodynamics Design
Aerodynamics are an essential part of automobile design and BMW were well ahead of their time in terms of their designs. The 1940 328 Kamm Coupe was named after Wunibald Kamm who was an aerodynamist. It is the perfect example of how BMW were at the forefront of aerodynamics and innovative design as they chopped off the rear end of the car to increase straight-line speed by up to 30%. The shape used at the rear of the car is called a Kammback and this design has been adopted by many other manufacturers and is still used today. Some examples of this are Corvettes and Priuses.
17. They Have Been Involved in Motorcycle Racing
Sidecar motorcycle racing has been a popular sport for many decades. As they worked in the automobile industry and had a motorcycle division, BMW had a team of drivers who raced in these sidecar motorcycle events. A common strategy to improve speed and to win races was for the sidecar driver to lean out of the car as they were taking corners as this improved aerodynamics, allowing the driver to get around the corner faster and more smoothly. The BMW team were a daring bunch as they would lean out of the sidecars so far that their faces were almost touching the ground while wearing little more protection than a pair of goggles. Such practices are no longer allowed in motor racing due to stricter health and safety regulations.
18. Giorgetto Giugiaro Designed the M1 Car
The M1 was the car that Lamborghini should have manufactured but didn’t and BMW took full control of production to create the M1 supercar. However, it is Giorgetto Giugio who BMW can thank for the amazing design of this car. Giugiaro is something of a legend in the automobile industry as he is responsible for the designs of some of the most beautiful cars ever produced. He designed the Lotus Esprit, the DeLorean, the Beretta U22 Neos, and the VW Golf. What remains a mystery to those who admire the talent of this man is how he can also be the person responsible for the design of the Yugo. This is a question that may never be answered. Giugiaro was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2002 and was named the Car Designer of the Year in 1999.
19. They Were Involved in a Formula One Championship Win
The M10 four-cylinder engine was a creation of BMW’s that first hit the streets in 1962. At first, it had just 75 horsepower. The engineers had spent some time working on its design until it could achieve 1,400 horsepower by 1983. It was still basically the same engine, but they had heavily modified it to achieve that horsepower. It was this engine that was in the car driven by Nelson Piquet when he won the Formula One World Championship. In theory, he won the championship driving a car with a 20-year-old street engine inside it. Piquet was driving for the Brabham racing time at the time of his win in 1983. The season had ended with the South African Grand Prix.
20. They Still Make Classic Parts
Many people who own a classic car or motorcycle find it difficult to get hold of parts as they are no longer manufactured. BMW have made it easy for owners of their classic cars as they continue to make World War II era parts for their vehicles. Rather than owners having to track down a second-hand part in questionable condition, they can opt to order a brand-new part for some models of BMWs that is made direct in the factory to order. It is called the BNW Classic Program and it is said that a group of mechanics once built a 1976 R906 motorcycle from scratch simply by ordering new parts for it from BMW. The company bought back their old motorcycle factory in Munich co they can make the old parts people need. This shows a true dedication to their customers.