BMW is a name that is known throughout the globe and stands for Bayerische Moteren Werke, also known as Bavarian Motor Works in English speaking countries. The company was established in 1916 in the city of Munich, Germany as a manufacturer of airplanes.
The first automobile was produced in 1928, called the Dixi. This vehicle kicked off the long line of cars that would first come out in kit form and later, roll off of the assembly lines in mass quantities. The company hit rough times in the 1950s, but managed to pull itself out of the hole with a slew of precision engineered vehicles that became top sellers throughout the world.
Here are the top 20 BMW models of all-time in no particular order:
1. BMW Nazca C2
The Nazca C2 is the design of genius Giorgetto Giugiaro and it has gone down in history as one of the most gorgeous Beamers ever created. The concept sports car was completed in 1992 by the Italdesign automotive engineering company for BMW.
This was a second go at the 1991 concept of the Nazca M12. Engineers modified toe 5.0-liter engine V12 using the Alpina tuned BMW Series 8 for 380 in horsepower and a top speed of 183 miles per hour. There were only three of these gems built. They feature gullwing doors of all carbon fiber construction and a glass top. The Nazca C2 is one of the hottest collectibles in the longline of BMW vehicles.
2. BMW Alpina B10 Biturbo
The name reeks of power and that is exactly what this model deliver. The Alpina B20 Biturbo is a take on the BMW 5 series E34 executive car from the creative genius of Alpina, with high performance as the result. Production began in 1989, at which time it made an appearance at the Geneva Motor Show for its formal introduction to the world.
The vehicle continued to evolve through continual upgrades which were made by Alpina. It stood as the fastest production sedan on the planet in 1989. A total of 507 of these vehicles were produced before production ended in 1994. This is a rare car and BMW collectors keep an eye out for any hints that one will hit the market.
3. E30 BMW M3
The E30 BMW M3 had a good production run from 1987 through 1991 and throughout this era, this is the historic model that spawned the inspiration for all the M3s. It wasn't possible to find a more agile handling vehicle at the time.
The driving dynamics were superb and it set the bar high for other automakers who would follow in their attempts to match the sheer pleasure that driving this car elicited. It was referred to as "God's Chariot" among sports car racing buffs and enthusiasts. This gem was the top vehicle for achieving wins in the history of sports car racing and the memory still remains.
4. BMW Isetta
You may have heard the BMW Isetta called the little Iso. This small car is also referred to as a Bubble car and it served as the inspiration for all of the cute little round looking vehicles that would follow.
The Isetta was the first car in history to achieve a fuel consumption rating of an astronomical 78 miles per gallon. This is due to the four-stroke 247 cc engine that is motorcycle sourced. It was a best seller in its day.
Production of the Iso Isetta ran from 1953 through 56. The BMW Isetta ran from 1955 through 1962, the Velam Isetta from 1955 to 1958 and the Romi-Isetta from 1956 through 1961.
This car features an Italian design a microcar, built for Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, Belgium and the United Kingdom. An amazing 161,728 units were manufactured and sold during the short period of time that the car was offered for sale These little treasures are now considered to be highly collectible.
5. BMW 507
The 507 was first produced in 1956 and ran through 1959 when the last of this popular model was built. There were a scant 252 units produced which makes it a highly collectible car from the 1950s era.
The 507 was the conception of United States importer Max Hoffman. He requested that a BMW build a roadster that would feature a purpose- built chassis with sheet metal inspired by Albrecht von Goertz.
The car was a beautiful example that was powered by 3.- liter V-8 engines and a 4 speed ZF manual transmission. This drop top was built with high anticipation that it would become a top seller, but because of intense competition in auto sales in the US, the high price tag attached to the car resulted in a lull in sales and a small number of examples produced. This model was succeeded by the BMW Z1 and Z8 models.
6. BMW 700 RS
Here is another favorite BMW in the form of a four door. This historical model is the vehicle that pulled the company from the brink of financial ruin and set it back on solid footing to continue in the building of its legacy.
The 700 RS featured a rear engine placement which was a little on the underpowered side, but it was constructed with a light weight, coming in at just 1,350 pounds. The 1960 RS is among the most valuable and rare of the 700-line. It featured a chassis of tubular steel framing with a hand built aluminum body that was more aerodynamic than earlier models.
This is the hand built racing version that came without seat belts and weighted in at just 830 pounds versus the already light 1,350 of the regular 700s. This is including the 40-liter fuel tank filled to capacity. Production of the BMW 700s ran from 1959 through November of 1965 with a total of 188,000 sold prior to the end of the production run, with the RS version being the fully cherried racing example.
7. BMW E9 3.0CSL Batmobile
Of course, the "Batmobile" had to be included in the top twenty Beamers of all time. This coupe Sport is a modification rendered by Alpina to come in at 440 pounds lighter than the CS source.
It is powered by a 203-horse power straight six engine that had no issues sprinting from zero to sixty miles per hour in just under seven seconds. This was BMWs first art car built and it's not only popular because of the novelty, but there were only 167 of them ever built, making this a valuable collectible that is highly desired by BMW lovers.
You can credit American Artist Alexander Calder for lending his creative talent to the appearance of the Batmobile which also participated in the LeMans 24 hour race in 1975, the year he gave it a new look.
8. BMW 750IL V16
The 750iL V16 is the E32 7 series was first conceived in the summer of 1987, and the engine was the first component to achieve completion in 1988. The V16 was tested in a BNW 7 series E32 with a long base.
The idea was a good one, but the housing represented issues because of the tight fit that created a few too many obstacles for engineers to overcome at the time. The engine, although an amazing concept didn't make it into the mass production lines. BMW settled for a higher performance M70 engine that had some sweet modifications to boost its power upwards to come close to the total output of the V16.
9. Concept Coupe Mille Miglia
BMW has always been big on the design and build of concept editions. The Coupe Mille Miglia was the touring coupe that took first place at the Mille Miglia back in 1940. In 2006, this zippy beauty was resurrected in the form of a full carbon fiber body that is built around a Z4 M Coupe body. It was sufficient to power it with an inline six 3.2-liter engine for 340 total horsepower.
The history of the inspiration for this model is immense and that is part of the attraction with the commemorative models which came later in celebration. This was a great exercise and a journey in styling but there are no plans being made by the manufacturer to build a production version of this car.
10. BMW E46 M3
The glowering fascia and road eating power of the E46 makes it among the most desired of the M3s. Fitted with a S54 3.2 liter inline six-cylinder and it brought all 333 horsepower to the starting line. There was no forced induction with this design and it would end up being the last of the naturally aspirated V6 autos that would be produced of the M3s.
11. ’72 BMW Turbo
1972 was the year that the BMW Turbo would steal the hearts of auto lovers around the world. This concept car is the work of designer Paul Bracq which would influence the M1 model. This car goes down in the history books as the only supercar that the Bavarian Motor Works company has produced. It was an exercise in showing the world how technologically savvy its engineers could be when they pulled out all the stops.
Consider the integrated roll cate, lateral sensors and collapsible steering column. Add to that the first warning radar system of its kind in the world to be installed in a vehicle. It also made history by sporting the 1990 cc inline 4 turbocharged engine which was borrowed from the 2002. There were only two of these Turbos ever built in the world, but the world is glad that they were.
This concept car (E25) 1972 Turbo concept car was a celebratory gesture in honor of the 1972 Summer Olympics which were held in Munich, Germany, the birthplace of the auto manufacturer. The gullwing doors and modified chassis sported a mid-mount engine with a 200-horsepower turbocharged engine. It could fly from zero to 62 miles per hour in a mere 6.6 seconds from takeoff with a top speed of 155 miles per hour.
12. BMW 1-Series M Coupe
This was the entry level model of the famed automaker, and there were a few jeers when it was first introduced but the naysayers had to eat their words. This car exploded on the scene with a twin turbocharged direct injection 3.0 liter straight six that produced 335 horse power in a car that featured precision in balance, lightness and nimble handling.
What wasn't to love? The six -speed stick shift was another nice touch that gives drivers the feeling of raw power at their fingertips. For a coupe, the visibility is decent and with the exception of a bit of a stiff tune, harshing the ride, it's a fairly comfortable car to operate. The average current price runs around $47,000 for the base price, but you do get automatic adaptive Xenon headlights, keyless entry, cruise control and automatic climate control. If this isn't enough, you could always add more.
13. BMW 2002 Turbo
This is the compact executive car that was produced from 1966 through 1977 for an eleven-year run. The two-door compact sedan was also available in a 3-door hatchback or a 2 door convertible. This one was considered to be the "new class" of BMW autos. If you're really into rare components, then the 170-horse power 2002 Turbo should grab your attention because it's not just rare, it is very rare. This is the first turbocharged automobile to be built in Europe, and only 1,672 were built.
14. E21 BMW 320I “Roy Lichtenstein Art Car #3”
This unique specimen is BMWs first ever 3 series car and what a way to kick off the lineup. This novelty served as a testament to the perfection in styling that German automakers were capable of achieving. It is a memorable car that established the driving credibility of the company. The 3rd Art Car was painted by famed artist Roy Lichtenstein who brought the comic book illustrations to life in this iconic model. Never mind the fact that this 320i came in 9th overall at the LeMans 24-hour race, and it managed to achieve first in class under the skillful driving of Poulain and Mignot at the event.
15. E90 BMW M3
The E90 M3 BMW rolled out with a naturally aspirated V8 in its original version that underwent a change in the process to a turbocharged V6. The style of this vehicle featured a bold aesthetic that was just beginning to re-emerge on the scene afte the Bangle years that dampened the appearance previously with a more femme approach.
This line began production in 1985 and is still produced at present in the compact luxury sport class. This high-performance vehicle is a derivative of the E30, E36, E90/92/93 and the F80.
16. BMW I8
The initial turbodiesel concept of the 18 made its debut at the 2009 International Motor Show in Germany with the production model appearing at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show. It was released in the country of its origin for sale in the summer of 2014, with sales to the United States commencing a few months later.
The i8 is a futuristic plug in hybrid sports car. It is the first of the Project i electric fleet and is marketed under the new sub-brand launched by the manufacturer as the BMW i.
The BMWi8 is powered with a 1.5 liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that has been enhanced with an electric engine that gives it a boost of output for a total of 362 horse power and 320 pounds of torque that will zip from zero to sixty-two miles per hour in a mere 4.4 seconds, with a top speed of 94 miles per hour which is impressive for an electric hybrid.
It is heavily influenced by the M1 Hommage Concept car. Carbon emissions are drastically cut with this model and the combined fuel economy when running in both electric and gas mode is 76 miles per gallon with a gasoline only mode at 20 miles per gallon. This model reached the top selling plug in electric sports car in the world in the winter of 2016.
17. BMW M1
The M1 is a true supercar and to boot, the only BMW that is a mid-engine production car. This makes it a rare piece from a manufacturer that is high on performance. Jaw dropping beauty is an aspect that just adds fuel to the fire when you take a look at the M1.
This car was built originally for the purpose of competing in the Pro-Car Championship series. It made history as the first BMW to be reverse homologated for use as a street car. It features 277 horse power obtained from the 3.5-liter 6-cylinder engine with a top speed of an eye brow raising 162 miles per hour.
Production of this vehicle began in 1078 and ran through 1981 with just 453 examples of this hand built supercar ever made. How sweet is it that an example of this highly prized sports car now rests in the BMW Museum in its home city of Munich, Germany? This should tell you a little bit about how special it is. This car was sold to the public as well, as a Mi M88 1 with a 3.5-liter six petrol engine that featured Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection.
Later in 1984, there was a two-year run of this engine that was shipped to South Africa with only 209 examples built. The M1 was successful in the motorsports arena with a number ten placement at the 2004 Sports Car International top sports cars of the 1970s list. Don't confuse the M1 with the BMW series 1 compact executive car from 2004 because it is not related to this or to the 1 Series M Coupe that appeared in 2010. This car is a species of its own on the automotive scene.
18. BMW M8 E31
We couldn't leave the M8 E31 off the list because it stands today as one of the most legendary BMWs of all-time. it began in 1990 as a rumor that was neither discounted nor acknowledged for a space of time. The vehicle was shrouded in secrecy and when it was finally revealed, the Legends of the Autobahn show in Carmel, California was the chosen venue, but it was only shown once to the public.
This was the car that was originally designed and built to add a little competition for Ferrari, thanks to the 550-horse power version of their S70 engine. While there are plenty of hungry customers who were waiting to gobble this concept up, it was just too much car and the power was beyond what the general public was up to handling. This king of cars has been locked away in a safe place and in its stead, a more watered-down version made it to production for the good of the public.
19. 2002 BMW Tii
The 2002 BMW Tii was first introduced to the world in 1969 as a modern sports sedan that would shape the new class stylistically. It came on the heels of the financial crisis that had recently threatened the automaker and further enhanced the recent success in sales. The unibody design and independent rear design became a popular model that further enhanced the prospects of the company.
The 2002 is powered with a 130 horsepower 2 liter inline four engine with the rarest example being the direct injection touring model. This truly was a new breed of luxury sport sedan in its day and the world has the BMW engineering team for their fine design, style and craftsmanship.
20. Z8 Roadster
The Z8 Roadster received its inspiration from the 507-classic version in a blast from the past retro theme. The Z8 made its first appearance on the scene in 1999 and was welcomed into the world with open arms. The original gathered everything special about the BMW roadster tradition and brought them together in one sweet and desirable package.
The aluminum space frame gave it just the right lightness without going too far and it housed the 4.9-liter V8 engine that would supply the impressive vehicle with 400 horsepower. The Z 8 Roadster is a car that offers the world some serious eye candy, but this isn't as much a museum show piece as it is a lean mean, hard edged machine that has a serious want to hit the road and burn some rubber.
It features a unique design thanks to designer Henrik Fisker who earned fame working for Aston Martin. After production of the Z8 completed, Alpina took it upon themselves to create a roadster with smoother edges and a more relaxed feel, but it didn't make our list because the Z8 has earned its place of recognition among the top BMW models of all-time.
You can also read:
- The 10 Best BMW Hatchback Models of All-Time
- The 20 Best BMW Convertible Models of All-Time
- The Top 10 Game Changing BMW Models of All-Time
- The 10 Fastest BMW Models of All-Time
- The 10 Most Reliable BMW Models of All-Time
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker