BMW was born from the Rapp Motorenwerke aircraft
manufacturing firm in 1917. When the end of the war put an end to aircraft
manufacture in Germany, the company focused on motorcycles and then, as the
restrictions began to lift, it started to make cars in 1928.
Surprisingly, BMW’s first car was the Dixi, based on the Austin 7 and built
under licence. Then in the late 1930s Germany went to war again, and BMW went
back to aircraft engines to support the effort. BMW was responsible for the
first jet engine, which generally failed on take off, among other pioneering
moves, but when the war finished it was always the plan to return to cars.
The BMW 507 was one of the highlights of the time in terms of pure driving,
although it didn’t sell well. In fact BMW enjoyed greater commercial success
with the Isetta bubble car that helped the Quandt family decide to take a
The company bought the Hans Glas company in 1966 to gain access to the smaller
firm’s overhead camshaft and timing belt. But it was the cars that followed in
the next decades, the 3 Series, 5 Series, 6 and 7 Series, even the relatively
rare and short-lived 8 Series, that really made BMW stand out.
The 1970s to the 1990s were BMW’s halcyon days and it fought it out with
Mercedes for the title of the world’s best prestige car. It’s still up there
with the best, but in those decades it was known as Unbeatable BMW and
dominated the world