Automotive

Bavaria's greatest hits: 100 years of BMW

100 years of BMW: A gaggle of 328s on the roads at the modern re-running of the Mille Miglia
100 years of BMW: A gaggle of 328s on the roads at the modern re-running of the Mille Miglia
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The BMW i8 is powered by a three-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor
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The BMW i8 is powered by a three-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor
Inside, BMW's classic design architecture has been reworked to suit the futuristic i8
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Inside, BMW's classic design architecture has been reworked to suit the futuristic i8
A special launch edition of the i8 featured frozen grey paint
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A special launch edition of the i8 featured frozen grey paint
The BMW i8 was launched alongside the i3, and shares a carbon construction with its smaller stablemate
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The BMW i8 was launched alongside the i3, and shares a carbon construction with its smaller stablemate
The i8 is largely unchanged from the Vision Efficient Dynamics concept shown in 2009
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The i8 is largely unchanged from the Vision Efficient Dynamics concept shown in 2009
The launch edition i8 also had a unique interior trim
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The launch edition i8 also had a unique interior trim
The i8 has plenty of supercar drama thanks to its gullwing doors
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The i8 has plenty of supercar drama thanks to its gullwing doors
The BMW Z8 only enjoyed a brief production run
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The BMW Z8 only enjoyed a brief production run
The Z8 with the car that inspired it - the 507
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The Z8 with the car that inspired it - the 507
BMW shoehorned the M5's V8 engine under the hood of the Z8
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BMW shoehorned the M5's V8 engine under the hood of the Z8
0-100 km/h took just 4.2 seconds, making the Z8 quick enough to duty in the MotoGP
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0-100 km/h took just 4.2 seconds, making the Z8 quick enough to duty in the MotoGP
The Z8 has a unique style, but was criticised for a slightly confused ride and handling setup
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The Z8 has a unique style, but was criticised for a slightly confused ride and handling setup
The X5's all-wheel drive system stripped bare
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The X5's all-wheel drive system stripped bare
The X5 can be credited with kickstarting our current fascination with premium SUVs
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The X5 can be credited with kickstarting our current fascination with premium SUVs
The X5 launched in 1999, and now is into its third generation
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The X5 launched in 1999, and now is into its third generation
Although it had some Land Rover components, the X5 spent most of its life on the road
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Although it had some Land Rover components, the X5 spent most of its life on the road
Over 50,000 X5s were sold last year
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Over 50,000 X5s were sold last year
Andy Warhol got his hands on the M1 to make it into an artwork
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Andy Warhol got his hands on the M1 to make it into an artwork
The M1 underwent a difficult gestation, but has turned into a collectible for BMW fans
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The M1 underwent a difficult gestation, but has turned into a collectible for BMW fans
The M1 is powered by a mid-mounted inline-six
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The M1 is powered by a mid-mounted inline-six
The M1 was originally meant to be built by Lamborghini, but financial trouble forced that to change
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The M1 was originally meant to be built by Lamborghini, but financial trouble forced that to change
The M1 ended up competing in a Procar series, but its racing life was short lived
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The M1 ended up competing in a Procar series, but its racing life was short lived
The M1 was BMW's first mid-engined car
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The M1 was BMW's first mid-engined car
Just under 400 road-going M1s were built to homologate the racing version of the car
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Just under 400 road-going M1s were built to homologate the racing version of the car
Most M1s don't see the road these days, instead spending time in museums and private collections
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Most M1s don't see the road these days, instead spending time in museums and private collections
The M1 has a famously neutral handling balance compared to other supercars of the era
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The M1 has a famously neutral handling balance compared to other supercars of the era
The M1 was one of BMW's biggest missteps at the time, but history has been kind to its reputation
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The M1 was one of BMW's biggest missteps at the time, but history has been kind to its reputation
The road going M1 lost the big wings of the racecar for a sleeker silhouette
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The road going M1 lost the big wings of the racecar for a sleeker silhouette
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No list of BMW's past greats would be complete without the E24 6 Series
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No list of BMW's past greats would be complete without the E24 6 Series
The BMW 3 Series has underpinned the brand since 1975
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The BMW 3 Series has underpinned the brand since 1975
The 3 Series has a reputation for handling fun
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The 3 Series has a reputation for handling fun
BMW's 3 Series has grown and changed, but remains the mid-size benchmark
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BMW's 3 Series has grown and changed, but remains the mid-size benchmark
It's incredible to think of how far interiors have come since 1975
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It's incredible to think of how far interiors have come since 1975
The kidney grille has been the defining feature of BMW's design since its ingestion
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The kidney grille has been the defining feature of BMW's design since its ingestion
The 3 Series developed from the Neue Klasse 2002
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The 3 Series developed from the Neue Klasse 2002
100 years of BMW: The impressive bloodline of the 3 Series on display
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100 years of BMW: The impressive bloodline of the 3 Series on display
The car launched in the US with a 2.0-liter engine
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The car launched in the US with a 2.0-liter engine
BMW's basic styling cues haven't changed all that much over the years, with the Hoffmeister kink and kidney grille
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BMW's basic styling cues haven't changed all that much over the years, with the Hoffmeister kink and kidney grille
The 2 Series is closer in size to the original 3 Series, but that hasn't stopped BMW trading on the E21's heritage to launch new cars
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The 2 Series is closer in size to the original 3 Series, but that hasn't stopped BMW trading on the E21's heritage to launch new cars
With space for luggage and people, the 3 Series is compact and practical
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With space for luggage and people, the 3 Series is compact and practical
The 6 Series is widely regarded as one of the best looking Coupes in history
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The 6 Series is widely regarded as one of the best looking Coupes in history
The sharknose and big glasshouse are two design cues that BMW often rehashes on modern concepts
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The sharknose and big glasshouse are two design cues that BMW often rehashes on modern concepts
A closer look under the skin of the 6 Series
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A closer look under the skin of the 6 Series
While there were a range of six-cylinder engines available, the 3.5-liter was the pick of the bunch
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While there were a range of six-cylinder engines available, the 3.5-liter was the pick of the bunch
The car's color is a big giveaway at to its age
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The car's color is a big giveaway at to its age
Inside, the 6 Series was designed to go head to head with the most luxurious cars out there
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Inside, the 6 Series was designed to go head to head with the most luxurious cars out there
The 6 Series' glasshouse is a shape that BMW has carried into its current cars
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The 6 Series' glasshouse is a shape that BMW has carried into its current cars
The M635 CSi was the pick of the bunch
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The M635 CSi was the pick of the bunch
The BMW M635 CSi was finished with a tasteful set of stripes and a bodykit
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The BMW M635 CSi was finished with a tasteful set of stripes and a bodykit
BMW's center consoles have traditionally slanted towards the driver
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BMW's center consoles have traditionally slanted towards the driver
The art car phenomenon wasn't limited to M1s
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The art car phenomenon wasn't limited to M1s
The BMW 6 Series in full flight
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The BMW 6 Series in full flight
The 328 was less powerful than its rivals, but was also lighter and more balanced
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The 328 was less powerful than its rivals, but was also lighter and more balanced
The 328 was powered by a 2.0-liter inline six
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The 328 was powered by a 2.0-liter inline six
The 328's kidney grille inspired BMW's next generation of cars - a design cue that still survives today
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The 328's kidney grille inspired BMW's next generation of cars - a design cue that still survives today
The 328 won Mille Miglia in 1940
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The 328 won Mille Miglia in 1940
The 328 was a successful race car, but also worked well as a road car
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The 328 was a successful race car, but also worked well as a road car
The 328 was up against vastly more powerful supercharged cars
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The 328 was up against vastly more powerful supercharged cars
The 328 is often rolled out at classic car events and concours
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The 328 is often rolled out at classic car events and concours
The 328's skinny wheel couldn't look more out of place when you compare it to the wide wheels on modern racecars
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The 328's skinny wheel couldn't look more out of place when you compare it to the wide wheels on modern racecars
The BMW 328 Roadster had a four-speed manual gearbox
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The BMW 328 Roadster had a four-speed manual gearbox
With 80 hp, the car wasn't exactly powerful, but it was still a successful race car
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With 80 hp, the car wasn't exactly powerful, but it was still a successful race car
100 years of BMW: A gaggle of 328s on the roads at the modern re-running of the Mille Miglia
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100 years of BMW: A gaggle of 328s on the roads at the modern re-running of the Mille Miglia
The 507 has inspired the modern design of BMW convertibles
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The 507 has inspired the modern design of BMW convertibles
The car was powered by a small V8 engine, but this isn't about big performance
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The car was powered by a small V8 engine, but this isn't about big performance
The BMW 507 was later re-imagined as the Z8
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The BMW 507 was later re-imagined as the Z8
The car's pencil-moustache grille is a unique take on BMW's kidney grille
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The car's pencil-moustache grille is a unique take on BMW's kidney grille
The car was around in the same time as Mercedes' famous SL
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The car was around in the same time as Mercedes' famous SL
The BMW 507 was owned by Elvis Presley and Bernie Ecclestone
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The BMW 507 was owned by Elvis Presley and Bernie Ecclestone
The BMW 507
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The BMW 507
The BMW 507
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The BMW 507
The BMW Vision Next 100 concept looks forward to the features of tomorrow's autonomous car
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The BMW Vision Next 100 concept looks forward to the features of tomorrow's autonomous car
The BMW Vision Next 100 concept merges digital and physical information displays
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The BMW Vision Next 100 concept merges digital and physical information displays

BMW marked its centenary this month with the unveiling of the Vision Next 100 – a shape-shifting look at where the German automaker thinks the next century will take it. But behind that futuristic showpiece is a rich history of automotive ingenuity. Join us as we take a look at some of the cars that shaped BMW over its 100 year history.

328 Roadster (1936 - 1940)

The BMW 328 Roadster had a four-speed manual gearbox
The BMW 328 Roadster had a four-speed manual gearbox

Bayerische Motoren Werke was established in 1916 as an aircraft engine manufacturer. Motorcycles followed in 1923 and the first cars were produced around 1928, beginning with the Austin 7-based Dixi. In the 1930s the company went racing, with the BMW 328 Roadster, which became one of the most successful race cars of the era after being introduced at the Nürburgring. Up against vastly more powerful supercharged cars, the lightweight Roadster needed just 80 kW (107 hp) from its 2.0-liter inline six to notch up a win in the 1940 Mille Miglia.

The 328 was also launched as a road car and with a top speed of 155 km/h (93 mph), it was one of the fastest cars of the time.

507 Roadster (1956 - 1959)

The BMW 507
The BMW 507

The 507 might not get the same amount of attention as the Mercedes SL of the same era, but it's almost on a par when it comes to cool factor. With a 3.2-liter alloy V8 powering an drop-dead gorgeous body, the Roadster was owned by famous socialites ranging from Elvis Presley to Bernie Ecclestone.

As well as looking stunning in its time, the 507 inspired BMW's modern roadster designs, including the Z3, Z4 and Z8.

E21 3 Series (1975 - 1983)

The 2 Series is closer in size to the original 3 Series, but that hasn't stopped BMW trading on the E21's heritage to launch new cars
The 2 Series is closer in size to the original 3 Series, but that hasn't stopped BMW trading on the E21's heritage to launch new cars

Whenever a new midsize luxury car is launched, the world's motoring press asks: "is this the car to knock the BMW 3 Series off its perch?" That's because the E21, and subsequent E30, established the 3 Series as a sweet-handling, dependable rear-drive sedan for middle market managers who also wanted to attack backroads on the weekend.

Set the task of replacing the Neue Klasse line of cars, the E21 3 Series' MacPherson Strut front and trailing arm rear suspension were an evolution of the setup featured on its predecessor, while power initially came from a 2.0-liter inline four producing 110 hp (82 kW) in the US models.

E24 6 Series (1976 - 1989)

The sharknose and big glasshouse are two design cues that BMW often rehashes on modern concepts
The sharknose and big glasshouse are two design cues that BMW often rehashes on modern concepts

No list of BMW's past greats would be complete without the E24 6 Series, a car widely regarded as one of the best-looking coupes ever made.

Designed as a replacement for the CS and CSL Coupes that had been around the 1960s, power came from inline-six engines ranging from 2.8 to 3.5 liters in displacement. But the most famous, and attractive 6 Series was the M635 CSi, which could hit 255 km/h (158 mph) thanks to its 3.5-liter, 210 kW (288 hp) engine.

E26 M1 (1978 - 1981)

The road going M1 lost the big wings of the racecar for a sleeker silhouette
The road going M1 lost the big wings of the racecar for a sleeker silhouette

Among a history built on the back of successful mass-market cars imbued with sports-car handling, BMW's only true supercar was something of a failure.

The M1 came about through motorsport. With its aging CSL racers struggling to compete with the lightning-quick Porsche 935, BMW decided it needed a mid-engined chassis to house its 3.5-liter inline six engine. Rather than allowing the small project to take up space at its Munich factory, the company turned to Lamborghini for help with the E26. Shortly after taking control of the project, however, Lamborghini's already precarious financial situation got worse, forcing BMW to take back control of the M1 project in 1978.

After officially launching the M1 at the 1978 Paris Motor Show, BMW discovered the car it had designed to tackle Group Five motorsport wasn't eligible to compete until 400 had been built. Production delays meant the M1 wasn't homologated to race until 1981, by which stage the Group Five class had moved on.

Around 400 M1s were built, making it something of a unicorn in the used car world. But those lucky enough to drive one in the 1970s and '80s were impressed by its handling setup, which was reportedly far more forgiving than other supercars from the same era.

E53 X5 (1999 - 2007)

Although it had some Land Rover components, the X5 spent most of its life on the road
Although it had some Land Rover components, the X5 spent most of its life on the road

While modern luxury car manufacturers are producing SUVs in every shape, size and configuration imaginable now, the X5 was the first premium German four-wheel drive to capture the public's imagination (and wallets) in a meaningful way.

The X5 was designed first and foremost as a road car, unlike most four-wheel drives before it. That meant the engines and electronic system came from the 5 Series, while BMW raided the Land Rover parts bin for the car's off-road engine management system and hill-descent control functions.

Not that many people worried about taking their "Sports Activity Vehicles" off-road, with most X5s spending their time ferrying kids from private school to soccer practice, music rehearsals and birthday parties. Now into its third generation, 54,997 X5s were sold in 2015.

E52 Z8 Roadster (2000 - 2002)

BMW shoehorned the M5's V8 engine under the hood of the Z8
BMW shoehorned the M5's V8 engine under the hood of the Z8

It takes something special to separate James Bond from Aston Martin, but BMW managed to do just that in The World Is Not Enough, where Pierce Brosnan had his Z8 Roadster cut in half by a helicopter-mounted circular saw.

Powered by the 394 hp (294 kW) naturally aspirated, 4.9-liter V8 from the M5, the Z8 was seriously fast, clocking the 100 km/h (62 mph) sprint in 4.2 seconds on its way to a limited top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). Despite clocking 0.92 G on Road and Track's skidpad, the Z8's handling was compared to that of a truck by Jeremy Clarkson, and the car's boulevard-cruiser looks didn't quite match up with its rock-hard ride.

But the Z8's gorgeous 507-inspired interior and exterior design, massive V8 engine and manual gearbox make it a distinctly different beast to the Aston Martin DB7 and Ferrari 360 Spider it competed with at launch. What's more, only 5,703 units were built, turning the Z8 into a modern auction house-hero - one sold for US$192,500, or 50 percent more than the car's original price last year.

i8 (2014 onwards)

The BMW i8 was launched alongside the i3, and shares a carbon construction with its smaller stablemate
The BMW i8 was launched alongside the i3, and shares a carbon construction with its smaller stablemate

As emissions regulations get stricter, the world's car manufacturers have been scrambling to take fuel saving tech and transfer it onto sports cars. For a brand like BMW, which hangs its hat on its cars being the "Ultimate Driving Machine," proving electrification doesn't mean death to driving fun is especially important.

That's where the i8 comes in. Having teased us with the Vision Efficient Dynamics Concept, BMW launched its 'i' sub-brand with two cars: the i3 and i8. While both showcase high-tech carbon fiber production methods and hybrid powertrains, it's the i8 that got our attention thanks to its styling, which is almost identical to the aero-heavy concept we first saw in 2009.

The E21 3 Series signalled a step change in BMW's philosophy, one that inspired the brand's cars up until 2016. But the i8, and its i3 sibling, signal a new turn in the story of Bayerische Motoren Werke, one that will potentially influence the next 50 years of cars with the blue and white roundel on the bonnet.

Vision Next 100

The BMW Vision Next 100 concept merges digital and physical information displays
The BMW Vision Next 100 concept merges digital and physical information displays

The Vision Next 100 made its world debut at the BMW Group Centenary Event in the Munich Olympic Hall on March 7 to mark 100 years since the company first appeared on the commercial register.

According to its designers, the car anticipates a time when autonomous cars are no longer a young technology, city streets are more congested, we're even shorter of time and connectivity isn't just limited to an in-dash display.

100 years of BMW: The impressive bloodline of the 3 Series on display
100 years of BMW: The impressive bloodline of the 3 Series on display

Visit the gallery for a drive down memory lane with BMW.

Source: BMW

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