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Tom Mallett2011-05-20 11:10:24

The BMW 328 turns 75

The BMW 328 turns 75

After 75 years the BMW 328 is still fascinating to car enthusiasts all over the world. The 328 was a successful racing car throughout the pre war period. It made its debut without any fanfare at the Nürburgring on 14 June 1936. It produced only 80hp in production form but weighed just 780 kilogram’s giving it sprightly performance.

The 328 laid the foundations for later BMW’s with good weight distribution and a well tuned chassis. This allowed it to be used not only as a racing machine but also a road car. Production of private cars began in the spring of 1937. The road cars had a top speed of 155km/h, making them genuinely fast for their day. 464 cars were produced in total and they remain extremely collectible today.

The car was released to critical acclaim at the Nürburgring, winning the non-supercharged sports car class for up to 2 litres. The driver, Jakob Henne, was able to post the fastest lap time of any sports car. The race was to go down in Nürburgring folk law and was the first of over 200 victories in the 328 lifecycle which lasted until the 1950’s.

The BMW 328 was conceived by Rudolf Schleicher and Fritz Fiedler. The two designers had a wealth of knowledge to call upon. This was essential due to the minimal manpower and resource at their disposal. The car was developed on both the track and the road, as modern cars are today leading to a cohesive package. The knowledge gained from the cars racing activities was used to improve the road cars throughout the BMW range.

The 328 came with no door exterior door handles meaning one had to lean into the car to open the doors. However, it came with a glove compartment with a lid, pockets in the doors and a well equipped tool box. In the centre of the black, three-spoke steering wheel was the button for the two Bosch horns positioned behind the double-kidney grille.  In case the battery went flat, there was a hole for a starting crank in the radiator cover underneath the double-kidney grille – a standard feature at the time. The spare wheel was accommodated in a recess in the rear end.

The braking performance was also good for its day. The 328 came with 280mm drum brakes concealed behind with patented central-locking Kronprinz disc wheels.

The 328 acted as a catalyst for change within BMW. The car development department was relocated to Munich with a state of the art design studio working with plastacine models. In the following two and a half years models including the 330, 335, 332, Mille Miglia Roadster and Kamm Racing Saloon flowed out of its doors. The engineers were able to combine the latest in aerodynamic research with curvaceous body shapes.

In 1938 the Mille Miglia was tackled for the first time by BMW.  The large Alfa Romeo were seen as the favourites for victory over the 1000 miles of Italian countryside. It provided a stern test of automotive design and longevity. The field were surprised by a strong showing from the BMW drivers who were able to finish 8th overall and 2nd in their class, winning the team prize for consistency and the best foreign entrant.

This success gave the team valuable experience in its quest to win the race. They finally did this in 1940 with an average winning speed of 166 km/h. The second placed Alfa Romeo was over a quarter of an hour behind to the disappointment of the home crowd. The third placed BMW also gave BMW the team victory.

Today, roughly 200 of the 464 original examples survive and many still compete. BMW often enter their own cars in competition, often with illustrious drivers such as King Carl XVI of Sweden and Prince Leopold of Bavaria at the wheel. The original 1940 feet of winning the Mille Miglia was repeated in 2010 by ‘Giuliano Cané and Lucia Galliani who steered the Coupé majestically through the numerous stages and swept along the 1,000 miles through Italy without a single technical hitch.’

Straight 6
120 cu in
Top Speed
93 mph
4, Manual
Maximum power
80 hp @ 5000 rpm
Fuel consumption (combined)
annual ownership cost
$ 912


Nice historical article, which remembered me that I took a nice picture of a BMW on Techno Classica Show but can't remember the version! Not quite the same as this 328:
20.05.2011 @ 12:08
Still beautiful. Looks like a mad snail.
20.05.2011 @ 14:59
Why can't they make them like that anymore!
20.05.2011 @ 15:00
Because the common man is stupid! :p
20.05.2011 @ 15:02
Still such a beautiful car...and what a class!!!
20.05.2011 @ 15:05
And worth a fortune today! 90bhp was plenty in those days and still fun today with the right chassis and not much weight.
22.05.2011 @ 19:35


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