BMW Post-War Classics.

The history of the BMW Group started with the construction of aero-engines in 1916. It was only in 1923 that the company started manufacturing motorcycles. Five years later, in 1928, BMW produced its first automobile.

Published: September 2016
Video/Photos: BMW GROUP

During the 30s BMW established a reputation for sportiness and performance, most notably with the legendary BMW 328, which is still the cornerstone of its image. The Second World War, however, and the austerity that followed, interrupted that. In the post-war years, three radically different experiments in automotive design affected BMW’s revival in three unique ways.

BMW Isetta

Somewhere between a scooter and a car, it helped answer the needs of the austerity of the post-war years.

Known as the “Bubble Car” or sometimes the “Smoochball”, this diminutive two-seater is like nothing else before or after it. It first appeared in Europe in 1953. With its asymmetrical front and back wheels, the little bug-like mobile won all top three positions in the famous Mille Miglia, the 1 000 mile race. Thereafter, BMW snapped up the design and began producing it. Somewhere between a scooter and a car, it helped answer the needs of the austerity of the post-war years. It might have accelerated to 50km/h in 36 seconds, but it was economical. On just one gallon of petrol (3.7 litres), it could drive for 80 kilometres. For a few moments, it was one of a kind – until the early 60s when new concepts in the small car segment, like the MINI, gained traction. Now, it is highly collectible – a true classic.

 

Somewhere between a scooter and a car, it helped answer the needs of the austerity of the post-war years.

BMW 507

Now it is one of the world’s most collectible cars.

The BMW 507 Roadster was the car that was meant to pull BMW out of the post-war slump. But, while it was undoubtedly beautiful and a great performer, it was not a commercial success. Now it is one of the world’s most collectible cars, partly because by the time production ended, only around 250 had been sold. Apart from a few super-rich celebrities, Elvis included, it was too highly priced for the tastes of the times. The BMW 507 almost disappeared from the archives of BMW history. In retrospect, it can be seen to mark BMW’s return to performance and has proved hugely influential. The trademark “shark gill” side vents appeared again on the BMW Z3 in 1995. And it was the first time the forward-leaning kidney-shaped grill was used. Today, 220 of them still exist in the world and you could say that history has finally done justice to the design.

Now it is one of the world’s most collectible cars.

BMW 02 Series

It exemplified the epitome of the ultimate driving machine and laid the foundation for the path that the BMW 3 Series would later continue along.

While this year is BMW’s centenary year, another significant anniversary is being slightly eclipsed: the BMW 02 Series also celebrates its 50th birthday. The classic BMW 02 Series marked BMW’s rediscovery of the territory it still exemplifies. It was a dream designed for customers with sporting ambitions, but with the safety and practicality required of an everyday car. It exemplified the epitome of the ultimate driving machine and laid the foundation for the path that the BMW 3 Series would later continue along. In the 60s, the combination of wide windscreens, modernist delicacy and clean lines suggested elegance, efficiency and speed, backed by performance and agility. BMW was back on track and on the road to success. We still live with its legacy.

It exemplified the epitome of the ultimate driving machine and laid the foundation for the path that the BMW 3 Series would later continue along.