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100 Years of BMW

100 Years of BMW

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Published by paulderekjohnson

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Published by: paulderekjohnson on Jan 06, 2010
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On July 21st, 1917, under the leadership of KarlRapp and Max Friz the Bayerische Flugzeugwerkerenames itself Bayerische Motoren Werke (BavarianMotor Works). Their logo, representing an airplanepropeller in the blue sky, would remain throughoutthe company’s history. At 3,400 employees, BMWrecruited Franz Joseph Popp from Daimler tobecome it’s managing director. The company’s pri-mary output; the v12 airplane engine.
BMW, in the midst of an economic boom funded bythe German air force, takes its 3500 employees andgoes public. Primarily focused on manufacturing forthe Fokker DVII – arguably one of the best aircraft ofthe time – the future appears to be all blue skies forRapp, Friz, Popp and company.
With the Treaty of Versailles (signed June 28th) end-ing WWI, Germany is now forbidden to manufactureairplanes. Max Friz, the head designer for BMW atthe time, reluctantly looks to motorcycle and auto-mobile engines to sustain the company’s economichealth. A sharp turn away from the 6 and 12 cylinderairplane engines the company was making, Friz putshis aero-engineering knowledge to work and withinfour weeks of being commissioned has blueprints forwhat would become the infamous "boxer" engine.
What would eventually become the Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) began as two sepa-rate companies. Gustav Otto’s Flugzenmaschinenfabrik (Air Plane Factory) in Munichmerged with Karl Rapp’s Flugwerke Deutschland on March 7th, 1916 to become theBayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Airplane Works). Initially specializing it the design andmanufacture of airplane engines, the company would manufacture for Germany’s fledglingair force, including the Baron Von Richten, better known as the Red Baron.
history www.bmwmotorcycles.com
Kurt Hanfland designs the "Kurier" engine, a tiny 2-stoke, 148cc motor. Eventually it is incorporated intoa combination bicycle/motorcycle called the "Flink"(a word ironically meaning ‘speedy’ – which the Flinkwas not). The heavyish bike with its under-poweredengine requires vigorous pedaling to start. The Flinkflunks and is never sold under the BMW name.
Max Friz and Martin Stolle collaborate on the M2B15– the first "flat twin" or "boxer" engine. Based on theBritish Douglas design, it is manufactured by BMWbut used in the motorcycles of other brands likeCorona, Heller, Helios and Scheid. In this same yearthat BMW sells off the assets of the original OttoFlugzenmaschinenefabrik which continues its ownmanufacture of Flottweg motorcycles. BMW will buythe works back in 1937.
Rudolf Schleicher develops the first light-alloy cylin-der head. It proves to be on of the essentialimprovements that leads to the second, and ulti-mately more successful, version of the boxer engine.Meanwhile the M2B15 is only moderately successfulas a motorcycle engine. Some speculate this isbecause BMW’s heart is still in airplanes.Regardless, toward the end of this year Max Frizpushes to improve on the flat twin.
Only a few years before, Germany was a booming industrial power. But, in the aftermath ofWWI, high inflationary rates and a general lack of money for luxury items placed economicpressure on domestic manufacturers. Fortunately, motorcycles were seen as an importantmeans of transportation (especially with so few cars available) and 80% of BMW’s prod-ucts went to business clients. Even in a tight economy BMW didn’t skimp on parts orprocess. The years between 1923 and 1939 would be looked back upon historically asBMW’s heyday.
history www.bmwmotorcycles.com
The R32. It is Max Friz’s reluctant (his heart is still inairplane engines) improvement on the earlierM2B15 engine designed with Martin Stolle thatleads to BMW to its first serious motorcycle. Usingother design developments like RudolphSchleicher’s aluminum-alloy cylinders, Friz engi-neers a motorcycle with a 486cc engine that at8.5BHP reaches a top speed of about 60mph.Characterized by the transversely mounted M2B32‘flat twin’ engine, a gearbox which forms a singleunit with that engine and a driveshaft as opposedto a chain and sprocket drive, the R32 becomes thefoundation for all future machine designs until theintroduction of the K Series in 1983. It would alsowhet the appetite for racing motorcycles that wouldcome along in a few years.
 After only one year in the motorcycle business,BMW wins it’s first German racing championship,setting the groundwork for a history of trophy tak-ing. Ruldolph Schleicher is named chief designer,replacing Friz who returns to his first love, airplanes.Because he is a racer, Schleicher brings a passionto his designs. This passion would set the bar forexcellence which BMW would continually striveto raise.
Schelicher’s first original design, the R37, is intro-duced this year. Very obviously a racing version ofthe R32, it achieves a modest 11mph more than itspredecessor but has twice the power (500ccwith16BHP @ 4000rpm) and humorously, nospeedometer. The R37 goes on to win 100 races inGermany. But it is an expensive machine to manu-facture and only 152 are ever made. BMW’s firstsingle cylinder bike, the R39 makes its debut thisyear also. And while on the subject of speed, itshould be noted that the R32 is given a much-needed front brake this year as well.
history www.bmwmotorcycles.com

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