Founded in 1916, BMW is one of the oldest carmakers in the business. Thanks to a range of excellent models and a gilt-edged brand, it has a huge following.
BMW has been quick to embrace new technologies, too, culminating in the launch of its electric ‘i’ sub-brand, which encompases the i3 hatchback and i8 supercar. Both are state-of-the-art models that use the latest battery technology and carbon-fibre construction to be at the forefront of car design and engineering.
This kind of thinking is also appearing in its ‘normal’ models. ‘iPerformance’ versions of the 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series and 2 Series Active Tourer are plug-in hybrid versions which can be charged at home, blending the low running costs of an electric vehicle with the usability of a petrol car.
BMW has a wide and varied range of products and is a company with a fascinating past. We’ve compiled some lesser-known facts about the brand’s heritage.
1. BMW has an important British connection
The very first BMW car was known as the Dixi. It was based on the British Austin Seven and was built under licence in Germany. Coupe, roadster, saloon and tourer versions were available, but it was mechanically identical to the Seven.
2. BMW’s ‘propeller’ badge isn’t a propeller
While BMW has its roots in aircraft engine manufacturing before turning to motorcycles and cars, the famous badge isn’t a reference to aviation. The blue and white segments actually come from the Bavarian flag – the state of Germany where the firm is based.
3. BMW’s HQ is inspired by an engine
BMW’s headquarters in Munich comprises four cylinders, designed to represent a four-cylinder engine. Impressively, the four cylinders are supported by a single central pillar. The BMW museum, located beside the HQ, is designed to represent a cylinder head.
4. The i3 and i8 are global cars
BMW’s electric i3 hatchback and i8 supercar are based on a carbon-fibre skeleton. The raw materials for this are produced in Japan and then shipped to the US to be baked into fibres using hydroelectric power, before heading to Germany to be turned into car parts.
5. BMW’s ‘kidney’ grill is more than 80 years old
The twin ‘kidney’ grill makes modern BMWs instantly recognisable, but it first appeared way back in 1933 on the BMW 303. The 303 was the first BMW to feature a straight six-cylinder engine – another BMW hallmark.
6. A mile of wire in each i8 supercar
The stunning BMW i8 supercar blends a 1.5-litre petrol engine with a powerful electric motor and lightweight construction to provide astonishing performance. It contains a staggering 1.24 miles of copper wire in the motors alone.
7. April fools
A steering wheel that can flip from one side of the car to the other, an M3 pickup truck and a mini wiper for the BMW badge: not new developments from BMW’s engineering boffins, but rather comedic wheezes from the firm’s marketing department.
8. 3 Series wins F1 world championship… almost
Also powering Arrows and Benetton cars, the BMW M12 engine took Brabham’s Nelson Piquet to the 1983 driver’s championship. BMW’s motorsport engineers built the M12 engines using M10 engine blocks from high-mileage 3 Series road cars – thousands of miles of ‘heat cycling’ having made the blocks durable enough to withstand the massive turbocharged power output of the M12 design.