For a company with such a rich and varied history, BMW celebrates several anniversaries each year. Yet even by these standards 2004 is a year with some particularly significant milestones – it is the 75th anniversary of the BMW badge appearing on a car, 80 years since BMW’s first sports motorcycle and 50 years since the first BMW light-alloy V8 engine appeared.
It was 9 July, 1929, when the BMW 3/15 first went on sale. Powered by a side-valve 748cc engine, drivers had a heady 15bhp at their disposal and this landmark car led to the first two-seat roadster, the 1930 Wartburg. Within eight years BMW had taken the race circuits of Europe by storm with the legendary BMW 328.
Moving to the middle of the century and 2004 marks the 50th anniversary of BMW’s first light-alloy V8 engine. This smooth and torquey motor powered the 502 luxury saloon car, the beautiful 507 roadster and the 503 2+2 cabriolet and coupé. It also powered the 1962-65 BMW 3200CS styled by Bertone. Step forward to 2002 and BMW’s V8 technology was still reaching new heights with the 4.4-litre VALVETRONIC powerplant being crowned International Engine of the Year.
If all this wasn’t enough then 2004 is the 25th anniversary of the start of construction at the Steyr engine plant – the factory that now produces all BMW’s highly acclaimed diesel units – and the 20th anniversary of the foundation stone being laid at Regensburg, another major engine plant.
It is also 75 years since BMW made a clean sweep in the International Alpine Rally – a gruelling 1,656 mile five-day test of a car’s endurance that was entered to prove BMW performance and reliability soon after the first blue and white propeller-badged cars appeared. This year also marks the 35th anniversary of BMW winning the European Touring Car Championship, something that became a bit of a habit.
Bearing in mind BMW started out making aeroplanes and motorcycles, it is also 85 years since the single-engined DFW F37/III achieved a world altitude record of 9,760 metres, 80 years since the R37, BMW’s first sports motorcycle, was unveiled and 75 years since Ernst Jakob Henne set a world motorcycle speed record. The 135.6mph figure was the first of 76 world records Henne set for BMW.Published 21 May 2004