The Classic Prewar BMW 328 That Set the Stage for BMW’s Legend

There are many auto and classic car knowledgeable enthusiasts who would say that if one had to choose one single pre-war car as the most significant in the early development of the modern high-performance sports car, it would have to be the BMW Type 328 fine motorcar. This model made its first appearance at a Nurburgring race meeting. The 328 won in its category and to say the least there was the greatest of admiration and respect at the meet and on the track.
Overall the vehicle was light in weight plus a gem to look at, with lines so far ahead of their time that the automobile still looked more than modern and even futuristic a full decade later. Its rigid tubular chassis plus independent front suspension, allied to rack-and-pinion steering, provided a standard of road holding plus handling that was truly revolutionary remarkably in the decade of the middle 1930s. There was little doubt about it for the sporting car aficionados that while the six-cylinder engine with its highly unusual valve-gear gave an exceptional power output along with a testy maximum speed range of around 161 kph (100 mph).
By 1936 the well known BMW famed motorcyclist Ernst Henne appeared in a very smart new 2 seater powered by the 1971 cc engine. It had a new type of cylinder head. In this, the first BMW Type 328, Henne ran away with the 2 litre sports car class at an average speed of just over 100kph (62 mph), finishing more than three minutes ahead of the runner-up.
Fiedler had designed new valve gear for the now familiar six-cylinder BMW engine, achieving a massive power increase to 80 bhp at 5000 rpm. The chain-driven camshaft still occupied the same position, low down on the nearside of the engine, from which it had previously operated in-line valves through pushrods and rockers but the top it off now there were hemispherical combustion chambers in the new alloy head, with inclined valves. The inlets were opened by push rods and rockers as before, but the exhaust valves now had two sets of push-rods and rockers, one set of push-rods being placed horizontally so that the valves could be located on the other side of the combustion chambers. This arrangement worked well despite its apparent complexity. The 328 engine looked very much like a double overhead cam unit.
At a time when most sports cars still had separate mudguards and headlamps, the 328 paved the way for the transition to all-enveloping bodywork. As a sports car it was just a nice car with handy size. Overall length being 12 feet. The wheelbase was 7 feet, front track 3 ft, and rear track 4 ft exactly. Surprisingly, the ground clearance was almost 8.
Only 2 cars were built in 1936. They had one-piece windscreens, lightweight and door less bodies. These cars were fully equipped for road use. Although a standard production Type 328 could scarcely be expected to put more than 100 miles into hour (Maximum speeds were in the ranges as 120).
In 1937 four cars ran at Le Mans.
All in all for the model run BMW built a total of 461 Type 328 models, including chassis supplied via specialist coachbuilders. However fate had it after the war the Eisenach factory was nationalized. It was not until 1952. That somehow a few cars were assembled from parts fortuitously by the Aldingtons in England itself. Amazingly as a phoenix arisen from the ashes the classic six-cylinder engine was turned into the Bristol for the post war cars built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company from 1947. These wolfs in sheep clothing powered the AFM, the Veritas, the Monopol, Cooper, Frazer Nash, AC Ace, Arnolt and a myriad other high-performance cars in different parts of the world. As the Autocar testers said in 1937, it has the mark of a racing unit, and gave the impression that it was supercharged, so freely did it increase its revs.
The legend lives on – in other well known British as well as German auto and auto lines. No doubt about it of the influence and influences of this trend setting vehicle.