100 Years, 1 Page

BMW has been around for a long time. The famous acronym stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke which stands for Bavarian Motor Works in plain English. Based out of Munich, Germany, BMW is a automobile, motorcycle and engine manufacturing company for those who are still wandering.

BMW owns and produces the British brands MINI and Rolls-Royce as well as motorcycles under the BMW Motorrad division. Along with Mercedes-Benz and Audi, BMW is considered part of the “German Big 3” which are the three best-selling luxury automakers in the world.

BMW produces a full range line-up from sedans, coupés, convertibles, hatchbacks, wagons, roadsters, SAVs, minivans, electric and sports cars. The bimmer has a huge following with car enthusiasts and has a very illustrious history.

The slogan “The Ultimate Driving Machine” is well understood and obvious if you ask me. On we go!

BMW Logo of the Past

1916

Year Founded

1,655,138

BMW Cars Sold in 2013

152

Car Production Models Released

303

First Model with Kidney Grille

First 50ish or So Years

It started in 1916, but not with automobiles.

Aircraft Beginnings

Those who know the history know, but those who don’t might find it surprising that BMW started out as an aircraft engine manufacturer. BMW was established as a business entity following a restructuring of the Rapp Motorenwerke aircraft manufacturing firm in 1916.

In 1913 Karl Rapp established Rapp Motorenwerke near the Oberwiesenfeld to supply four-cylinder aircraft engines. He later also manufactured V12 engines for Austro-Daimler and worked closely with their supervisor Franz Josef Popp who oversaw engine quality in Munich. Seeing the potential, Popp became more involved in the overall management of the company and eventually on March 7th, 1916 Rapp Motorenwerke became Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH. Their first order of business was to hire Max Friz, who was a young aircraft engine designer and engineer at Daimler. The following year, Friz would design the most sophisiticated aircraft engine to date, the now famous BMW IIIa.

With the company name change, a new logo was devised and the famous BMW trademark is designed and patented at this time. They stayed true to the original design by Karl’s brother, Ottmar Rapp, and the company name was placed in a black circle, while the the blue and white panels of the Bavarian national flag were placed in the centre. It was only in the 1920s that the logo lent itself to a different design interpretation of a rotating propeller which consequently turned the original idea as somewhat of an unknown trivia to many today.

The outcome of the first World War in 1918 resulted in BMW being forced to cease aircraft-engine production by the terms of the Versailles Armistice Treaty. After restrictions of the treaty started to be lifted in 1923, the company turned to Motorcycle production. But once more during World War II, BMW would return to manufacturing aircraft engines.

The Motorcycle Division

BMW Motorrad is the motorcycle division of BMW. Their motorcycle history began in 1921 when the company commenced manufacturing engines for other companies after they were forced to stop manufacturing aircraft engine after WWI. BMW introduced the first motorcycle under its name, the R32 model, in 1923.

The fallout of WWII and the plummeting sales in the 1950s saw the company struggle in the motorcycle category for some time, but in the 1970s they bounced with a completely revamped line-up that included /5 series.

BMW Motorrad regularly enters its motorcycles in the Dakar Rally, an annual car, truck, and motorcycle race that runs from Europe to Africa. BMW Motorrad motorcycles have won the Dakar Rally six times. In 2007, BMW Motorrad announced its entry to the 2009 Superbike World Championship season, where it is racing the BMW S1000RR.

In its 90-year history, BMW Motorrad has progressed to bring state-of-the-art technological advancements and innovations in the world of motorcycles, and while still being a relevant part of the company, many don’t immediately think of the 2-wheeler when they think of BMW.

And for those who are wondering, the model used in the James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, is the BMW R1200C.

The First Car Came in 1929

BMW’s automobile history had begun much earlier than 1927, in the form of proposals and prototypes. Though no details are known to exist, the mentions of the term ‘automobile’ first appeared in an 1918 in written or verbal form, it’s not quite clear.

In the mid-1920s, two former employees of Daimler-Benz in Stuttgart, Max Friz and Gotthilf Dürrwächter, were given the assignment to design a BMW production car. The prototype of this design was the first car known to be made by BMW.

Dixi Automobil Werke was a company in the 1920s that had one sole product and was struggling with the difficult economic climate, so in 1928, BMW bought them and their 1927 3/15 model, which was a licensed copy of the Austin 7. With the acquisition, the Dixi 3/15 became BMW’s first production car. A year later, BMW rolled out the 3/15 DA-2, a revision to the original Dixi as their first in-house manufactured production car.

After the Austin 7 licence ended in 1932, BMW moved toward designing and developing their own car to take them to the future. In 1933, BMW introduced the 303 model. It was larger and more conventional than their earlier 3/20 model, the 303 used BMW’s new M78 engine, making it the first BMW automobile to use a straight-6 engine. The 303 was also the first to use the “kidney grille” that would become the most important characteristic of BMW styling until today. The 303 formed the basis for the four-cylinder 309 and the larger-engined 315 and 319, while the 303 chassis supported the 315/1 and 319/1 roadsters and the restyled 329.

BMW would develop a few other models by the end of the 1930s, such as the 328 sports roadster and the 335 luxury 3.5 litre large sedan, but with the outbreak of WWII, most of the production would come to a halt very quickly.

Model Reference

Dixi 3/15
1927-1929
  • 2dr Tourer
747cc I4
3/15 DA-2
1929-1931
  • 2dr Tourer
747cc I4
3/15 DA-3 Wartburg
1930-1931
  • 2dr Tourer
747cc I4
3/15 DA-4
1931-1932
  • 2dr Tourer
747cc I4
3/20
1932-1934
  • 2dr Sedan
  • Convertible
  • Coupé Convertible
788cc I4
303
1933-1934
  • 2dr Sedan
  • Convertible
1.2L I6
309
1934-1936
  • 2dr Sedan
  • Convertible
  • 2dr Tourer
1.2L I4
315
1934-1937
  • 2dr Sedan
  • Convertible
1.5L I6
315/1
1934-1937
  • Roadster
1.5L I6
319
1935-1936
  • 2dr Sedan
  • Convertible
1.9L I6
319/1
1935-1937
  • Roadster
1.9L I6
328
1936-1940
  • Roadster
2.0L I6
326
1936-1946
  • Sedan
  • Convertible
  • 4dr Convertible
2.0L I6
329
1937
  • Convertible
  • 4dr Convertible
1.9L I6
320
1937-1938
  • 4dr Sedan
  • Convertible
2.0L I6
327
1937-1955
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
2.0L I6
321
1938-1950
  • 2dr Sedan
  • Convertible
2.0L I6
335
1939-1941
  • Sedan
  • Convertible
  • 4dr Convertible
3.5L I6

The Impact of World War II

The second World War brought along a lot of issues and changes for BMW in the 1940s and 1950s which hampered the company’s ability to make any real technological progress for a period of more than 10 years.

The German invasion of Poland and commencement of hostilities meant that manufacturing facilities in Germany were directed by the Nazi regime to re-focus on the manufacture of products required to support the war effort. For BMW, that meant returning to the production of aircraft engines. We’re going backwards here.

Feeling out of control of their own company, BMW tried to fight the Nazi regime, but it was to no avail. They were forced to do as they told and in the process they also shut down production of all non-military motorcycles at their main Munich manufacturing facility. The R12 and R75 models were supplied to the Wehrmacht.

At the end of the war, BMW plants were confiscated by Allied troops, and production of aero and jet engines for the Luftwaffe was shut down. BMW was heavily bombed which reducing most of the company’s production facilities to rubble.

In the east, the company’s factory at Eisenach was taken over by the Soviet Awtowelo group. A mildly revised 327 entered production in 1948, followed by the 326-based 340 in 1949. These were sold under the BMW name with the BMW logo attached to them. To protect its trademarks, BMW legally severed its Eisenach branch from the company. Awtowelo continued production of the 327 and 340 under the Eisenacher Motorenwerk (EMW) brand with a red and white version of the logo until 1955.

By the end of the 1940s BMW had returned to motorcycle manufacturing but still had not restarted any efforts with the automobiles. It would take a further few years until BMW produced new models, first of which would be the 501 and 502 models. After seeing that the German market was moving away from mopeds and motorcycles, BMW developed the licensed Isetta bubble car which sold a solid tally of 161,728 by the end of its run.

By the late 1950s, BMW was in financial trouble and losing money. They almost merged with Daimler-Benz and refused bids to be acquired by American Motors and the Rootes Group. With the help of the 700 model and the New Class 1500, BMW had come back to its feet and was able to offer dividends to its shareholders for the first time since World War II.

Model Reference

340
1949-1953
  • Sedan
  • Wagon
2.0L I6
501
1952-1962
  • Sedan
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
2.0-2.1L I6  •  2.6L V8
502
1954-1964
  • Sedan
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
2.6-3.2L V8
Isetta 250
1955-1956
  • Microcar
247cc 1C
503
1956-1959
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
3.2L V8
507
1956-1959
  • Convertible
3.2L V8
Isetta 300
1956-1962
  • Microcar
298cc 1C
600
1957-1959
  • Microcar
582cc F2
700
1959-1965
  • 2dr Sedan
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
697cc F2

Resurgent 60s & Early 70s

By 1966, the Munich plant had reached the limits of its production capacity. Original plans to build an entirely new factory were scrapped once the company had purchased the crisis-ridden Hans Glas GmbH with its factories in Dingolfing and Landshut. In the decades to come, the Dingolfing plant would forge into BMW’s largest.

1968 saw the launch of the large “New Six” sedans and coupés. The sedans had the internal development name ‘E3’, while the coupés are ‘E9’. This nomenclature convention would become more familiar to the public in the next 40 years.

Eberhard von Kuenheim would become a key figure in BMW’s success in the 1960s. He is praised with taking the company to higher levels by transforming the national firm with a European-focused reputation into a global brand with international prestige. By the mid 1960s, BMW had become commercially successful. In December 1971, BMW moved into their current headquarters in Munich. The architecture of the headquarters building is based on a four-cylinder engine.

The early 1970s would be become the predecessor to the modern era line-up and those that we are familiar with today. In 1972, the 5 Series was launched to replace the New Six sedans. The New Class coupés were replaced by the 3 Series three years later, and newly introduced larger sedans became the 7 Series in 1977. Thus the three-tier sports sedan range was formed, a formula that BMW followed into the 1990s. In addition to these, the 6 Series coupés that replaced the CS, were also added to the mix as the market demanded.

Kuenheim’s influence was very evident as he made an 18-fold turnover, quadrupled car production, and tripled motorcycle production from 1970 and 1993.

Model Reference

1500
1962-1964
  • Sedan
  • Hatchback
1.5L I4
3200 CS
1962-1965
  • Coupé
3.2L V8
1600
1964-1966
  • Sedan
  • Hatchback
1.6L I4
1800
1964-1971
  • Sedan
1.8L I4
2000C/CS
1965-1969
  • Coupé
2.0L I4
2000
1966-1972
  • Sedan
2.0L I4
1602
1966-1975
  • 2dr Sedan
  • Convertible
1.6L I4
1600GT
1967-1968
  • Coupé
1.6L I4
2002
1968-1975
  • 2dr Sedan
2.0L I4
E9
1968-1975
  • Coupé
2.5-3.2L I6
E3
1968-1977
  • Sedan
2.5-3.3L I6
1802
1971-1975
  • 2dr Sedan
  • Hatchback
1.8L I4
1502
1975-1977
  • 2dr Sedan
  • Hatchback
1.6L I4

Everything Else Under the Umbrella

Okay, maybe this section doesn’t really fit in the first 50 years for the most part, but it has to go somewhere and there’s a few more things to cover.

In the early 1990s, BMW and Rolls-Royce Motors began a joint venture that would see the new Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph and Bentley Arnage adopt BMW engines. In 1998, BMW became the sole owner of the brand and began work on new models, first of which would be the Phantom released in 2003.

BMW bought Land Rover in 1994, with Land Rover models using major BMW components under the skin. Most notably, the third-generation Range Rover had already been late in its development by the time BMW sold Land Rover to Ford in 2000. As a result, this model shared electronics with the E39 5 Series until a major update in 2005, and used BMW’s 4.4L V8 until 2006.

BMW owns another historic British car brand, the MINI. In 1994, BMW acquired the Rover Group, which had the MINI under it’s name, and in 2000, BMW retained the MINI but got rid of all other brands and sub-brands that they had gained with the Rover Group. The first generation MINI Hatch was released in 2000 when the original MINI was discontinued. This was the first model release under BMW.

Outside of Germany, BMW has various manufacturing plants around the world in countries that include USA, South Africa, Austria, China, Mexico, England, and Netherlands and in addition they have assembly plants in Thailand, Malaysia, Russia, Egypt, Indonesia, India and Brazil.

BMW has participated in Formula 1 since 1952 as either an engine supplier or constructor or both. Notable drivers include Nelson Piquet, Jensen Button, Ralf Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jacques Villeneuve and test driver Sebastian Vettel who scored his first points in F1 in his only race with BMW Sauber in 2007.

Norbert Reithofer is the current CEO of BMW which has 105,876 employees and operates with a €76.84 billion revenue.

5 Series

Production:
1972-
Class:
Executive, Mid-size Luxury
Body Style:
Sedan, Wagon, Hatchback
Predecessor:
BMW New Class
Competition:
Mercedes E, Audi A6, Jaguar XF, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti Q70

At first glance, the 5 Series seems like a typical family sedan, but the reality is that with it’s structure, form, performance and overall excellence, it has been the bar for which all sport sedan are measured against for over 40 years. With continues improvements through its six generations and constantly being ahead of its competition, this is one of the world’s most revered cars.

Classified as an executive mid-size sedan, it hides all the flashiness in the performance, speed, power and luxury. But that’s not to say that it lacks in the looks department either. It is the foundation on which BMW builds the M5, so something’s gotta be right. This car is on everybody best car short list.

If the reliability and longevity of the 5 Series model was ever in question, it was put to rest in June 2014 when an unmodified 1997 525tds reached 1M km. The Munich speciality experts DEKRA purchased the car from a Dutch resident for a token €1 and disassembled it at 1,005,777.6 km, they assessed that the engine and gearbox were good for another 200,000 km. If that’s not proven durability, I don’t know what is!

The current naming convention (i.e. ‘series’) was introduced with the E12. Currently, the 5 Series is BMW’s second best selling line after the 3 Series.

Model Reference

E12
1972-1981
  • Sedan
1.8-2.0L I4  •  2.0-3.4L I6
E28
1981-1988
  • Sedan
1.8L I4  •  2.0-3.4L I6
E34
1988-1996
  • Sedan
  • Wagon
1.8L I4  •  2.0-3.4L I6  •  3.0-4.0L V8
E39
1995-2003
  • Sedan
2.0L I4  •  2.0-3.0L I6  •  3.5-4.4L V8
E39/2
1996-2004
  • Wagon
2.0L I4  •  2.0-3.0L I6  •  3.5-4.4L V8
E60
2003-2010
  • Sedan
2.0L I4  •  2.2-3.0L I6  •  4.0-4.8L V8
E61
2004-2010
  • Wagon
2.0L I4  •  2.2-3.0L I6  •  4.4-4.8L V8
F07
2009-2016
  • Hatchback
3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8
F10
2010-2016
  • Sedan
1.6-2.0L I4  •  2.5-3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8
F11
2010-2016
  • Wagon
1.6-2.0L I4  •  2.5-3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8
F18
2011-2016
  • Long Wheelbase
1.6-2.0L I4  •  2.5-3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8
G30
2017-
  • Sedan
2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8

BMW Motorsport

Production:
1972-
Class:
High Performance
Body Style:
Sedan, Wagon, Coupé, Convertible, Roadster, SAV
Competition:
Mercedes AMG, Audi RS

BMW Motorsport was initially created to facilitate BMW’s racing program, which was very successful in the 1960s and 1970s. As time passed, BMW M began to supplement BMW’s vehicles portfolio with specially modified higher trim models, for which they are now most known by the general public.

These M-badged cars traditionally include modified engines, transmissions, suspensions, interior trims, aerodynamics, and exterior modifications to set them apart from their counterparts. All M models are tested and tuned at BMW’s private facility at the Nürburgring racing circuit in Germany.

At present, BMW M has offers modified versions of nearly every BMW nameplate, except most notable the the 7 Series luxury sedan as they did not want its flagship saloon to be powered by a high-revving engine. The top-of-the-line model is the M5. It takes its base foundation from the 5 Series. It’s the de facto sport car from the brand.

Model Reference

E26 M1
1978-1981
  • Coupé
3.5L I6
E12 M535i
1979
  • Sedan
3.5L I6
E24 M635 CSi
1983-1989
  • Coupé
3.5L I6
E28 M5
1985-1988
  • Sedan
3.5L I6
E30 M3
1986-1992
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
2.3-2.5L I4
E34 M5
1988-1995
  • Sedan
  • Wagon
3.6-3.8L I6
E36 M3
1992-1999
  • Sedan
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
3.0-3.2L I6
E36/7 MZ3
1998-2002
  • Roadster
3.2L I6
E36/8 MZ3
1998-2002
  • Coupé
3.2L I6
E39 M5
1998-2003
  • Sedan
4.9L V8
E46 M3
2001-2006
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
3.2L I6  •  4.0L V8
E60 M5
2005-2012
  • Sedan
5.0L V10
E61 M5
2005-2012
  • Wagon
5.0L V10
E63 M6
2006-2008
  • Coupé
5.0L V10
E64 M6
2006-2008
  • Convertible
5.0L V10
E85 MZ4
2006-2008
  • Roadster
3.2L I6
E86 MZ4
2006-2008
  • Coupé
3.2L I6
E90 M3
2008-2011
  • Sedan
4.0-4.4L V8
E92 M3
2008-2013
  • Coupé
4.0-4.4L V8
E93 M3
2008-2013
  • Convertible
4.0L V8
E70 X5 M
2010-2013
  • SAV
4.4L V8
E71 X6 M
2010-2014
  • SAV
4.4L V8
E82 1M
2011-2012
  • Coupé
3.0L I6
F06 M6
2011-
  • Sedan
4.4L V8
F10 M5
2011-
  • Sedan
4.4L V8
F12 M6
2011-
  • Coupé
4.4L V8
F13 M6
2011-
  • Convertible
4.4L V8
F80 M3
2015-
  • Sedan
3.0L I6
F82 M4
2015-
  • Coupé
3.0L I6
F83 M4
2015-
  • Convertible
3.0L I6
F87 M2
2016-
  • Coupé
3.0L I6

3 Series

Production:
1975-
Class:
Compact Executive
Body Style:
Coupé, Convertible, Sedan, Wagon, Hatchback, Liftback
Predecessor:
BMW 2002
Competition:
Mercedes C, Audi A4/S4, Jaguar XE, Cadillac ATS, Volvo S60/V60, Infiniti Q50

The 2002 model from the 60s embodies the true spirit and character of BMW, but in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, the company released a more modern successor in the first 3 Series, designated E21. The initial sales were enormous.

The 3 Series has been the entry level line for BMW for generations and has contributed to the trend of being the best selling line-up for BMW until today. Keeping with their racing heritage, BMW has produced an M3 model for each of the 3 Series since the E30.

Having won numerous awards in its history, it has been touted as the second-most important performance car built during the previous 25 years.

Model Reference

E21
1975-1982
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
1.5-2.0L I4  •  2.0-2.3L I6
E30
1983-1991
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
  • Sedan
  • Wagon
1.6-2.5L I4  •  2.0-3.3L I6
E36
1991-1999
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
  • Sedan
  • Wagon
1.6-1.9L I4  •  2.0-3.2L I6
E36/5
1993-2000
  • Liftback
1.6-1.9L I4  •  2.5L I6
E46
1998-2006
  • Coupé
  • Convertible
  • Sedan
  • Wagon
1.8-2.0L I4  •  2.0-3.0L I6
E46/5
2000-2004
  • Liftback
1.6-1.9 L I4  •  2.5 L I6
E90
2005-2011
  • Sedan
1.6-2.0L I4  •  2.5-3.0L I6
E91
2005-2011
  • Wagon
1.6-2.0L I4  •  2.5-3.0L I6
E92
2006-2013
  • Coupé
1.6-2.0L I4  •  2.5-3.0L I6
E93
2007-2013
  • Convertable
1.6-2.0L I4  •  2.5-3.0L I6
F30
2012-
  • Sedan
1.6-2.0 I4  •  3.0L I6
F31
2012-
  • Wagon
1.6-2.0 I4  •  3.0L I6
F35
2012-
  • Long Wheelbase
1.6-2.0 I4  •  3.0L I6
F34
2013-
  • Hatchback
2.0 I4  •  3.0L I6

6 Series

Production:
1976-
Class:
Grand Tourer
Body Style:
Coupé, Convertible, Sedan
Predecessor:
BMW E9
Competition:
Mercedes CLS/S Coupé, Audi A7

Seeking to offer exclusivity and variation, the BMW developed the 6 Series. It has coupé styling that would compliment the four-door established models. It’s the direct successor to the old E9 model.

The 6 Series is classified as a luxury grand tourer and today it nicely bridges the gap between the 5 Series and 7 Series offerings. With high-end packages and performance that doesn’t lack, the current line-up is BMW best offering for a two-door car.

In the current generation, BMW now also offers a four-door sedan in the form of a 6 Series. The choices are endless.

Model Reference

E24
1976-1989
  • Coupé
2.8-3.5L I6
E63
2003-2010
  • Coupé
3.0L I6  •  4.4-4.8L V8
E64
2003-2010
  • Convertible
3.0L I6  •  4.4-4.8L V8
F06
2011-
  • Sedan
3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8
F12
2011-
  • Coupé
3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8
F13
2011-
  • Convertible
3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8

7 Series

Production:
1977-
Class:
Full-size Luxury
Body Style:
Sedan
Predecessor:
BMW New Six
Competition:
Mercedes S, Audi A8/S8, Jaguar XJ, Porsche Panamera, Tesla Model S

The 7 Series is BMW’s flagship car, available only in a sedan form. Throughout history, the 7 Series has been the first to introduce the latest technologies and exterior design themes before they trickle down to smaller sedans in BMW’s line-up.

What’s important to know about this particular line-up is that one doesn’t aspire to drive this car as much as being driven in. Just like the Mercedes S Class, the 7 Series is the choice of heads of state around the world as their escort car, that should tell you enough about the luxury embodied in this car.

The 7 Series is the only car, since the inception of Motorsport in 1972, that has never been offered in the high-end sports version.

Model Reference

E23
1977-1986
  • Sedan
2.5-3.5L I6
E32
1986-1994
  • Sedan
3.0-3.4L I6  •  3.0-4.0L V8  •  5.0 L V12
E38
1995-2001
  • Sedan
2.5-2.9L I6  •  3.0-4.4L V8  •  5.4L V12
E38/2
1995-2001
  • Long Wheelbase
2.5-2.9L I6  •  3.0-4.4L V8  •  5.4L V12
E38/3
2000-2001
  • Sedan Protection
4.0-4.4L V8  •  5.4L V12
E65
2001-2007
  • Sedan
3.0L I6  •  3.6-4.8L V8  •  6.0L V12
E66
2002-2007
  • Long Wheelbase
3.0L I6  •  3.6-4.8L V8  •  6.0L V12
E67
2002-2007
  • Sedan Protection
3.0L I6  •  3.6-4.8L V8  •  6.0L V12
E68
2005-2007
  • Hydrogen 7
6.0L V12
F01
2008-2015
  • Sedan
3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8  •  6.0L V12
F02
2008-2015
  • Long Wheelbase
3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8  •  6.0L V12
F03
2009-2015
  • Sedan Protection
4.4L V8  •  6.0L V12
F04
2011-2015
  • ActiveHybrid
3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8  •  6.0L V12
G11
2016-
  • Sedan
2.0L I4 (+EM)  •  3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8
G12
2016-
  • Long Wheelbase
3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8

8 Series

Production:
1989-1999
Class:
Grand Tourer
Body Style:
Coupé
Predecessor:
BMW E26
Competition:
Porsche 928

The 8 Series is the shortest lived line-up in the modern era of BMW, producing only 1 model generation in its 10 year history.

A common misconception is that the 8 Series was developed as a successor to the E34 6 Series, however, it was actually an entirely new class aimed at a different market, with a substantially higher price and better performance.

Sales of the 8 Series were affected by the global recession of the early 1990s, the Persian Gulf War, and energy price spikes. BMW pulled the 8 Series from the North American market in 1997, having sold only 7,232 cars over seven years. BMW continued production for Europe until 1999.

One of the great cars never put into production was the M8 prototype. Only 1 was ever built. Details remain scarce.

Model Reference

E31
1989-1999
  • Coupé
4.0-4.4L V8  •  5.0-5.6L V12

Z Series

Production:
1989-
Class:
Roadster, Sports
Body Style:
Roadster, Coupé
Predecessor:
BMW 507
Competition:
Mercedes SLK, Audi TT, Porsche Boxter/Cayman

The Z Series is BMW’s expansion into the roadster market. It has been produced in coupé variants and one super car. The letter ‘Z’ stands for Zukunft, German for Future.

The 1989 Z1 was a limited production European run for BMW, whereas the 1995 Z3 was the first mass-produced roadster for BMW.

The E52 Z8 super car model was directly based on the BMW 507 and was conceived in the celebration of the new millennium.

Roadsters aren’t BMW’s bread and butter by any means, but it does offer the bimmer experience in a different form than what we’re typically used to.

Model Reference

E30 Z1
1989-1991
  • Roadster
2.5L I6
E36/7 Z3
1995-2002
  • Roadster
1.8-1.9L I4  •  2.0-3.2L I6
E36/8 Z3
1997-2002
  • Coupé
1.8-1.9L I4  •  2.0-3.2L I6
E52 Z8
1999-2003
  • Roadster
4.9L V8
E85 Z4
2002-2008
  • Roadster
2.0L I4  •  2.2-3.2L I6
E86 Z4
2006-2008
  • Coupé
2.0L I4  •  2.2-3.2L I6
E89 Z4
2009-
  • Coupé Convertible
2.0L I4  •  2.5-3.0L I6

X Series

Production:
1999-
Class:
SAV, Off Road
Body Style:
SAV
Competition:
X1: Mercedes GLA, Audi Q3; X3: Mercedes GLK/GLC, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, LR Range Rover Evoque, Porsche Macan; X5: Mercedes M/GLE, Audi Q7, Volvo XC90, LR Range Rover Sport, Land Rover LR4, Porsche Cayenne; X6: Mercedes GLE Coupé

The X Series started with the X5 in 1999 as a Sport Activity Vehicle. Intended for exploration, the X models have the all-wheel-drive system and are capable both on-road and off-road cars.

Since the original X5, the new models have expanded to be derivatives of other BMW number-series models, first with the BMW X3 compact luxury crossover, then with the BMW X6 midsize coupé luxury crossover, the X1 to compliment the 1 Series, and finally with the X4, which is a coupé crossover version of the X3.

Due to the much greater markets demands for the SUV in North America, most of the X fleet, aside from X1, is manufactured in a BMW plant in South Carolina, USA.

In 2010, BMW Motorsport division also created the M sport versions for both the X5 and X6 models. 2015 should bring us the next generation of these.

Model Reference

E53 X5
1999-2006
  • SAV
3.0L I6  •  4.4-4.8L V8
E83 X3
2003-2010
  • Compact SAV
2.0-3.0L I6
E70 X5
2006-2013
  • SAV
3.0L I6  •  4.4-4.8L V8
E71 X6
2009-2014
  • SAV
3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8
E72 X6
2009-
  • ActiveHybrid
4.4L V8
E84 X1
2010-2015
  • Compact SAV
2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6
F25 X3
2010-
  • Compact SAV
2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6
F26 X4
2014-
  • Compact SAV
2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6
F15 X5
2014-
  • SAV
2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8
F16 X6
2015-
  • SAV
3.0L I6  •  4.4L V8
F48 X1
2015-
  • Compact SAV
2.0L I4

1 Series

Production:
2004-
Class:
Compact Executive
Body Style:
Hatchback, Coupé, Convertible
Predecessor:
BMW E36/5
Competition:
Mercedes A, Volkswagen Golf

The 1 Series is a recent (re)entry for BMW into the small car market with a designated series after they had the 3 Series Compact in the mid 90s to early 00s. First introduced in Europe in 2004, the 1 Series was only offered in this market for use to get around the small streets found in most European cities. In 2007, with the E82, the series made it North America.

The 1 Series has already had a bit of an evolution in its short years as half of the model line-up has evolved into the 2 Series. Originally offered in coupés, convertibles and hatchbacks, after the introduction of the 2 Series in 2013, this series will move forward with only the 2-door and 4-door hatchback styling.

Model Reference

E87
2004-2011
  • Hatchback
1.6-2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6
E81
2007-2011
  • Hatchback
1.6-2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6
E82
2007-2013
  • Coupé
1.6-2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6
E88
2007-2014
  • Convertible
1.6-2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6
F20
2011-
  • 5dr Hatchback
1.6-2.0L I4
F21
2012-
  • 3dr Hatchback
1.6-2.0L I4

BMW i

Production:
2011-
Class:
City, Grand Tourer
Body Style:
Hatchback, Coupé
Competition:
i3: Nissan Leaf; i8: Tesla Model S, Porsche 911

The BMW i is a sub-brand of BMW founded in 2011 to design and manufacture plug-in electric vehicles. BMW’s “Project i” is a program created to develop lightweight eco-friendly urban electric car concepts designed to address the mobility and sustainability needs for people who live in megacities.

To date, the company has released two models, the i3 all-electric car and the i8 plug-in hybrid. This is a very important time of BMW car production and the brand is slowly becoming a world leader in electric vehicle design and production.

With the i3, BMW’s first zero emissions mass-produced vehicle, and company became the first to launch a volume production vehicle on the market featuring carbon-fiber reinforced plastic.

The BMW i8, with a unique blend of an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, is a next generation sports car with incredible range and fuel efficiency. The revolutionary design has received much praise and others are looking to go in the same direction, I think.

The i models might be the next big step in automotive progress.

Model Reference

I01 i3
2013-
  • Hatchback
647cc I2 (+EM)
I12 i8
2014-
  • Coupé
1.5L I3 (+EM)

2 Series

Production:
2013-
Class:
Compact Executive
Body Style:
Coupé, Convertible, Minivan
Predecessor:
BMW 1 Series
Competition:
Mercedes CLA/B, Audi A3

The 2 Series is a very new series to BMW line-up. It has several different body types including the coupé and convertible styles that used to be classified under the 1 Series. The minivan model, called Active Tourer, will be BMW’s very first to have a front wheel drive system.

The 2 Series was created in order to be consistent with the new 4 Series, i.e. the ‘regular’ models having an odd number designation (i.e. 1) and the coupés having an even number (i.e. 2).

Model Reference

F22
2013-
  • Coupé
2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6
F23
2014-
  • Convertible
2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6
F45
2015-
  • Minivan
1.5L I3  •  1.5-2.0L I4
F46
2015-
  • Minivan
1.5L I3  •  1.5-2.0L I4

4 Series

Production:
2013-
Class:
Compact Executive
Body Style:
Coupé, Convertible, Sedan
Predecessor:
BMW E92
Competition:
Mercedes E Coupé, Audi A5, Infiniti Q60

The 4 Series, plainly put, is a bridge between the 3 Series and 5 Series. With this introduction, the 3 Series has changed to a four-door only car, whereas the 4 Series will be offered in both 4 and 2-door models.

Perhaps in a move to directly compete with Mercedes’ E Coupé and Audi’s A5, the 4 Series will be the latest offering from BMW designed to take advantage of the smallest gaps in markets. We can’t say that the 4 Series isn’t all that much different from its series siblings, but it does offer one an additional option when the picking the perfect car becomes too difficult.

The 4 Series completes the number series nomenclature. Rumour has that the next addition to the BMW line-up will be a 9 Series, but we’ll have wait and see.

Model Reference

F32
2013-
  • Coupé
2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6
F33
2013-
  • Convertible
2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6
F36
2014-
  • Sedan
2.0L I4  •  3.0L I6

Fun Bimmer Trivia

Stuff you always wanted to know, but were too afraid to ask.

Airplane Records

In 1919, a BMW biplane rose to 32,000 feet and set a record. Today, some cheap airlines have this height as their cruising altitude.

Bangle Butt

Christopher Bangle was a designer at BMW and while he completely transformed luxury car design, he’s mostly remembered for his notoriously controversial design of the E65 7 Series which enthusiasts have dubbed as “Bangle butt” design in reference to the rear end.

Hofmeister Kink

The Hofmeister kink is an automotive design feature seen on modern BMWs. The feature consists of a low forward bend at D-pillar. The first BMWs to feature it were the 3200 CS and the 1500.

6-Cylinder Engines

BMW is famous for its straight six engines, which have powered many of their most popular models. BMW has never manufactured a V6 engine.

Nürburgring

The Nürburgring is the most difficult and dangerous purpose-built racing circuit in the world. It has 147 corners, it’s 20.8km in length, and has claimed over 200 lives since it’s inception in 1927. All BMW Motorsport models are tested and tuned here.

Mobile Tradition is Strong

BMW cares so deeply about their heritage that they still manufacture parts from the WWII-era models. If you have a car from the 70s and 80s, you probably needn’t worry anytime soon about getting original parts.

Where’s the M7?

BMW Motosport has never created a sports version of their 7 Series sedan, the M7. Why? Well, BMW did not want its flagship saloon to be powered by a high-revving engine. The V12 engines typically found on the high-end 7 series, are also considered too heavy for a sporty configuration.

BMW M Logo Colours

BMW M logo features three coloured slashes and the letter ‘M’. Blue colour represents Bavaria and BMW. Red represents Texaco, an oil company that was an early partner of BMW Motorsport. Purple doesn’t represent anything, but it’s probably the best transition colour between blue and red.

The First BMW Electric Car Isn’t What You Think

In 1969 BMW started development on a 1602 to make it electric. The end result was a 37 mile range car that ultimately never went into production. But to get something right, you have to fail a few times.

Architect Brilliance or Madness?

The 101 meter BMW Headquarters building in Munich resembles a 4-cylinder engine. It was designed by Austrian architect Karl Schwanzer in the 1960s and construction was completed and ready for the 1972 Summer Olympics.

The Perfect Slogan?

BMW’s slogan “The Ultimate Driving Machine” has been in use for 40 years. It was created by Martin Puris, at Ammirati & Puris in 1975.

An Italian M Car

In the late 1970s, the Germans and the Italians agreed to build a car which was ultimately going to be a Lamborghini. After a while, there were issues which prompted BMW to build the car fully themselves. Now you know why this E26 M1 car looks the way it looks.

Munich Plant Operational Again

In February 2014, BMW purchased a new facility for its fleet of historic vehicles. This same building was once used to build airplane engines in the early decades of last century. It will hold classic workshops which will include parts sales for vintage and classic vehicles.

Money Troubles

In 1959, BMW almost became a part of Mercedes-Benz. While in financial trouble, Daimler-Benz nearly took over the company, but it didn’t happen. Today, the two companies share a friendly rivalry in the worldwide car dominance business.

BMW in Formula 1

In 1983, Brazialian Nelson Piquet won the Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship with a BMW M12/13 engine. However this engine was based on a 1961 M10 engine which was 20 years old at the time of the victory.

Logo Origins

Most people think that the BMW logo is a spinning propeller. Most people are wrong. Although it kind of makes sense when you first hear it, the actual history tells us that the logo is simply the Bavarian flag colours.

Front Wheel Drive

The 2 Series F45 Active Tourer Minivan is BMW’s first ever car with a front-wheel drive system. All previous models have been rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Hope it goes well!

German VIN

A VIN is a Vehicle Identification Number, a unique 17-character letter/number combination that every production car has. Cars assembled in Germany have a VIN that starts with the letter ‘W’. BMWs from Germany start with ‘WBA’ and BMW M starts with ‘WBS’.

Model Nomenclature

What do all the letters mean?

BMW utilizes many letters (as well as numbers) for their development codenames and model
designations. A system of letters can be used in combination to distinguish each model in their historical lineup range. Here are all the letters and their meanings:

E

BMW’s development code for each generation. The ‘E’ is from Entwicklung, German for Development.

F

Alphabetical successor once the ‘E’ codenames exceeded double digits. The ‘F’ codename debuted in 2008.

I

Codenames for BMW’s i division. The lowercase ‘i’ in the model name should not be confused with fuel injection.

M

Letter used by BMW’s Motorsport division. ‘M’ followed by number of the series of the base model.

Z

BMW’s Roadster lineup. Introduced in 1989. The ‘Z’ is from the German word ‘zukunft’, meaning future.

X

BMW’s Sport Utility lineup. The ‘X’ refers to the All-Wheel Drive system found on most X models.

C

Coupé

T

Touring (Wagon)

L

Long Wheelbase

A

Automatic Gearbox

c

Cabriolet (Convertible)

d

Diesel

e

eta – Efficient Economy

g

Compressed Natural Gas

h

Hydrogen

i

Fuel Injected

s

Sport

t

Hatchback

x

All-Wheel-Drive

td

Turbo Diesel

Most historical facts and images on this page are sourced from Wikipedia.org