At BMW it all started with a 15 hp replica
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The first BMW sales room for cars opened on July 9, 1929 in Berlin. That was a little sensation back then.
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Because until that date, people only associated the BMW brand with motorcycles and aircraft engines. The 1923 R 32 shown here was the first BMW-…motorcycle.
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The first BMW was popularly only "Dixi" called, the official name was much more complicated: Type 3/15 PS DA 2.
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However, the BMW was not presented to the public on four instead of two wheels until July 1929.
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The first model with the characteristic double kidney grille was a BMW 303 from 1933.
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The first BMW was built in a workshop in Berlin-Johannisthal at the former airport.
Source: Henry H. Herrmann / Eventpress Herrmann / Eventpress Herrmann
Exactly 80 years ago a world career started: BMW sold its first car – a 15 hp small car made in Berlin. At the same time, Daimler brought a powerful sports car with 180 hp. And for a long time it looked as if Bayern could never catch up with Mercedes.
"BMW sells cars! ”The news on July 9, 1929, was a big hit in the newspapers. We had waited a long time for this message, because rumors about Bayerische Motoren Werke’s entry into the automotive business have been circulating for many years. Since the beginning of the 1920s, prototypes of small and large models have been spotted again and again, but so far none of them had made it into series production.
But now the time has come. Curiously, people crowd in front of the exhibition space near the Berlin Memorial Church to admire the first BMW with four wheels. Although Bayerische Motoren Werke was founded in 1917, it would be twelve years before a car bears the trademark with the stylized blue and white propeller on the radiator grille for the first time. Initially, BMW mainly produced aircraft engines for the Reichswehr double-deckers. After the First World War, the company had to look for new business areas and discovered the motorcycle. In 1923, BMW presented the R 32, the world’s first motorcycle with a boxer engine and cardan shaft.
BMW’s plans for a car began to mature in 1918, but they only became concrete after the takeover of the Eisenach vehicle factory in November 1928, which at that time was already successful with their Dixi 3/15 DA model. That was the forerunner of the first BMW, which was sold exactly 80 years ago. Initially, however, it caused little cheer, because BMW is starting out small as a car manufacturer.
In the same year, when Mercedes shone with the mighty SSK supercharged sports car with an output of 180 hp, the Bavarians presented a just 3.25 meter long two-door model with four cylinders, 750 cubic centimeters and 15 hp. With the advertising message "bigger inside than outside ”, BMW tries to nip the criticism in the bud from the outset. In fact: the interior is more spacious than you might think and offers space for up to five passengers – two adults and three children.
Anyone who is familiar will also notice that the BMW 3/15 PS is not a new model at all, but was taken over by the Eisenacher vehicle factory, which in turn has been manufacturing the small car since 1927 as a license replica of the Austin Seven and calls it the Dixi 3/15 DA. The abbreviation DA stands for German version. BMW turns it into the DA 2 version, which differs from its predecessor in two important ways: brakes on all four wheels and an all-steel body. This construction is a specialty, because the superstructures of the cars of that time consist mostly of a wooden frame with panels made of synthetic leather or sheet metal.
The specialist for steel bodies is the Berlin company Ambi-Budd. She runs a large plant in the Johannisthal district where she presses car bodies for various companies. This is also where the sheet metal cladding of the first BMW is to be made. Only: There are a good 360 kilometers between the production of the engines and chassis in Eisenach and the Berlin bodywork. Where should the cars be assembled? BMW opts for the capital of the Reich. The Bavarians rent a factory hall from Ambi-Budd and from March 1929 put the 3/15 PS on the wheels.
The decision of the BMW board of directors to start with a small car has proven to be the right one. The car fits in with the times: The Roaring Twenties are coming to an end and the global economy is increasingly turning from boom into depression. You have to slow down. The little BMW corresponds to this new way of thinking: it consumes only six liters of petrol per 100 kilometers, is considered robust and costs only 2200 Reichsmarks. This means that the BMW Dixi is significantly cheaper than a comparable Hanomag and is on par with the bestseller in this class at the time, the Opel "Tree frog ".
In Berlin, BMW produced around 1200 cars by the summer of 1930, but the assembly plant has no future. At the end of 1928, BMW bought the Eisenach vehicle plant in order to concentrate its car production there. Shortly after the presentation of the "Dixi ”starts production of a tourer model in Eisenach, which is, however, still based on the traditional wood and steel body with synthetic leather upholstery.
As another "In the following months, Dixi ”variants were created: a sports two-seater, a convertible with two and four seats, a coupe, an express delivery van and the 18 hp sports car "Wartburg ".
By the spring of 1932, BMW had delivered a total of around 16,000 automobiles "Dixi ”base. Then the Bavarians terminate the license agreement with Austin in order to finally assert itself in the market as an independent car manufacturer. The first "real “BMW bears the type designation 3/20 PS and, in addition to a four-cylinder engine with 20 PS newly developed in Munich, already offers a pendulum rear axle and independent front suspension.
Now there was no stopping the white-blue brand, and in 1933 it set an example with the six-cylinder model 303 – it was the first BMW with the characteristic double kidney grille.
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