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(Bayerische Motoren Werke)

(established 1916)

After its origins in aero engine manufacture, this Munich‐based company became involved in motorcycle production in 1923 before moving into licensed production of the BMW Dixi automobile in 1928. In the 1930s the company produced many models in its own right, several of them sports cars such as the highly competitive 328 of 1936. During the Second World War the company built engines for the Luftwaffe, including the Focke Wulf FW190. After the war the company manufactured saloon cars, such as the 501 and 502 models of 1951, as well as sports models such as the 507 of 1956 by A. G. Goertz. It also produced the Isetta ‘bubble car’ in 1955, a very small, lightweight, and fuel‐efficient model that more realistically addressed the straitened circumstances of the times. With the remarkable recovery of the Germany economy, BMW launched the 1500 model automobile and, with the introduction of further models such as the 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 series, saw itself able to compete with prestigious automobile marques, such as Mercedes Benz. Designers such as Wilhelm Hofmeister, Paul Bracq, and Caus Luthe were instrumental in bringing this about, building on quality engineering and restrained, yet distinctive styling. Claus Luthe, who had designed for Fiat and Audi‐NSU from the mid‐1950s was chief designer from 1976 to 1990. Building on the 3‐ and 5‐series launched in the mid‐1970s he worked on the introduction of BMW models at the luxury end of the market such as the 7‐series. These helped to establish the company as a major producer of well‐engineered, high‐specification, high‐quality models sought after by business executives throughout Europe. In 1982 the company entered the Formula 1 Grand Prix motor racing championships, first winning the World Championship in 1983 with a Brabham‐BMW driven by Nelson Piquet. By the late 1980s the company withdrew from this sporting arena, not rejoining it until 2000. In 1994 BMW took over the British automobile manufacturer Rover, responsible for the Mini, Land Rover, and MG models, although this proved a difficult relationship and soon led to the reselling of much of Rover. In the following year Chris Bangle designed the Z3 sports car, which was given worldwide currency through James Bond's appearance at its wheel in the film Goldeneye of 1995.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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