The 7 most iconic BMW cars of all time.
Bayerische Motoren Werke, or BMW as we know it, was founded in 1916 and in the near-century of existence, the German company headquartered in Munich has gone on to become one of the world’s leading luxury automobile manufacturers. Their secret to success lies in a dedication to quality and constant pursuit of excellence. The BMW name has become synonymous with precision manufacturing and top-notch quality. The automotive behemoth, whose very own tagline is ‘the ultimate driving machine’, has created some of the most legendary cars in the last hundred years – cars that have etched its place in the automotive history. It wasn’t easy picking the best of the best, and rather it turned into a daunting task to narrow down the list to just seven of the most iconic names out of the dozens of stunning automobiles BMW has produced over the years. Here are our picks for the greatest BMW cars so far.
7. BMW 328
Claim to fame: We begin the list with the iconic 1936 BMW 328, the roadster that put BMW on the motor racing map and got the racing car ball rolling for the company. The 328 was introduced at the Eifelrennen race at the Nürburgring in 1936, where Ernst Henne drove it to win the 2.0-liter class. After that, the 328 seemingly won any sports car race it wanted to including the Le Mans, the RAC Tourist Trophy, the Alpine Rally, and the Mille Miglia. In 1940, the winning BMW 328 Touring Coupe set the record for the highest average speed of 103.6mph on the Mille Miglia circuit. Powered by a 2.0-liter straight-six engine, the BMW 328 made around 79hp – an astonishing feat for its time. At the 2011 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy, the Bavarian automaker presented the BMW 328 Hommage Concept – a prototype built to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the iconic sport car.
6. BMW Isetta 300
Launched: November 1953
Claim to fame: In the era when automakers around the world directed their attention towards mass-production cars, a tiny car named Isetta with quirky design caused a sensation when it was introduced to the motoring press in Turin in November 1953. The Italian-designed microcar was built under license in a number of different countries, including Spain, Belgium, France, Brazil, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Thanks to its egg shape, bubble window and tiny size, it went on to become one of the most highly sought microcars in the world. The diminutive 2-seater’s design was overhauled by BMW and also redesigned the powerplant around a BMW one-cylinder, four-stroke, 247 cc motorcycle engine which generated 13hp. The BMW Isetta was in 1955 the world’s first mass-production 3-Litres/100 km car and was the top-selling single-cylinder car in the world, with 161,728 units sold. In the strange little world of micro-cars, the Isetta 300 still has a lot of fans and remains a legend.
5. BMW 507 Roadster
Claim to fame: The legendary BMW 507 Roadster needs no introduction. Many consider it as one of the most beautiful cars to be produced in Germany. The 507 made its debut at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York in the summer of 1955 and production began in November 1956. Produced from 1956 to 1959, it was conceived with the intention to be exported to the United States in thousands, but ended up turning into a financial disaster that almost took down the company with itself. When launched new, it came with a hefty price tag of $11,000 making it out of reach for even the richest of the rich. As a result, only 252 cars were ever built making it one of the rarest BMW models in the history of the company. A decade after the production ceased, used 507s were worthless, and quite a few ended up at the scrap yard. However, today the BMW 507 Roadster is considered as one of the finest creations by BMW and is a highly sought after collectors car. Recently, a BMW 507 Roadster was auctioned for $2.4 million.
4. BMW Z8
Claim to fame: This brings us to the roadster that was built as the spiritual successor to the 507 Roadster – The BMW Z8. Introduced at the turn of the millennium, it is hard to believe that the stunning roadster was in production for just four years between 1999 and 2003. Designed by world famous Danish designer Henrik Fisker, the BMW Z8 is considered as one of his finest creations. In fact, the Z8 earned him an international reputation overnight. Powered by a 4.9-liter V8 that made 400 horsepower and 370 lb-ft, the Z8 was priced at $128,000 making it exorbitantly expensive. In addition to the appealing exterior design, the high-performance roadster featured a number of interior design innovations such as center-mounted dials in the cockpit. Only 5,703 of these roadsters were ever made and it also starred in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough.
3. BMW M3 E30
Claim to fame: This is where the legacy of high-performance versions of the everyday saloon cars built by BMW’s M division all began. The first-generation M3 holds a hallowed place in the history of BMW and even after three decades, it is considered as the king of all M3 models produced till date. Designed in the mid-1980s, the E30 M3 is an absolute legend amongst automotive enthusiasts and BMW fans. Originally, the M3 was created for homologation purposes in the DTM racing series. Nestled in an unassuming 3-Series shell, the shortened-stroke M3 motor put down more power than the 325 making people discover their love for higher performance. The 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine in some of the street-legal M3s made as much as 220 horsepower from the factory. However, in full race trim, the naturally aspirated S14 engine produced approximately 300 hp. But it was not all about the engine upgrade alone; starting life as a 3 Series coupe, the M3 received upgraded aerodynamics, suspension components, drivetrain parts and brakes.
2. BMW M1
Claim to fame: The M models of the Bavarian carmaker are legendary for sports fans worldwide, and it all started with this car – the BMW M1. It is the first car produced by the BMW’s M-division and also the company’s only mid-engine vehicle to date. Introduced in 1978, the mid-engine M1 sports car is one of the most visually striking cars ever to come from BMW and many might even mistake it for a Lamborghini or a Lotus. That is because the legendary Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro designed it and BMW originally commissioned Lamborghini to work out the details of the car’s chassis, assemble prototypes and manufacture the vehicles. It was hand-built between 1978 and 1981 under the Motorsport division of BMW as a homologation special for sports car racing. The BMW M1 has earned itself a legendary status and considered as one of the most iconic cars ever built. The Giugiaro-designed styling and the fact that only 453 were ever built make the BMW M1 a very rare and desirable collector’s car. A BMW M1 in good condition can fetch as much as a million dollars.
1. BMW E9 3.0CSL
Launched: May 1972
Claim to fame: This brings us to the last BMW model on this list, one of the most legendary racing cars the Bavarian automaker has ever built – the BMW E9 3.0CSL. The early efforts by BMW in competitive racing, run mainly by independent tuner Alpina, were not too successful. However, the introduction of this particular car, which was based on the E9 two-door coupé built for BMW by Karmann from 1968 to 1975, changed the fortunes of the German marquee. The ‘L’ in the name stands for leicht (light) as the company was able to reduce the weight by more than 300 pounds (140 kg) from the E9’s curb weight using thinner-gauge steel, plastic windows, and many aluminum parts. The weight saving measures along with the wild aero kit developed by BMW and Alpina turned it into a very competitive car. The wild-looking array of wings and spoilers earned it the nickname ‘Batmobile’. It won its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1973 and went on to dominate European racing until 1979, four years after it went out of production. It won five European Touring Car championships and was highly successful in various U.S. events as well, seriously challenging Porsche’s dominance. The CSL’s greatest achievement was to help firmly establish the company as the maker of the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’. A few days back, BMW introduced the modern interpretation of the car, aptly named 3.0 CSL Hommage R, to pay tribute to its legendary race machine.