Over the years, BMW has established a reputation as one of the most creative and prestigious car manufacturers in the industry, while also gaining a highly collectible brand along the way. Many of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” models have attained values seldom seen in the collectible auto world.
1927-29 BMW 3/15 DA-1
BMW’s first car, also called the Dixi. A licensed Austin 7 with a 15bhp 747cc side valve straight four, and brakes that operated on the rear wheels only (four-wheel brakes were introduced on the 3/15 DA-2, dontcha know). Unlikely to have been considered the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’.
1933-34 BMW 303
Big one this: the first car to have a BMW six-cylinder engine (1.2-litre and a whacking great 28bhp, in case you were interested) and the first car to feature the double kidney grille that would become legend. There were high-po versions, too - the 315/1 and 319/1.
1936-40 BMW 328
Now we’re getting somewhere. A sports roadster, powered by a 2.0-litre straight six with nearly a whole 80bhp. Mind you, it only weighed 830kg, so that was enough to bring it motorsport success winning – amongst other things – Le Mans and the Mille Miglia.
1937-41 BMW 327
Considered ‘more progressive’ than some contemporaries, the 327 was a handsome Tourer, first a convertible and later a fixed-head. Still had an M78 2.0-litre six-pot, looks exceptional today.
1949-53 BMW 340
the forties, several BMW cars started being reproduced after the hiatus caused by World War II. The 340 was the new one, though underneath it was a 326 with a party frock. Guess what engine it had? Yep - M78 2.0-litre six, this time with 52bhp. Sometimes badged as ‘EMW’ thanks to a strange post-war legal wrangle over who owned the Eisenach manufacturing base. Also turned up as the estate ‘Kombi’.
1952-62 BMW 501
The first car to be built and sold exclusively by BMW after the war, the 501 was a full-size saloon powered by the usual 2.0-litre M78, a slightly bored-out version of that engine and also a 2.6-litre V8.
1956-62 BMW Isetta
Mimicking the econocar success of former aircraft manufacturers like Heinkel and Messerschmitt, BMW bought the rights to the Iso Isetta and stuck a 13bhp 298cc BMW single ‘bike engine in it. Also turned up as the longer, four-seat BMW 600 bubble car. Cute.
1956-59 BMW 503 Coupe/Convertible
A sports coupe with a 140bhp 3.2-litre V8, four-speed manual, and the first euro-convertible with an electric folding top, the 503 wasn’t a hit for BMW. Despite being very pretty, it cost twice as much as the company projected and made for heavy financial losses. Sad face.
1962-67 BMW 2002
BMW’s establisher. Possibly one of the most recognised ‘classic’ modern era designs, and still a desirable car today. It originally came with either 1.5 or 2.0-litre fours, and benefitted from the Quandt family’s heavy investment in the BMW company in 1960.
Monocoque, with fully independent suspension, it paved the way for the modern BMWs of today. Later, 1969 saw the introduction of the 2002Tii (Touring international, injected) with mechanical fuel injection, and (I)that(I) car spawned the 2002 Turbo with a KKK blower - the first production turbo car after the Americans gave up in the early Sixties. It also spawned the Karmann-bodied 2000C/CS E9 - possibly still one of the prettiest coupes of the time.
1978-’81 BMW M1
Widely regarded as the first ever ‘M’ car, the Giugiaro-designed M1 was more realistically a road going racecar. It was the only mid-engined BMW ever produced until the i8 appeared, and had a 3.5-litre straight six that chucked out 270-sh bhp. It’s also one of Top Gear’s favourites… ever. The engine also spawned the first M5 - the M535i - and the 635CSi coupe. So this car is responsible for a lot of good things.
1999- 2003 BMW Z8
Retro-styled but not pastiche, the Z8 was BMW’s homage to the past, but full of contemporary modern tech. A 4.9-litre M5 V8 from the E39, it developed 400bhp and 370 lb ft and could hit 62mph in well under five seconds. Better than that, the roadster looked absolutely fantastic, and harked back to the mid-fifties 507. And still does.
2003-04 BMW E46 M3 CSL
A special edition version of the E46, the CSL was a lightweight street racer identifiable by the slight ducktail rear, special lightweight wheels and big induction hole in the front bumper. It’s also in the ‘classic’ BMW set up: rear-wheel drive, 355bhp 3.2-litre straight six with natural aspiration, and its proving very popular with speculators and collectors - with decent examples going for upwards of £60k and rising. As ever with classic BMW saloons and coupes, the CSL is fairly subtle - which makes it even more appealing.
2011 BMW 1M Coupe
One of the more modern BMWs that nonetheless is keeping pace with the second-hand market, used 1Ms with 40-50k miles are making the same as they did when new (£40k), if not more. Launched in 2011, it’s a lot of cash for a 1-series, but with a twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six and 335bhp, it was not only the first of the M cars to make use of turbocharging, but a raucous drive thanks to a proper limited-slip diff and manual ‘box. A modern classic, that lent itself to the recent...
2016- present BMW M2
Basically the same idea as the 1M Coupe but produced in unlimited numbers, the recent M2 follows the same recipe as the 1M: 370bhp, 343 lb ft from a turbo’d 3.0-litre straight six. Think of it as a ‘baby’ M3, and you won’t be far wrong, though it’s possibly a little more fun than big brother, because it’s more accessible. But 0-62mph with a manual in 4.5 seconds (a smidge quicker with a DCT) is still nothing to be sniffed at.
Source: Top Gear