It only took the brand eight years to produce the masterpiece that changed the course of history — a truly staggering achievement considering who its rivals were.
In 1933, following the ‘Dixi’, BMW launched its first automobile to be fitted with their famous six-cylinder in-line engine design. The company sighted that the modest output of the 1200cc unit of the 303 lacked the performance required for a sport driving experience.
Key to BMW’s early success was the hiring of Fritz Fiedler as technical director at Horch. He was entrusted with the evolution of the six-cylinder engine, which he duly obliged until the start of World War II. Although the 1.5 litre engine of the 315 and the 319 benefitted from Fielder’s intervention, it was the brand’s 328 of 1936 fitted with an upgraded two-litre unit that really showed what Fielder was about.
The bodywork, based on a longitudinal side-frame chassis with tubular sections, was modern and well-proportioned with integrated headlights — a feature that became mandatory ten years later. The independent front suspension, uncommon at the time, and the well-guided rigid axle made it possible to for the 328 to efficiently exploit the 80hp of the standard engine, helped by the chassis which weighed less than 800 kg. With these characteristics, the BMW became at that time, the best sports car in the two-litre category — as was proven by its numerous successes in motorsport.
Only two 328s were produced in 1936, and eleven were completed in 1940, the year in which production ceased after only 461 total units. Following this time, the entire production of private vehicles was banned in Germany due to the war effort. The legacy of the exemplary German model however, went on well beyond that date.
As part of the war indemnity after 1945, the British aircraft manufacturer Bristol was granted the use of the patent for the BMW six-cylinder engine. The engine, a concept from the mid-1930s continued to power both the newly opened Bristol road and competition cars until 1960. A close look at the Jaguar XK120, considered one of the most progressive cars of the 1950s in terms of aesthetics, easily reveals the influence that the BMW 328 had on that innovative vehicle concept.