Bayerische Motoren Werke, or BMW as we commonly know it, was founded as an aircraft engine manufacturer in 1916. Its first product was a straight-six engine, a layout it’s famous for today in its cars. However, designer Max Friz had a better idea for an airplane engine using just four cylinders. The IIIA engine was reportedly renowned by the Red Baron, the most successful fighter pilot of World War I, referring to it as the “greatest engine.” It was revolutionary, and demand from the military ensured BMW’s growth and expansion through World War I.
Following the war, BMW was banned by the allies from making aero engines and took to making all sorts of things from farm equipment to household items. That included motorcycle engines, and BMW built its first motorbike in 1923. In 1928, BMW produced its first car when it bought a company that built British Austin Sevens under license. After World War II, which is the bleakest part of BMW’s history, the company was banned from making motor vehicles or aircraft and survived making pots, pans, and pedal bikes. It’s a genuine wonder that BMW has survived to be here over 100 years later, let alone as a renowned maker of sporty luxury cars. The brand has flourished, though, and brought us some amazing cars. Here are some things you probably don’t know about BMW.