BMW Light cars
A full circle.
BMW got into the business of manufacturing cars
in 1929 by taking over the Dixi Company of Eisenach. Dixi had been producing
the Austin 7 under licence since 1927. The car became the BMW-Dixi and
from then BMW began to develop the car, producing the 3/15ps model in 1930.
A tourer could be purchased for 2,800 marks and 350 to 400 cars were produced
each month. A two-seat sports car the Wartburg sports was produced in small
numbers, part of the total of the 20,000 basic models produced.
In 1930 a version with independent front
suspension retaining the transverse leaf spring, was produced until 1932.This was superseded by the 3/20 with a backbone chassis and
a 788cc over head valve, pressure lubricated engine that was otherwise
similar to the Austin engine and independent swing axle rear suspension. A few thousand of these
were produced. The 3/20 was a much heavier car than the 3/15ps, the former
weighing 660Kg and the latter 388kg. The 309 was an 845cc four that was
available until 1936. It shared a chassis and body with the 1.5 litre 315.
Nine thousand seven hundred and sixty five 315's were produced between
1934 and 1937 The first of the classic sixes produced by BMW with a twin
tube chassis frame and transverse leaf I.F.S and available in eight body
After 1937 BMW turned it's back on the light
car until 1955 when the company began to produce a mini car with a similar
performance to the 3/15ps, the Isetta. The Isetta was an Italian design
produced under licence, A repeat of the Dixi story, but this time using
a BMW engine, a 247cc later 297cc motorcycle unit. The over one hundred
and sixty thousand examples produced between 1955 and 1963, creating the
much needed revenue for BMW that their large engined models had failed
The next minicar the 600 was a development
of the Isseta. A four-seat car that was fitted with another BMW motorcycle
engine an air-cooled flat twin unit of 582cc at the rear. Produced from
1957 to 1959, just under thirty five thousand 600's were made.
The 600 had not as successful as the Isetta
but the next small car the 700 was. Fitted with a 697cc version of the
engine fitted to the 600 and with a similar layout, but with a conventional
body designed by Michelotti. Over one hundred and eighty eight thousand
examples were produced between 1959 and 1965.
While these minicars were being produced,
tiding the company over, the design and development of the model that would
lead BMW to it's present prosperity was underway. The 1500's were the forerunner
of the modern BMW's with a unit construction chassis/body unit, a four-cylinder
overhead camshaft engine of 1499cc. McPherson struts type front suspension
and independent rear suspension. Almost thirty five thousand examples of
that first model and a 1600 development were produced by 1966. They were
replaced in 1966 by the 1502 and 1602. By 1977 when the new 3 Series had
taken over the roll of BMW's smallest car they had produced 349,955 examples.
There had been a 1600 version of the 3 Series and the 3 Series Compact
from 1975 until 2003.
The Austin Seven, the design of which was
used to produce the BMW-Dixi in the 1920's was first produced at Longbridge
Birmingham England. In 1959, the British Motor Corporation introduced a
new model also produced at Longbridge that was a true successor to the
Seven. Badged as an Austin Seven or a Morris Mini Minor, the car soon became
known as the Mini. After a disastrous episode when they owned the Rover
Group, including the Longbridge factory, BMW sold off most of the company,
but they retained the design of a new Mini. It had been planned for the
new Mini to be produced at Longbridge. The Mini, which is now produced
at the old Morris factory at Cowley Oxford England, also retained by BMW.
The MINI is sold throughout the world alone side the BMW range. So the
lightcar sold by BMW today has direct links with the first car it produced,
a full circle.