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Origin of BMW Motorcycles



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The origins of BMW motorcycles can be traced to 1913 when Karl Friedrich Rapp, a Bavarian who had been a well-known engineer in a German aircraft company, formed Rapp Motoren Werke near Munich, Germany. This company specialized in airplane engines. The first engines were unreliable and suffered from excessive vibration. Nearby, Gustav Otto, also an airplane specialist, set up a small shop building small aircraft.

Because of the engine problems, Rapp Motoren Werke secured a contract with Austro-Daimler to build V12 Aero engines under license. However, the new company expanded too quickly and Austro-Daimler was unable to supply enough engines for production. Soon, Rapp had to resign from the company for obvious financial reasons.
Franz Josef Popp and Max Friz, two Austrians now took over the company. Soon Rapp Motoren Werke merged their company with Otto’s small company nearby to form Bayersiche Flugzeungwerke. It was shortly afterwards renamed Bayersiche Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works), or BMW, forming the company we know today.

Max Friz
BMW's first aircraft engine went into production in 1917. It was a 6 cylinder Type IIIa. . In 1919, using an aircraft powered by its successor, the Type IV, Franz Zeno Diemer set an altitude record of 9,760 metres (32,013 ft). The Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 ending World War I. This treaty also prohibited BMW from building aircraft engines. The young company began producing air brakes for railway cars to keep its workforce busy while the engineers looked for another product to sell.
R 32 under Assembly in Germany
That came shortly in the form of the R 32 BMW motorcycle. It went into production in 1923 at the newly constructed Eisenach factory next to the Munich airport. The R 32 used a flat-twin cylinder engine transversely mounted in a double-tubular frame producing 8.5 horsepower at 3300 rpm. The 2-cylinder 494cc motorcycle could reach a top speed of 59 mph (95 km/h). BMW manufactured 3090 of them during its 3 year life span.
The current BMW logo, introduced in 1920, was based on the circular design of an aircraft propeller.

Early BMW Chopper
BMW's in World War II

Victory Parade through Paris 1940
Top: Luftwaffe Motorcyclists standing
by their BMW's in World War II
Top: Motorcycle Squad patroling in what looks
like southeastern Europe during World War II

German's Riding toward the eastern Front
Top: Motorcycle soldiers of 24th Panzer Division fighting on the Russian Front. The Division was wiped out at Stalingrad in 1943.

German motorcycle soldier fleeing
Russians on the Eastern Front.
After World War II

1955 R 26

1969 BMW R60/2

1972 R75

1981 R 100RS

1990 BMW K1

1998 R 1100 RT-Police Bike

Customized 1983 BMW R 80
Why Ride a Motorcycle ?
BMW Promotional Video "Soul Food" Shines a Light on
some of the Mystical Allures of Motorcycling on the Soul
BMW Movies
Vintage BMW Motorcycle Racing
BMW Airhead History
Early BMW Motorcycles
Classic Motorcycle Videos