Early History of BMW



Early History of BMW
BMW formally recognizes its birthday as March 7, 1916 the day Gustav Otto’s fledgling aircraft company morphed into a new company just as he handed off ownership to others.

That perhaps sounds like an inauspicious beginning but Otto is nevertheless considered a reluctant father of the company know today as BMW.

That is because the Bavarian Aircraft Works would not have spawned the eventual BMW aircraft company, which in turn led to the auto company, without Otto’s mechanical genius, love of flying family pride, and dedication to building some of the most sought after aircraft engines of the time.

Otto’s father, Nikolaus August Otto who died in 1891, invented the “Otto” combustion engine which first viable internal combustion engine featuring the correct timing of ignition and combustion.

Starting up about the same time as the Otto aircraft firm, the Karl Rapp Motorwerke in 1913 began producing aircraft engines that could win altitude and speed competitions and therefore military contracts.

As the dogs of war began howling in 1914, Rapp had precious production capacity and quickly won contracts from Prussia and Austro-Hungary to produce 25 large V12 aircraft engines.

Rapp’s company began buying four cylinder water cooled aircraft engines from the Gustav Otto company whose operations it absorbed.

By 1916, Rapp Motor Works was employing 370 people and more than 100 machine tools.

An Austrian engineer, Franz Josef Popp largely directed Rapp’s business affairs including securing the all important military contracts.

Popp arrived at Rapp at the direction of the Imperial Austro-Hungary War Ministry to oversee production of 10 million Reichsmarks worth of airplane engines.

On the strength of this new business, Popp transformed the Rapp company into Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH.

In 1917, BMW brought a new product to market that would boost its aircraft reputation, the Type IIIa, water cooled, six cylinder designed by chief engineer Max Friz – a grand engineering mind who would dominate BMW’s product development culture on into the 1960s.

In 1921, Friz developed a motorcycle engine that turn out to be one of the great engines of the decade. It was sold as the Bayern Kleinmotor (Bavarian Small Engine).

An improved Kleinmotor would next power the first motorcycle sold under BMW’s own brand.
Early History of BMW
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