BMW R 75 and other BMW motorcycles in the German Army 1930–1945

Bavarian rotating propellers

The story of one of the modern automotive giants is dated shortly before the outbreak of the Great War. In 1910, in southern Germany two manufacturing plants were set up, widely regarded as the forerunner of the official BMW: Aeroplan Otto-Alberti, and three years later: Rapp Motoren Werke GmbH. Both have taken mounting aircraft engines, the first of the companies a few months before the Sarajevo events transformed into Otto Flugzeugwerke signed a contract for the construction of airplanes for the Bavarian Army.

While the imperial troops fought in the trenches, in case of both manufacturers important transformation took place: in 1916 owner of Bayerische Flugzeugwerke GmbH – Gustav Otto stood on the brink of bankruptcy, and in two consecutive years, Karl Rapp has changed its company to Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, soon selling its first shares. The new institution, the head of the board was Franz Josef Popp and chief engineer - an engineer Max Friz received from the German authorities’ request for two thousand airplane engines. This impulse lay at the basis of dynamic development and the related success, and above all – the operational ceiling record set in June 1919 using the BMW IIIa engine (9.760 m). Around the same time, there were sort of a financial revolution – part of the shares acquired one of the richest men in contemporary Europe – Camillo Castiglioni who in a short time, passed the majority to the Association of Banks in Vienna. As a result of the transfer was carried out in 1922, the financier merged with companies formerly managed by Gustav Otto and became the real owner of the rights and technology, BMW, this condition has persisted for the next seven years, until the takeover by a consortium of German banks. This circumstances allowed the Bavarian plants survive the crisis of the first postwar months especially that conducted before the activity is interrupted as a result of limiting the Armed Forces of the Weimar Republic by the preliminaries of the Versailles Treaty.

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The first two-wheel vehicles under the symbol if tge blue and white rotating propeller was presented nineteen years after the first motorcycles had appeared in the army of the Hohenzollern Empire. Financially secure company, trying to take advantage of favorable conditions for the construction of this type of machines, caused by limitations imposed on Germany at the Versailles, first proposed M2B15 BMW engine regarded as the universal one and finally in 1923, presented its own proposal in the medium class motorcycle – BMW R 32. The design of the equipped with two-cylinder M2B33 engine with a capacity of 486 cm3 and power of 8.5 HP the engineer-duo of Max Friz abd Martin Stolle created in just five weeks. The trademark of the machine, which forms the peculiar symbol of the brand in the next decades were the opposite arrangement of cylinders (the boxer type engine) and the cardan shaft. In addition, the vehicle was characterized by solid, double frame, rigid rear wheel suspension and a triangular, flattened tank with a capacity of fourteen liters. The machine weight was 122 kg was able to reach a maximum speed of 95 road km/h. Average fuel consumption by optimum driving was 3 liters per 100 km. If necessary, the sidecar could have been attached. The motorcycle was produced for three years, the number of units sold amounted to three thousand and ninety.
Less then fourteen months had passed since the September debut of the R 32 at the Motor Show in Berlin, where another motorcycle rolled off the Munich factory again. BMW R 37 was equipped with a drive unit with a slightly increased capacity (494 cm3), but nearly twice the power - 16 HP. Moreover, it was decided to use the innovation created by engineer Rudolf Schleicher – the cylinder heads equipped with aluminum covers, the patent which is used by modern times. Even before the launch of production, which lasted between 1925 and 1926, the vehicle made ​​a loud because of its sport performance: using R 37 Franz Bieber gained a victory in the ADAC Eifelrennen mountain race and the Ruselberg Rally. Soon after, another BMW driver – Rudi Reich led his 170-kg sidecar set on the highest step of the Ettaler Bergrennen podium. Taking advantage of the growing interest in 1927 in the manufacturer catalogue, the 18 HP powered BMW R 47 was also revealed.
The results mentioned above significantly contributed to strengthen the position of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG in the German market. In the mid-twenties, the company of Franz Josef Popp could have stand boldly compete with manufacturers such as NSU Motorenwerke AG from Neckarsulm in Baden-Württemberg and the acclaimed Nuremberg Zündapp GmbH. The demise of the first motorcycle presented above coincides with the launch of its upgraded and above all cheaper version of R 42. Within two years the civilian users have purchased about six and a half thousand pieces of this variant, adding another nearly fourteen hundred of model R 52 – the successor manufactured between 1928 and 1929. Despite the signs of the great economic crisis which has not spared the German State, BMW AG, could boldly declare success.