Source: BMW

In Photos: Celebrating 100 Years of BMW

March 7, 2016 marks 100 years since the little company that became Bayerische Motoren Werke formed in Germany. It first built aircraft but quickly moved to making motorcycles and cars as the times (and the war) demanded. The famous blue and white logo that signifies the state colors of Bavaria arrived shortly afterward; so did that famous kidney grille and the professional racing wins. From the 2002 to the Z4 and beyond, the rest, as they say, is history.

  1. The Early Years

    The Early Years

    Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG was established on March 7, 1916, as the successor to aircraft manufacturer Gustav-Otto-Flugmaschinenfabrik. The lead office was at Lerchenauer Straße in Munich, Germany. By 1922, engine construction, the official company name, and the brand logo of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG were all transferred and combined into one company, which became the formal BMW AG consumers know and love today. 

    Source: BMW

  2. Taking Flight

    Taking Flight

    In 1919, test pilot Zeno Diemer reached a world record altitude of 9,760 meters (32,021 feet) in his Deutsche Flugzeugwerke aircraft, which was powered by a BMW IV inline six-cylinder engine.

    Source: BMW

  3. The First BMW Motorcycle

    The First BMW Motorcycle

    Unveiled at the 1923 German Motor Show in Berlin, the R32 motorcycle was BMW's first production motorcycle. It featured a horizontally opposed twin-cylinder, four-stroke boxer engine.

    Source: BMW

  4. The First BMW Car

    The First BMW Car

    BMW started making cars in 1928 after taking over Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach. The BMW 3/15 was the company's first offering; it was produced as a "Dixi" car between 1927 and 1929 and then as a BMW from July 1929 to March 1932. BMW gave up the manufacturing license soon afterward. 

    Source: BMW

  5. The BMW 303

    The BMW 303

    BMW made the 303 coupe from 1933 to 1934. It was the first BMW with the now-famous kidney-shaped grille that is synonymous with the marque. 

    Source: BMW

  6. The Land Speed Record

    The Land Speed Record

    BMW has a long history of racing and speed records. In 1937, BMW driver Ernst Henne set a world land speed record of 279.503 kph (173.6 mph) in a BMW one-off car. 

    Source: BMW

  7. Le Mans, 1939

    Le Mans, 1939

    The four-speed manual BMW 328 had only 80hp, and it averaged around 80 mph during racing laps, but in 1939 it placed first in class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which was considered a triumph and engineering and aerodynamic design for the German manufacturer at the time.

    Source: BMW

  8. The 501

    The 501

    BMW made the 501 "luxury saloon" between 1952 and 1958. It was the first car BMW produced after WWII. It was beautiful, but it wasn't fast. The four-speed cruiser had a heavy steel body that took 27 seconds to hit 62 mph. Top speed was 84 mph.

    Source: BMW

  9. The Isetta

    The Isetta

    BMW debuted the famous little Isetta in 1955. The car, which had a single door that opened from the front, ran on a four-stroke single-cylinder engine. The car was designed by an Italian agency and could get 78 miles per single gallon of gas. 

    Source: BMW

  10. The King of Cool

    The King of Cool

    Elvis Presley famously owned a second-hand white BMW 507. According to the dealer, Presley paid $3,750 for it in 1958 (approximately $31,000 today) after the German racing star Hans Stuck had finished with it. 

    Source: Bettmann via Corbis

  11. New Class

    New Class

    In 1961 came the BMW 1500, the first model in the ‘New Class’ line of sporty mid-range saloons.

    Source: BMW

  12. The 1973 BMW R90S

    The 1973 BMW R90S

    BMW commissioned Hans Muth to design the R90S, the flagship form of the boxer-engined "/6" range. With a sporty two-tone paint job and novel styling, the bike was intended to make BMW motorcycles seem younger and more fun.

    Source: BMW

  13. The BMW R80G/S

    The BMW R80G/S

    The R80G/S line was the first of a family of BMW GS specialized dual-sport bikes. They became wildly successful in the early 1980s, selling more than 50,000 models in a matter of years. G/S stands for Gelände/Strasse, which means "offroad/road" in German. 

    Source: BMW

  14. The CSL

    The CSL

    Starting in the late 1960s, the BMW E9 platform—especially the 3.0 CSL Special editions from the early 1970s like the one shown here—helped establish BMW as a major racing power. The cars were extremely light, thanks to their thin steel bodies, absence of trimming and soundproofing, aluminum alloy doors, and Perspex windows.

    Source: BMW

  15. The 5-Series

    The 5-Series

    BMW's second-best selling model (after the 3-Series) started in 1972 as a mid-size luxury car and has at different times come in hatchback and touring forms. It's currently in its 6th generation. Legend has it the car got its name by being the fifth of the "new series" of cars after the post-war V8s and Isetta era.

    Source: BMW

  16. The 320

    The 320

    BMW made the E21 (original 3-Series) from 1975 to 1983, released as 316, 318, and 320 models. Most of them were sold as four-speed manual two-door sedans. Early versions had a four-cylinder engine; later versions added a six-cylinder option.

    Source: BMW

  17. The 7-Series

    The 7-Series

    BMW made the original big 7-Series from 1977 to 1987. It was a full-size, four-door luxury sedan that, at varying times, came with a 4-speed manual, 5-speed manual, 3-speed automatic, or 4-speed automatic six-cylinder engine. Later years included a turbo-charged option. And it's the car Bimmer uses to unleash its newest and best technological offerings.

    Source: BMW

  18. The Art Cars

    The Art Cars

    BMW has long commissioned famous artists to cover the exterior of select cars. Frank Stella created this BMW 3.0 CSL in 1976. Others who have created the cars include Frank Stella, Alexander Calder, and Jenny Holzer.

    Source: BMW

  19. Warhol M1

    Warhol M1

    Andy Warhol created this BMW M1 design in 1979 as his contribution to the BMW Art Cars project. BMW occasionally trots out the cars as major emblems of cultural significance and design. The most recent artist to join the program was Jeff Koons in 2010; he decorated a M3 GT2 that competed in the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans but did not finish.

  20. Winning Formula

    Winning Formula

    October 1983 saw Brazilian racing driver Nelson Piquet become Formula 1 World Champion driving the Brabham BMW. He was the first champion in a turbo-powered car.

    Source: Getty Images

  21. M Series

    M Series

    BMW Motorsport was established in 1972 and is responsible for all of BMW’s motor-sport activities.

    Source: BMW

  22. The First Big SUV

    The First Big SUV

    BMW debuted the X5 SUV in 1999 with a manual or automatic four-wheel drive. It shares many of the technology and engineering systems of the 5-Series sedan, but with a bigger body and unibody chassis. It is now in its third generation.

    Source: BMW

  23. Mini


    1994 saw BMW take over the British Rover Group, which included the brands Rover, MG, Mini and Land Rover—by 2000 only Mini (a "worthy little splurge") remains a BMW brand. 

    Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

  24. The M6

    The M6

    The excellent BMW M6 is the high-performance version of BMW's 6-Series coupe and convertible. It began production in 1983; the modern version with Competition Package achieves 600 horsepower and can hit 60mph in less than 4 seconds.

    Source: BMW

  25. The Electric Future

    The Electric Future

    BMW made the i8 in 2014 with a plug-in hybrid motor/engine combination. The i8 was created as the halo car to hype BMW's new electric division, which also included the tiny i3 city car. It has unique gull-wing doors, can drive 23 miles on a pure lithium-ion battery, and can hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. Top speed is 155 mph. It also comes in a Spyder version.

    Source: BMW