Post-War Bimmer Racer

The 1948 Veritas BMW Rennsport was one of the finest German-made open-wheel formula carsand it can still race

Veritas was formed in 1946 by BMW engineers Ernst Loof and Lorenz Dietrich to build BMW-engined sports cars. Because steel was virtually unavailable in post-war Germany, the bodies were all hand-finished in aluminum, with steel being confined to the main chassis members.

This, and a general shortage of all other components, explain why no two Veritas cars are really identical. Even so, as conditions allowed motor racing to return in one form or the other, the cars enjoyed a certain measure of success.

Their first was an outright win by Karl Kling at the 1948 Nurburgring sports car race at an average speed of 161 kph, almost 100 mph. The small company finally closed in 1953 when Loof returned to BMW. Estimates of the number of cars built, including renn-spyders, coupes, and single-seaters, vary, but the number is usually thought to be around 78.

The example on offer here has been restored to the original renn-spyder configuration. Although chassis 85123 took part in several races in Germany in 1948, its first recorded overseas race is with Dennis Poore in 1949 at Goodwood, where it placed 6th at the September sports car meeting.

In the early 1960s, it was given a more stylish body treatment before being sold to a Mr. Beemsterborer. He intended to restore it to original, but this did not happen until the 1980s when it was bought by a German owner. The car was shipped to England, and the work was carried out by the highly regarded TT Workshops Ltd. at a cost reputed to be over £100,000 (only about $110,000 in those strong-dollar days).

The car was then resident in the U.S. from 2001 until being re-imported to Europe by a major Swiss collector in 2003. It is in exceptional restored condition, possesses FIA papers, and is totally fit and ready for the next season.

The SCM Analysis

This car sold for $572,000 at the Sportscar Auction Company sale in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 12, 2007.

The real story of the Veritas marque begins in 1936, when BMW brought out the model 328. Designed by engineer Fritz Fiedler, the car was revolutionary for its time, utilizing a tubular space frame and a 2-liter 6-cylinder engine with a novel valve operating arrangement to achieve hemispherical combustion chambers with a single side-mounted camshaft.

Light, supple, and quick, it has been described as the only true sports car produced in Germany before the war. Throughout its brief manufacture, the 328 had been developed into a formidable production-based racing car with frequent class and occasional overall wins at races like the Mille Miglia and Le Mans. The onset of hostilities ended 328 production, though, and the conclusion of hostilities pretty much ended the German auto industry.

BMW engineers start own company

In 1946, with BMW effectively shut down, several of its racing engineers decided to try to start something on their own, so they formed the Veritas Company. With no real manufacturing or production facilities left, they started by finding old 328s, rebuilding them, and turning them into post-war racing cars. The first were open-wheel formula cars, but their real success came with the Rennsport two-seaters, effectively 328s updated to post-war aerodynamics.

At the same time and on a parallel path, the British were busy trying to appropriate the 328 for themselves. Arrangements were made to have the Bristol Aircraft Company acquire the technical drawings and available tooling from the bombed-out BMW factory. The chassis plans became the basis for the Bristol 401 automobile, while the engine became known as the Bristol 2-liter and found a home in Bristol, Frazer Nash, AC, and Arnolt cars, as well as innumerable racing cars. It became the "English" performance 2-liter engine of choice into the late 1950s before ceasing production in 1961.

Meanwhile, amid the post-war reconstruction of industrial Germany, Veritas was trying to keep its doors open and produce cars, a task made ever more difficult by the diminishing supply of old 328s from which to work. They went to Heinkel in an attempt to get fresh castings and partial assembly of engines, but it never really worked out.

By the early 1950s, Veritas cars had become very expensive and no longer competitive with the new offerings from Ferrari, Maserati, and Jaguar, so the company was shut down and most of the people went back to BMW. My sources suggest that 22 Rennsport models were constructed, of which roughly 15 survive. In the late 1940s, these and Frazer Nash shared the mantle as the epitome of the light, agile, sophisticated approach to auto racing. Cars like Talbot-Lago and Allard took the simpler-chassis, big-engined approach.

It may seem to the casual reader that 572 big ones is a lot to pay for a 1948 sports racer with a 2-liter production-based engine, but it actually has its own very clear logic. We're talking "horses for courses" here. Though collector street cars often have a value in their beauty and image, vintage racing cars tend to have value based on what you can do with them.

Best event, best people, best parties

In all of vintage racing, without doubt the most prestigious and desired event is the Monaco Historic Grand Prix. It is the best event, with the best people and the best parties, and is held every other year the weekend before the real GP. As befits a GP, it is almost exclusively for open-wheeled formula cars, but there is one exception. In 1952, times were hard and the GP was run allowing sports cars to ensure a full entry, so the Historic GP has one grid of sports racing cars. Because of the demand to enter the sports car grid, entry is strictly limited to cars constructed and with international racing history prior to June 1952, as well as interesting, significant, and/or unusual cars to boot. There is simply no more desirable or difficult vintage race entry in the world.

So let's take a look at the Veritas with this in mind. The car is old enough, beautiful, very significant, and rare enough that there aren't likely to be many others asking to participate. Even if there are, they won't look like this one, since all Rennsports were more or less one-offs. As a result, you'll have a good chance of being accepted for the event.

If you are accepted (and you're a good driver), we get to the next part. Monaco is a very tight, demanding, relatively slow street circuit that favors light, nimble cars. The Rennsport may be BMW 328-based, but you recall that it is also called a Bristol 2-liter, and these days 160 drivable horsepower is easy to develop from one.

The Veritas weighs about 1,200 pounds and has every bit as much tire and brake as anyone else that can run. Last time, a Frazer Nash won the event. The Veritas is certainly a front-runner and potentially a winning car at Monaco or similar events. It all starts to make sense, yes?

Yeah, it's a lot of money for a little car, but it sold for $207,020 at the Barret-Jackson/Coys Monte Carlo sale in 2000 to better its estimate by $35,000. It's appreciating in line with the market, and you're going to look long and hard to find anything likely to be acceptable, much less competitive, at the big-noise events for any less. It's also going to be a great and useable car that your wife might actually enjoy riding in on the various touring events that it would always be very welcome to join. It's not a car for the thin-wallet crowd, but then neither is prestige vintage racing these days, so there you have it. I'd say fairly bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of Sportscar Auction Co.)


Years Produced: 1948-52

Number Produced: 22

Original List Price: Unknown

SCM Valuation: $500,000-$700,000

Tune-up Cost: $600

Chassis # Location: Unknown

Engine # Location: Right side block toward front

Club Info: Vintage Sports Car Club

Website: click to visit

Alternatives: 1948-56 Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica, 1948-55 Osca MT4, 1948-50 Ferrari 166 MM

Investment Grade: B

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