How much do you know about the world's premier auto manufacturer? Test your knowledge with this list of ten fun facts about BMW.
1. BMW didn't start out making cars
BMW was founded back in 1916, but not to build cars — it had newer technology in mind. The company was created to make four cylinder aircraft engines, particularly for German pilots to fly during World War One.
2. The BMW logo isn't based on airplane propellers
Yes, the company started out building engines for propeller planes, but the idea BMW designed its iconic logo to resemble propellers is urban legend. BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke — or in English Bavarian Motor Works — because it started in the German state of Bavaria. In homage to its origins, BMW's blue and white check pattern is based on the Bavarian flag.
3. BMW made very good airplane engines
BMW powered airplanes were quite highly regarded during World War One, to the extent the famous Red Baron wanted to fly one. In 1919, a plane equipped with a BMW engine achieved an altitude of 32,000 feet, which was a world record at the time.
4. BMW only got into cars because the war ended
When World War One ended, the Treaty of Versailles banned Germany from having an air force and forbid German companies from building aircraft. To stay in business, the company built replacement parts for American jeeps, and designed engines for other companies.
5. BMW built motorcycles before it built cars
In 1919, BMW built its first motorcycle engine, and in 1923 manufactured the first BMW motorcycle. It didn't build its first car until 1928 — five years later.
6. Even BMW's early motorcycles were world class
It didn't take very long for BMW motorcycles to gain a reputation as the world's best. As early on as 1937, BMW built the world's fastest motorcycle, reaching what's still a whopping speed of 173.7 miles per hour. In the years since, BMW motorcycles have broken nearly 200 different world speed records, more than two dozen of which stand to this day.
7. BMW didn't design its first car
Today, the name BMW is synonymous with high end auto design. But when BMW built its first car in 1928, it became one of several companies to license the design of a British car called the Austin 7. Thus, the small BMW Dixi was essentially the same car made in the US as a Bantam, and in Japan as a Datsun.
8. BMW headquarters is designed to resemble a four cylinder engine
Many current model BMWs excel with a highly engineered 6 cylinder engine design, but there's no question BMW built its fine international reputation on the prowess of its four cylinder airplane engines. Consequently, Austrian architect Karl Schwanzer used the engine as inspiration for the design of BMW's iconic Munich headquarters building.
9. Electric BMWs date back to 1972
Current day, BMW is one of the manufacturers of at the forefront of electric car design — but it's actually been developing the concept for nearly 45 years. The 1972 BMW 1602e boasted a mere 42 horsepower engine and 37 mile range. Today's all-electric BMW i3 achieves 170 horsepower and travels 100 miles on a charge.
10. Even old BMW engines can move
Back in 1962, the four-cylinder engine designed for BMW's M10 rated 75 horsepower. With a few engineering upgrades, the same engine design was used by the car that won the 1983 Formula One Championship — driving behind 1400 horsepower!