Monday, January 21, 2019
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The BMW factory - History

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The BMW factory did not manufacture motorcycles all the time. The “Bavarian Aircraft Works AG” were founded 1916 by Max Friz and Karl Rapp, two young engineers. In 1917, Max Friz (who was formerly an employee of Daimler) renamed his company “Bavarian Motor Works” (BMW) and already produced BMW make aircraft engines. Two years later, an BMW engine-equipped Biplane even set up the world record for the flight altitude at 9700 meters (which is almost the cruising altitude of today´s aircraft!). Since this time the BMW emblem shows the well-known stylized white propeller at the blue sky.

In 1919, the Versaille contract declared Germany caused world war one, so any aircraft inventory was strictly forbidden. As a result, Max Friz developed stationairy engines as well as engines for boats and trucks. After a short time, Friz developed with Martin Stolle, a young engineer, BMWs first motorcycle engine: a 500cc two cylinder boxer engine, called M2B15. This 6,5 hp engine was presented in 1921 and was built in to motorcycles like the “Victoria”. Due to the small number of sold motorcycles which was not as much as expected, Martin Stolle went to Victoria, and BMW decided to build their own motorcycles.

The first BMW bikes, type “Helios” and “R32”

Above: Manufacturing the R32 in 1923

Above: The R32 was the first “genuine” BMW

BMW´s first bike, the "Helios" type, was built in 1922 and was equipped with the mentioned M2B15 engine. Due to suspension problems BMW wasn´t able to sell much of these bikes. For that matter they developed the "R32" motorcycle, which was the first BMW bike sold at a amount worth to mention (3100 bikes until 1926). This bike had the engine layout that was called "typically BMW" later on: twin-cylinder, horizontally opposed, four-stroke engines with the crankshaft disposed longitudinally, so the shaft drive could be driven directly from the gearbox. Pay attention to the ring at the rear wheel, it´s the rear brake that was activated by a piece of wood...The successor was the ´26 R42 which was fitted with a shaft drive brake. Beginning with the R12 in 1935, BMW finally made use of drum brakes at front and rear. By the way: the R12 was the first motorcycle fitted with a telescopic fork with hydraulic shock absorber ! Front and rear wheels were interchangeable. In 1926, BMW offered the R62, which had 750cc. This cubic capacity was not topped until 1973 when they presented the 900cc R90. During world war two, BMW does not produce any civil bikes but a military sidecar bike, the R75, whose sidecar was driven by a differential gear. It had eight gears, including two reverse gears.

After 1945

At this point, it would be too extensive to mention all bikes build by BMW in the following years, so let´s pay attention to some highlights::

from 1946-1966 Production of the single-cylinder R24, R25, R26, R27 (upright cylinder)
1952 the R68 was the first BMW (except competition bikes, of course !) that reached 100 mph
1970 the new “/5” series with front fork is available (with 500, 600 and 750cc)
1973 the R90S was offered, the first 900cc BMW and the first bike with standard fairing world-wide
1975 BMW built the 100.000. bike at Berlin
1976 presented the R100RS with the first full fairing world-wide, wind-channel developed
1980 the R80G/S appeared, BMWs first trail bike (800cc, 50 hp, monolever)
1983 Presentation of the K100 as a precursor for the BMW K series, first four-cylindered BMW ever...
...thas was followed 1985 by the K75 triple and 1991 by K1100 and finally 1997 K1200.
1993 Introduction of the four valve “new boxer” R1100, later followed by R1150 and R1200
1993 the F650 was built, BMW´s chain-driven Funduro, a joint-venture with Aprilia of Italy
1999 the C1, a scooter with hard top, equipped with a 125 (or, since 2001, 200) cc four stroke engine.
2001 BMW built the 1.000.000 bike

BMW moves to Berlin

Back to the BMW factory: Since 1926, the motorcycles were built in Munich, with a total amount of 440.000 bikes. In 1939, BMW bought the former BRAMO Brandenburg Motor Works including the building in Berlin, “Am Juliusturm”, which was build in 1928. During world war two, BMW manufatured -once again- aircraft engines, i.e. those for the legendary “Junkers JU52”. After the war has finished, any aircraft inventory was once again forbidden, no surprise. The allies disassembled the factory equipment, and BMW manufatured cooking pots (!), scythes and sickles. In addition, car repaires were done. From 1948 to 1966, they produced spare parts in Berlin.

Above: The first BMW, a R60/2, that was built in Berlin. At this time, only 30 employees where sufficiant to built the bikes. 400 people were working at BMW Berlin. Nearly every single part was built by BMW itself.

From 1966, BMW transfered the production of motorcycles step by step to Berlin which was finished in 1969. From that day, every BMW motorcycle was built at the Berlin factory-except the transmission, which is built by GETRAG at Ludwigsburg. The only exception is the F650 which was built in Noale, Italy by Aprilia until 2000. The frame production was outsourced to the BMW building at Berlin-Reinickendorf. 

Above: The BMW factory in Berlin-Spandau

Above: Packing a K100RS

When BMW decided to continue the motorcycle production with the K series, they had to increase the factory, so they built the “Hall 5” in 1980. During the next years, they invested more than 300,000,000 DM and built Europe´s most modern motorcycle factory with a size of 155,000 square meters. It was opened by Helmut Kohl himself, the former german chancellor. Although the factory used highest technology, some difficult jobs are hand-made, like welding the frames.

On the other hand, the K100 crankshaft  is computer-aided manufactured from blank to the finished part, without beeing touched by anybody. Finally, a basic K100 is built within four hours, it takes one hour more to produce a fairing-equipped K100. Last, but not least the bike is automatically wrapped in its packing. Every third minute a K100 was leaving the factory, and in 1984, when the K100 had its best time, 1800 employees were working at the Berlin factory. I´m wondering if Max Friz had a premonition about this in 1916...?


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