As enthusiasts, we often jokingly refer to dull, soulless commuter cars as appliances. Surprisingly, nowhere is that moniker more appropriate than in reference to race cars. Race cars are tools, and as soon as they wear out or become outclassed, they’re replaced by newer, faster machinery.
While a manufacturer might have the foresight to preserve the first example of a given production model, it wasn’t until the last decade and a half or so that many companies became interested in preserving historic race cars. Complicating matters is the fact that many successful race cars are sold to privateers when new; so while the top brass at a company will be aware of the wins tallied by their creations, they will likely never see those cars again after they leave the factory.
Such is the case of the oldest surviving BMW race car, the 1934 KR6. This supercharged race car, resembling a beautiful cross between a classic 328 roadster and a contemporary Auto Union racer, was originally built by BMW for racing driver Eugen Stösser. While it never was quite as fast as its Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz rivals, the KR6 did manage to win the Bavarian Ratisbona mountain race.
What made this car unique was the supercharged inline six-cylinder engine, which was mounted behind the front axle for better weight distribution. While that’s standard practice for race cars now, it was a revelation in 1934.
After its brief and somewhat inauspicious racing career, the KR6 was shipped across the Atlantic, where it was converted for road use and driven around America, with various components—including its supercharged inline six—being replaced throughout its life.
Long since written off as destroyed, the car was rediscovered hiding in plain sight when its current owner began its restoration. Amazingly, the original Zoller supercharger was relocated, and the car, fully restored, made an appearance at the yearly Retro Classics gathering in Germany. Here’s hoping it takes its rightful place in BMW’s museum someday soon.—Cam VanDerHorst
[Photos via Motorious.]