An Interesting Vintage BMW Race Car Heads to Auction

It started life as just another 328, but not much time passed before an attempted RS conversion by Veritas stalled, and left it unfinished after the coach builder failed. Since the postwar period, it’s passed through the hands of a number of collectors, one of whom commissioned a restoration during the mid to late 1990’s, and another who spent an additional sizable sum to have it dialed in further around 2012.

328 chassis no. 85123 was first sold new to Chany Wagner, a Luxembourg-based BMW dealer who initially registered it during September of 1937. Competition would have to wait until 1951 though, when the the 328 was seen with Wagner at a race in Eifel, Germany.

A short time later, and likely during the same year, or perhaps in 1952, the 328 was the subject of an RS build that would be carried out by Veritas. Established in 1947, Veritas met early success in racing, and was founded by Lorenz Dietrich, Ernst Loof, and Georg Meier. Motorsport experience was an integral factor of the venture, with Loof having previous managed BMW’s Mille Miglia campaign during 1940, and Meier having won the 1939 Isle of Man TT for BMW.

Not long after the conversion was embarked on for 85123 though, Veritas production trickled down to nothing, with an approximation of only 50 cars produced from the late 1940’s until the early 1950’s. After Veritas failed, it’s believed that the 328 in question was given to a French employee of the firm, in lieu of a payment for work that would otherwise never arrive.

The car would then pass through the hands of a number of private owners and collectors, before resurfacing in France during the late 1970’s, then sporting a Talbot engine mated to a Cotal transmission which was likely of the preselector design. Before long, however, a Bristol engine was fitted.

During the 1990’s, the car finally shed what was previously homebuilt bodywork, when it was treated to what seems to have been a cost-no-object restoration by a specialist firm which recreated the Veritas bodywork the car was intended to have back in the 1950’s.

In 2000, after the restoration process was completed in 1998, the car was acquired by its current owner, who subsequently used it in a variety of wide-ranging and different vintage racing events. Around this period, and perhaps as late as 2012, 85123 was treated to yet another refreshing, this time in Switzerland.

Now slated to be offered at auction in Essen, Germany at the city’s motor show on April 11 2019, 85123 appears striking from almost every angle, with well-kept condition evident throughout. The engine is still the pushrod Bristol six-cylinder unit, which breathes through three Solex downdraft carbs.

The low-slung RS-style body shows a few dents, which are perhaps evidence of previous vintage racing use, but otherwise overall condition looks clean, sharp and well sorted throughout. Aerodynamic, louvered panels make for a compelling body design, while the interior, which features what appears to be a turned aluminum dash and a full complement of instruments, presents very well.

Current hammer price estimates assign a value of between $506,000 and $618,000. The most recent Veritas BMW auction data on hand dates back to 2018, when a 1935 BMW 315 later modified by Veritas sold for the equivalent of $297,000.—Alex Tock

[Photos via RM Sotheby’s.]

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