While it’s easy to see why BMW’s other vintage alloy roadster, the 507, gets all of the attention, it is the 328 and its prewar racing success that put the marque on the map. Many of us enjoy BMW’s continued connection to motorsports and appreciate how the brand maintains this link even with their modern road-going offerings—and it was the 328 that first established this kind of connection and methodology for BMW. Capable on the road thanks to how technologically advanced it was for the time, the 328 soon proved to be nearly unbeatable around a circuit, with over 100 victories being accumulated in 1937, its first full year available. In total, the 328 would win over 200 races, including prestigious and historically significant events like the Mille Miglia and Le Mans.
Speaking of the Mille Miglia, the BMW 328 is the only car to have won the event twice, once in 1940 and again in 2004 at the modern edition of the event.
The 328 is one of the most important BMW models of all time, and among the most influential automobiles of the last century. The automotive community has long been aware of this fact, and 328 values have been strong for quite some time now. BMW-brand enthusiasts, fans of vintage racing, and automotive appreciators alike all view the 328 as the stuff of myth and legend—but the truth is that of the 464 328s produced from 1936 to 1940, fewer than half, or roughly 200, are documented to remain in existence. An even smaller fraction of that number haven’t been extensively restored, and it is these highly original cars that are truly special.
This 1937 328, chassis number 85059, started life like any other, if such a thing can be said for BMW’s prewar aluminum-body performance roadster. It was first delivered to a BMW dealer in Munich, and the next decade would see cars like the 328 hidden way from both the German war effort and invading armies. This example would eventually be found by an American captain who was reportedly tasked with collecting unique examples of German technology and sending them back to the U.S. for reverse-engineering; somewhere along the way in 1945, the captain is said to have come across this 328, then non-running and without its original wheels, which had perhaps been hidden away to purposely immobilize it.
The captain reportedly bargained for the car and eventually located and procured—perhaps with some persuasion—the missing wheels. After getting it running, he promptly drove the 328 to the Army paint shop, which applied a coat of Olive Drab with some white identifying digits along with “USA” added on the hood, so that it could be considered a military vehicle and thus qualify for free on-base gasoline.
When it was time for the unknown captain to return home, the 328 met its long-term owner, American airman Edward B. Giller, who would eventually rise to the rank of Major General. Giller, a P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning fighter pilot, became aware of the existence of the 328, and has gone on record saying that he traded his Eisenhower jacket for the car.
When it was time for Giller to return home, he arranged to have the 328 shipped back to meet him on the other side of the Atlantic. Upon its arrival, he and his wife drove the car across the country to their home in Oregon.
Giller pursued further education and remained with the service, moving from Oregon to Illinois and then to New Mexico, always bringing the 328 with him. During these early years, as his only car, the legendary BMW roadster served as his regular transportation. In 1959, Giller and his family moved to Washington, DC, and when weather permitted, the 328 would be driven to the Pentagon, Giller’s workplace.
After retiring from the Air Force with the rank of Major General in 1972, Giller continued to work in the special-weapons field as a consultant, while also focusing on issues of nuclear nonproliferation.
Giller died in 2017 at the age of 99; he had owned his cherished 328 for over 70 years. Although he had always kept it in running condition, driving it up until his health prevented it, the car sat unused in his garage for the last five years of his life. It has since been brought back to running condition, with attention focused on the fuel system and brakes; what’s truly incredible is that this is one of the few 328s that have never been taken apart or comprehensively restored.
Although a rebuild of the potent M328 engine is noted as having been carried out long ago, and it’s certainly worn a few layers of paint—including Olive Drab—this 328 has lived a life of regular use, and was never subject to the sort of nuts-and-bolts, frame-off restoration that so many of its production stablemates have enjoyed. Scheduled to cross the Gooding & Company auction block in Scottsdale, Arizona, later this month, this 328 isn’t the only one for sale this January in the desert, but it is the only one that boasts more than seven decades of one-family ownership and a non-restored quality. To be sold without reserve, Giller’s 328 is estimated to fetch between $350,000 and $450,000, and we’ll be watching the bids come in.—Alex Tock
Find more information about Maj. Gen. Edward Giller in this interview from 2013. Scroll halfway down the page to find where the 328 conversation begins, and be sure to read the rest of the fascinating interview.
[Photos via Gooding & Co.]