Last week, we explored BMW’s first sporting roadster, the 315/1 from 1934. It was a respectable sports car, but being derived from BMW’s sedan offerings of the early 1930s, it wasn’t necessarily a world-beater. That’s where its successor comes into play: the iconic and internationally-renowned BMW 328 roadster.
Where the 315/1 made do with compromise, the 328 took on purpose. The underpinnings of the larger roadster were shared with other BMW models, yes, but its design was sleeker, with tall, floor-to-ceiling kidneys, swooping fenders, and elegant curves. The 328 seems significantly more contemporary than its predecessor—almost evoking a 1950s Le Mans car more than its pre-war contemporaries.
It made enough of a statement on the road, but it also represented a benchmark on the racetrack. The 328 was one of the first interpretations of a gentleman’s racing platforms, owned and raced by counts, dukes, and princes. It was hardly a secret amongst driver-owners between 1936 and 1940: if you wanted to be competitive—if you wanted to win—you had to buy a 328.
And no wonder, since the 328 had 80 horsepower (although Dirk de Groen’s car, shown above, was modified to produce about 115 horsepower—inspired, he tells me, by the car’s performance in the Mille Miglia tour several years ago), up from a mere 40 in the 315/1, and a curb weight of under 1,900 pounds, meaning it was well set-up to have the same impressive dynamics one would come to expect from BMW. The wins that ensued were international, putting BMW on the map around the world and imprinting the company in motorsport history with wins at events like the Mille Miglia, Australian Grand Prix, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
For more history on the BMW 328, check out the video above, produced by 328 owner and BMW collector Dirk de Groen, featuring the 1937 example presently on display at the BMW CCA Foundation’s current exhibit, GENESIS: BMW from the Beginning. This video, as well as one on the BMW 315/1, features narration by Kenn Sparks, and writing by Jackie Jouret.
For more information on the BMW CCA Foundation museum, visit their website.—David Rose
[Imagery courtesy of the BMW CCA Foundation.]