Bayerische Motorenwerke, or Bavarian Motor Works, was established in 1916, producing first engines for aircraft and then for motorcycles. It moved into automobiles in the 1920s, assembling for the German market small British cars under license. BMW began to manufacture cars of its own design in the 1930s, and from the start, most had a sporting bent. The prewar highlight was the quick, pretty, and advanced-for-its-day 328 roadster.
BMW's recovery from World War II was labored as the company gambled and lost with big, expensive sedans before resorting in 1955 to the tiny, egg-shaped Isetta to stay solvent.
It was the sensational BMW 507 sports car of 1956 that reignited the company's high-performance personality. Though it didn't sell well, the vitality of the 507 inspired a series of good-handling two- and four-door cars that earned BMW credit for inventing the sports sedan.
Spiritual successor to the 507 was the BMW 2800CS of 1968. Discover how this shapely coupe and the variants that followed into the 1970s laid the groundwork for the BMW 6-Series of high-performance two-door models starting in 1976.