BMW’s Distinctive Logo

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  • BMW was originally a manufacturer of airplane engines
  • The company’s first car was made with an Austin 7 platform
  • The checkered logo represents an airplane propeller and the Bavarian flag

Headquartered in Munich, Germany, what we now know as BMW was initially called Rapp-Motorenwerke GmbH by its original founder Karl Rapp in 1913. The company changed names to “Bayerische Motoren Werke,” (in English, “Bavarian Motor Works”), or “BMW” in 1917. Like many of its German rivals, BMW built aircraft engines. After WWI ended, the Treaty of Versailles prohibited BMW from making airplane engines and BMW began their initiatives with automotive production.

Following the war, BMW stayed in operation by producing motorcycle engines, farm equipment, household items and railway brakes. It wasn’t until 1928 that BMW set foot in automobile manufacturing, using an Austin 7 platform called “Dixi” and selling it as the BMW 3/15. In 1932, BMW independently designed and built its first car.

How did the emblem come about? The blue and white checkered badge is likely derived from two sources. The first being a representation of a rotating airplane propeller and the second is the encircling of four quadrants of the checkered blue and white Bavarian Flag.

In 1972 when BMW’s popular M series (M standing for Motorsport) commenced, the M badging had a blue, violet and red logo. Blue signifies BMW, Red for Motorsport and violet is the blend of blue and red.

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The highly recognized grilles on the BMW are known as “kidney grills” and were first introduced in 1933. BMW’s 303 model was the first BMW designed car to trademark the archetypal kidney grilles. Designer Fritz Fielder simply divided the grille into two halves, having rotated them slightly back to help decrease drag and the split design has remained with BMW now for nearly 90 years.

So is it “beemer,” “beamer,” or “bimmer?” Many people don’t know the true answer is Bimmer (pronounced bim-Mer). “Beemer” or “beamer” refers to the BMW motorcycles, while the car is “bimmer.” This differentiation is very important to owners of “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

BMW’s building in Munich imitates the shape of four cylinders to signify their success in engine efficiencies. Today BMW is the parent company for Mini and Rolls Royce.

Jason Paynter is a classic car appraiser, collector and unabashed enthusiast. He lives in Louisville, KY with his beautiful wife and three sons who are (heaven help him) almost all of driving age. If you have questions for Jason, or need appraisal services, please contact him, jason@gdherring.com.

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