Lot Number
Coachwork by Touring
1940 BMW 328 Roadster

Offered Without Reserve

• Engaging, attractive, and iconic Touring–style body design
• Based on original and documented BMW 328 chassis
• Chassis is 1 of as few as 461 328s built 1936 through 1939
• Thoroughly restored by renowned expert Fran Roxas
• Documents include analysis into the history and coachwork

1,971 cc OHV, dry-sump inline six-cylinder engine, triple carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with transverse leaf spring, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes; wheelbase: 2,400 mm (94.5")

Throughout its long and storied history, Bavaria’s BMW took a decidedly sporting turn during the mid-1930s with the launch of the 1.5-litre 315/1 and 1.9-litre 319/1 sports roadsters, which made their public debut at the 1935 Berlin Auto Show. While both models were handsome and rakish two-seaters, the big news was their OHV six-cylinder engines providing outstanding performance and most importantly, ample scope for future development and competition use. Quite rare, the 315 and 319 were succeeded in 1936 by the definitive 2.0-litre 328, which dominated its first race outing at the Nürburgring from start to finish, winning with Ernst Henne driving. Sharing the same wheelbase and track dimensions, twin-tube chassis, and basic suspension layout with its predecessors, the 328 heralded new hydraulically-actuated brakes for even better driving dynamics.

In particular, the sporting 328 engine was a paragon of refinement with an exclusive new cross-flow cylinder head featuring efficient hemispherical combustion chambers and short horizontal pushrods operating the opposed exhaust valves from the engine’s single camshaft. This unique arrangement was quite practical, giving twin-cam performance with less complexity and lower cost. A sporting and simple, lightweight roadster body ensured performance of the 328 was brisk. According to marque references, as few as 461 examples of the 328 were built through 1939. Top speed of the standard model was 96 mph, yet renowned British driver S.C.H. “Sammy” Davis clocked 102.16 at Brooklands in a lightweight prototype. The 328 engine responded readily to careful tweaks, including higher compression and ported cylinder heads for even better performance. A streamlined 328 won the two-litre class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1939, and that same car, part of a five-car “works” team, won the 1940 Mille Miglia outright.

In all-out racing form, BMW’s 328 competition cars rank among the most enigmatic and interesting ever conceived. BMW marque historian Rainer Simons, author of the definitive history of the special prewar BMW racing cars constructed on the 328 chassis, “From Roadster to Legend,” stated that there are seven truly “great” cars, the ones fitted with sleek, lightweight bodies created by Carrozzeria Touring in Milan, most of which were rebodied cars, i.e. the first five or six 328s built from the prototype series.

Among this legendary grouping was the so-called Kamm coupe, which was BMW’s premier streamlined design, penned by Professor Wunibald Kamm with the body built in-house at BMW. This car was based on a used 328, from which the body was removed, the chassis lengthened, and the new body fitted. The other closed example was the BMW 328 Touring coupe, which went on to win the 1940 Mille Miglia, built on a new frame and constructed by Touring of Milan. The “trouser crease” or Bügelfalte roadster, was constructed by BMW, again based on a used chassis from one of the early prototype cars, 851001-851006, with the coachwork by BMW. The chassis was renumbered by the factory. An additional three Touring-bodied roadsters were of the same general design as the Bügelfalte car, however without its “pressed crease” fenders. These were all built again on previously used chassis that were delivered to Milan as standard roadsters and it should be noted that due to the war, BMW did not have the time and resources to build these bodies. Of these cars, two are known to have survived and they too have re-numbered chassis. The car offered here, with chassis number 85133 stamped on the frame, appears to have also been a used-chassis car, perhaps delivered to Touring in 1939. According to careful analysis, it is clear that the design work is more in keeping with the Auto Avio Costruzioni sports racer – Enzo Ferrari’s first foray into car construction, and the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS ‘Torpedo Brescia’ of 1940. Thus, the car offered here might have been among the first of the special cars that were designed and built by Touring for BMW.

Regarding the significance of the Touring bodywork on these special BMW racecars, this Milanese company developed and introduced the type of body construction known as “Superleggera,” which translates to English as “super lightweight.” With their innovative and elegant processes, which would become patented following the close of the war, the metal skin of the body is stretched and rolled over a light, yet strong framework of steel tubing providing structure and shape, with the low weight normally associated with wooden body substructures.

Following a forensic-level investigation into the construction and history of the car
offered here, the owner believes the car was one of the first five or six prototype 328 BMW-chassis cars that were constructed by Touring of Milan in early 1939. Their purpose was to contest the 1939 Mille Miglia, which was cancelled by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini due to a crash at this grueling and hazardous event the year before. Touring went on that year to build five more bodies of similar design, two of which became the Auto Avio Costruzioni racer and the other three became 6C 2500 Alfas; all five which ran in the 1940 Mille Miglia.

The coachwork of this car has the following recorded history. A Mr. Mairan of Lausanne, Switzerland owned it up to 1958, followed by Mr. Othmar Müller, Granges, Switzerland, 1958-1970, Mr. Mayert (father and son), Ecublens Switzerland 1970-1993, the Grether Family, Auggen, Germany 1993-2007, and then the current owner from 2007. During Mr. Othmar Muller’s ownership, the coachwork was transferred to a Simca chassis for parts-supply reasons. During Mr. Grether Sr. ownership, he bought the BMW 328 chassis and the engine in Switzerland from Mr. M. Brodowski of Gutenwil in Switzerland, thus believing he had reunited the body, chassis, and engine. Mr. Grether Sr. passed away in 2002 and his son Eberhard inherited the BMW body, chassis, and engine in unrestored condition. In 2007, the car was sold to its current owner. Interestingly, when the paint was stripped from the bodywork during the restoration, traces of “German Industrial Silver” paint were found. It was sent to Dr. Jägers, Bornheim, Germany, who performed the research. Notably, it is understood that only pre-WW II BMW and “Silver Arrows” Grand Prix cars used that type and color of paint.

The owner entrusted the body, chassis, and powertrain to noted Chicago-area restoration expert Fran Roxas and the work was recently completed with stunning results. Consistent with all Fran Roxas restorations, he went through the engine and all mechanical systems and the potent engine, which bears a period “Spezial” tag, contains the proper dimensions and components of the 1939/40 Series I Mille Miglia cars as outlined in the aforementioned book by Rainer Simons. It is further believed this car may be the only one of the seven cars equipped with a dry-sump engine, which is presently fitted. The body is also consistent with the dry-sump configuration. We encourage all prospective buyers to give close examination of the car and its documentation. The owner is extremely pleased with the result of this painstaking restoration effort, with the car running and driving as it should. Incredibly well presented, from its stunning coachwork and paint to its competition-type lightweight seats and “knock-off” wheels, plus the beautifully detailed engine, this vehicle is simply exceptional throughout.

1940 BMW 328 Roadster
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