1940 BMW 327


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1940 BMW 327 Sport Cabriolet
Chassis no. 87268

"Priced, new, at a little under $3,000 in Germany, the 327 was one of those cars which cannot be described – it must be experienced. Its sheer performance, roadability and comfort defy description, yet the mechanical specifications appear neither unusual or unorthodox today. However, in 1938 the BMW was something of a pioneer with its tubular frame. Independent front suspension and good power to weight ratio." – Road & Track, 1954.

The acquisition of the Dixi works at Eisenach in 1928 provided BMW, hitherto a manufacturer of aero engines and motorcycles, with a foothold in motor manufacturing. Dixi's built-under-license version of the Austin Seven was gradually developed and improved, ending up with swing-axle suspension and overhead valves, and then in 1933 came the first true BMW: the six-cylinder 303. The latter adopted a twin-tube frame and abandoned the rear swing axles in favour of a conventional live axle, while up front there was superior transverse-leaf independent suspension and rack-and-pinion steering. These features, along with the four-bearing, overhead-valve engine, would provide the basis for the more powerful and sportingly inclined models to follow.

Introduced for 1938, the 327 sports-tourer used the shortened, boxed, ladder-type chassis of the 326 saloon, shared by the 320, but with semi-elliptic rear springing in place of torsion bars. The gearbox was a Hurth four-speed manual unit with freewheel between 1st and 2nd gears, enabling clutch-less gear changes at low speeds, while there were hydraulic brakes all round and centralised chassis lubrication. BMW's pushrod six had by now been enlarged to 1,971cc and developed around 55bhp in Type 55 form as installed in the 327, which could also be ordered with the 328 sports car's 80bhp 'hemi-head' unit at extra cost. When fitted with the standard engine the 327 was known as the 'Fast Tourer' and with the 328 unit installed as the 'Sport Cabriolet'. A total of 1,124 BMW 327 convertibles had been built by the time production ceased in 1941.

However, that was not the end of the BMW 327 story. After WW2, BMW's factory at Eisenach ended up behind the Iron Curtain but rather than strip it bare - their usual treatment of valuable German assets - the occupying Russians chose to restart production of pre-war designs. Both cars and motorcycles were made bearing BMW's distinctive blue and white quartered emblem until a successful legal action in 1950 saw the Munich firm successfully reassert its rights to the trademark. As a result, the Eastern Bloc offshoot adopted the name 'EMW' (Eisenacher Motoren Werke) and changed the blue sections of its badge to red. As its name suggests, the EMW 327 was a continuation of the pre-war BMW 327 coupé and cabriolet, and was virtually identical to its ancestor apart from having front-hinged doors. Production continued until 1956 when the company, now known as VEB Automobilwerk Eisenach, dropped its old BMW-based models and began manufacturing the new Wartburg.

This matching-numbers example of a rare and highly desirable early BMW sports car left the Eisenach factory on 21st December 1940 and was delivered new three days later to its first owner, Paul Laurency of Aix-La-Chapelle (Aachen). Chassis number '87268' left the works equipped with three (as opposed to the standard engine's two) carburettors, so it may safely be concluded that it is more powerful and faster than the stock offering. This particular car is also equipped with the alternative ZF four-speed manual gearbox rather than the Hurth freewheel type mentioned above.

Completely restored to original specification and concours standard in 2012, the car has been driven only some 500 kilometres since the rebuild's completion and is presented in commensurately excellent condition. This beautiful sporting soft-top comes with restoration invoices and photographs; Belgian registration papers and Contrôle Technique; and a BMW Mobile Tradition Certificate of Authenticity.