1938 BMW 328
Year of manufacture1938
Number of seats2
1938 BMW 328 Sports Roadster
Registration no. Not UK registered
Chassis no. 85378
Engine no. 79280
BMW's emergence as a manufacturer of fine sporting motor cars can be traced back to the annual Eifelrennen event held at the Nürburgring on 14th June 1936, when Ernst Henne beat a field that included 1½-litre monoposto racing cars driving the prototype of what would become one of the most iconic sports cars of all time the legendary '328'. The fact that this overwhelming victory had been achieved only eight years after BMW's establishment as an automobile manufacturer is all the more remarkable.
It had been the acquisition of the Dixi works at Eisenach in 1928 that provided BMW, hitherto a manufacturer of aero engines and motorcycles, with a foothold in car 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 a superior transverse-leaf IFS 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.
Lacking the resources of larger and longer established rivals, BMW adopted an evolutionary, 'mix and match' approach to model development. Thus the 328 employed the tubular chassis, transverse-leaf independent front suspension and live rear axle of the 319; the cylinder block and hydraulic brakes of the 326; and a body incorporating stylistic elements of the 319/1 Sport and 329. With the 328, BMW's Chief Engineer Fritz Fiedler turned accepted chassis design on its head, coming up with a frame that combined lightness and stiffness in equal measure - virtues that permitted the use of relatively soft springing with all its attendant advantages. In short: the 328 was the first truly modern sports car.
The 328's six-cylinder engine featured an ingenious new cylinder head, designed by Rudolf Schleicher, which incorporated hemispherical combustion chambers and inclined valves without recourse to overhead, or twin camshafts. Instead, the Type 326, 1,971cc engine's single, block-mounted camshaft and pushrod valve actuation were retained, thus avoiding an expensive redesign. Two rocker shafts were employed, one situated above each bank of valves, giving the engine an external appearance almost indistinguishable from that of a twin-overhead-cam design. Down-draught inlet ports contributed to the motor's deep breathing, and its tune-ability made it a popular choice for British racing car constructors, most notably Cooper, during the 1950s. The 328 engine produced 80bhp, an exemplary output for a normally aspirated 2.0-litre unit at that time, with more available in race trim.
The two door-less 328 prototypes and the first batch of cars were lightweight racers with aluminium coachwork intended to establish the model's competition credentials before production proper got under way. Available from the late summer of 1936, the production 328s featured doors and a convertible hood, and were well equipped and very comfortable in the manner of the best Grands Routiers. On the racetrack the 328 reigned supreme, winning its class at the Mille Miglia, Le Mans, Spa 24 Hours and Britain's Tourist Trophy. In 1940 an example fitted with special aerodynamic bodywork won the Mille Miglia outright.
The most advanced sports car of its day, the 328 remained competitive for years after the war, a state of affairs that only served to further enhance its reputation, which was out of all proportion to the limited number produced. Between 1936 and 1939 only 426 BMW 328s were made, of which fewer than 200 are estimated to exist today.
Details of factory records, kindly supplied by BMW Classic, show that chassis number '85378' was despatched new to BMW dealer Michel in Stuttgart on 29th April 1939. BMW Classic has also confirmed by e-mail that this particular 328 remains very original. After WW2 the BMW was imported to Sweden, probably sometime during the 1950s, finding a new home in the small town of Pajala in the far north of the country.
The vendor's late father, Hans Carl 'Hansi' Schwarz, the BMW's owner for some 40-plus years, first encountered the car when he was on tour in 1965 with the immensely popular Swedish folk group, the Hootenanny Singers (featuring Björn Ulvaeus of later ABBA fame). Hansi Schwarz, already a classic-car enthusiast and proud owner of an MG TF, came across an advertisement for the 328 for sale for the price of 32000 SEK, at the time a considerable sum of money. His friends considered the price too steep but, being the automobile connoisseur that he was, Hansi could not believe his luck and promptly bought it. Apparently the car had been sitting in the barn where it
was parked for quite some time.
Hansi Schwarz later went on to found one of Sweden's premier folk festivals, Visfestivalen i Västervik, as well as managing ABBA on their first few tours. The 328 was the apple of his eye and the care he took to keep the car both roadworthy and as original as possible was second to none. He had it serviced and stored in the Haledau district just north of Munich in Germany by a father-and-son business that services many of the pre-war BMWs currently on the road in Europe. The father was a chief technician at the BMW factory and subsequently taught his son everything he knew about these cars, ensuring that the love and care '85378' has received throughout the years has been outstanding. At the time of his death in 2013, Hansi Schwarz was one of the world's longest-standing BMW 328 owners, '85378' having been in his care for 48 years.
Invoices on file show that between 2009 and 2011, '85378' underwent extensive restoration by the aforementioned marque specialist Andreas Freudenberger of Eggenfelden, Germany and there is also a photographic record of the rebuild showing the engine being dynamometer tested, etc. The car also comes with an album of photographs depicting it from 1969 onwards, all of which show the additional holes drilled in the wheels that it has clearly worn for a long time. Also on file is a photographic record of an earlier restoration, believed carried out during the 1960s, and various images believed to show the car as found. Other photographs show the 328 on various BMW and other rallies. A copy of the original workshop manual is included in the sale and the car also comes with a quantity of spares. These include a cylinder block numbered '135', fitted with crankshaft, con-rods and pistons; two gearboxes, one assembled and with one a broken casing; the original wheel spats for the car; half shafts and a drive shaft; front grille; two front brake/hub assemblies; and various ancillaries. It should be noted that a Volvo gearbox is fitted currently, the original being one of those referred to above.
Generally regarded as one of the very few pre-war models that drives like a post-war car, the BMW 328 is eligible for all the most important historic events including the Mille Miglia, Flying Scotsman Rally and Le Mans Classic.