1939 Frazer Nash BMW 319/2
Year of manufacture1939
Number of seats2
1939 Frazer Nash-BMW 328 Roadster
Registration no. HTU 446
Chassis no. 85411
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 1,971cc Type 326 engine's block-mounted single 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 Grandes Routières. 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 believed to exist today.
In late 1934, AFN Ltd concluded an agreement with BMW for the importation of their cars into the UK where they were sold as Frazer Nash-BMWs, some with coachwork by British firms and others with German-made bodies. According to the Frazer Nash archives, chassis number '85411' was imported as a right-hand-drive chassis in 1939. It was immediately impounded by HM Customs and not released to AFN until 1946 when it was bodied by the works, possibly using a body from another 328.
The first owner was Edwin Redwood, who had associations with the Aldington Brothers at AFN. Thereafter the car spent some time in Ireland from where it was recovered by Tony Mitchell. In 1976 Tony sold the car to Ken Whimster, a former archivist of the BMW Historic Section, from whom Alastair Pugh - Captain and Patron of the Frazer Nash Car Club - acquired it in 1988.
Following a major accident in the VSCC Pomeroy Trophy event at Silverstone in 1996, the car was rebuilt, mostly by Michael Jarrett, but attention to the mechanicals and coachwork has been fairly continuous. In the early 2000s the car was fitted with twin-leading-shoe front brakes, a half-height windscreen, and a spare wheel-well cover, while a Bristol gearbox has been fitted for racing (the original Hurth 'box accompanies the car). More recently, in 2018, the bodywork was extensively restored and the car repainted by classic car restoration specialists, Mitchell Motors, while the engine was fully overhauled by IN Racing Ltd. The car was then set up on Hi Tech Motorsport's rolling-road dynamometer. Totalling in excess of £31,000, detailed bills for the restoration works are on file.
So far as is known, 'HTU 446' had no competition history prior to Alastair Pugh's ownership, but since then has been raced extensively in VSCC, Frazer Nash Car Club, and many other events in the UK and on the Continent. Alastair has driven the car in the Le Mans Legends Race which immediately precedes the 24-hour event on the Sarthe circuit (in 2005 and 2006) while other events contested over the last three decades include the Goodwood Revival (fastest pre-war car in the Lavant Cup) and Goodwood Members' Meeting (4th overall). 'HTU 446' has also competed at Silverstone and Brooklands and in the FNCC Alpine Trials and '1,000 Miles in 24 Hours'. Recent events attended include the BMW HM Club Rally (2017) and the Rallye d'Alsace (2018). It is the current and former holder of numerous records. Further details are available at:
The history of 'HTU 446' is documented by three large files. The latter's contents include numerous invoices dating back to the 1980s, an old-style continuation logbook (1960s), records of races entered and results achieved, various dynamometer printouts, assorted technical literature, and old HTP papers (expired 2018).
Described by the vendor as in excellent condition throughout, this much loved and extensively campaigned Frazer Nash-BMW is worthy of the closest inspection.
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, Nürburgring Oldtimer GP, and Le Mans Historic.