If you’re a car fan, you’ve probably admired a BMW at some point in your life.
Whether it was Griff Tannen’s hover BMW in Back to the Future II, the 2008 Z4 or the 2015 i8, you’ve stopped and stared. Don’t deny it.
And you had every reason to. BMW has been around since the early 1900s, and its company history is one of the most interesting you’ll find.
Eager to learn more? Read on to hear all the strange facts about BMW, including the answer to the question you’ve always wondered: what does BMW stand for?
Bonus points if you can pronounce it.
1. What Does BMW Stand For, Anyway?
It stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke. It sounds fancy, we know, but it translates to “Bavarian Motor Work” in English.
The company itself was founded in Germany in 1916 after several amalgamations at the government’s behest.
2. The Headquarters Might Look Familiar
Have you ever seen images of the Four Cylinder Tower? Architect Karl Schwanzer designed it in honor of BMW’s legacy of the four-cylinder engine, which is sometimes overlooked because of BMW’s prowess with the six-cylinder.
It’s considered one of the most innovative architectural achievements of the 1970s due to its unique design and emphasis on the “built-for-communication” principle.
3. BMW Almost Became Mercedes
In 1959, BMW was tipping precariously towards shutting down. The war was tough on BMW, and its effects trickled into the years after. Firstly, the company was not permitted to manufacture cars until 1947, and this regulation came after several of the company’s plants were bombed. Secondly, the company’s cars appeared outdated, leading to low sales.
Daimler-Benz, which was the largest German automobile company of the time, swooped in to try to purchase the BMW. Luckily, BMW was saved when its workers banded together to purchase shares and reject the offer at the Annual General Meeting.
4. The Logo Is Inspired From a Flag
It is not a spinner, folks.
The company’s logo was inspired by the Bavarian state colors. The reason people mistakenly assume it is a spinner is that it first appeared in ads during the 1920s as a rotating aircraft propeller.
Bavaria is the largest German state, making up most of the southeastern part of the country. While BMW wanted to incorporate the state’s coat of arms completely for its logo, the Trademark Act didn’t allow anyone to reuse the image. BMW settled on recycling Bavaria’s colors and installing the company name on the logo, which made the relationship evident to consumers.
5. They Built the Fastest Motorcycle
By the 1930s, BMW began to invest its efforts in motorcycles, quickly becoming renown for speed. In fact, racer Ernste Henne set straight line speed records with BMWs beginning in the 1920s.
In 1937, BMW built the fastest motorcycle of the era. It could travel a little over 173 miles per hour. The record remained unbroken for over a decade.
6. Bimmers or Beamers?
You’ve probably heard the terms Bimmers, Beamers, and Beemers used interchangeably to refer to BMW vehicles. However, only certain terms are correct.
A Beemer is the correct term for a BMW motorcycle. During the 1930s, the company’s involvement in motorsports drew large numbers of fans. The business’s major competition at the time was BSA.
BSA fans, it turns out, referred to the company’s motorcycles as Beesers. In the good-natured verbal warfare that usually erupts between fans, BMW followers began referring to the industry’s motorcycles as Beemers.
As time went on, the spelling invariably got mixed up, resulting in “Beamer.”
After BMW turned its efforts away from two-wheeled vehicles, enthusiasts wanted a new word to differentiate between motorcycles and cars. That’s when “Bimmer” was thrown into the picture.
7. They Also Created the Best Airplane Engine in WWI
BMW’s origin story had little to do with cars. Instead, it had everything to do with aeronautics.
When the company was birthed in 1916, Germany was in World War I. In an effort to gain the upper hand against Britain and France, Germany focused its efforts in the air.
BMW provided the engine necessary to give the nation the boost it needed. It was integrated into fighter planes, providing greater speed and climbing capabilities than others of its time.
The company’s engine in the D.VII was so successful it was included in the Treaty of Versailles. One of its enforcements required Germany to hand over all D.VIIs it had.
Even during World War II, BMW continued to shine in aeronautics.
8. The Z1 Has the Coolest Door You’ve Ever Seen
We’ve seen doors that lift up instead of pull out. We’ve seen swan doors and ones that slide out the rear of a car.
But the Z1’s doors took everyone by surprise. Why? Because they seemingly disappear into the car’s floor.
When the owner presses a button, the door and window slide neatly down to the sill. Drivers can enjoy a fair breeze while driving or use the feature to clamber in and out easier.
Sadly, only 8,000 of these vehicles were built between 1989 and 1991.
9. Thank the Treaty of Versailles
Without it, none of us would be able to enjoy the amazing vehicles BMW offers today.
After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles reassigned German boundaries, forced the nation to pay reparations and prohibited the manufacturing of weaponry or aircraft. Between the disarmament and the 440 articles the Treaty imposed, the Allies hoped to avoid future war.
BMW, which produced airplanes and airplane engines, was faced with a difficult decision: close the business or branch into new areas. It chose to expand its horizons, resulting in the cars we have today.
Thankfully, now we can purchase BMW cars at our leisure or even import them from overseas. You can view here to learn more about the possibilities.
Steering into the Future
From its inception, BMW has been at the forefront of technology. What does BMW stand for if not speed, innovation and some fine looking grills?
Do you have a BMW at home in need of some tender love and care? If so, browse our BMW service repair manuals. Our site offers manuals regardless of make and year.
But if you’re not lucky enough to own a BMW, rest easy with the fact that now at least YOU know what its logo really stands for.