In their early years BMW produced mainly aircraft engines, but also some motorcycle engines. In fact the BMW badge is supposed to resemble a spinning aircraft propeller. It wasn't until 1928 when BMW bought a car factory at Eisenach/Thuringia that BMW began producing cars. Along with the factory they bought the license to produce a small car called the Dixi. The first cars produced by BMW at the plant were badged BMW Dixi, but the word Dixi was soon dropped. They introduced a new model called the BMW 3/15 DA-2 and the success of this car enabled them to survive the great depression.
It was in 1936 that BMW introduced the type 328 roadster which quickly became the most successful sports car of the time. The 328, designed by Fritz Fiedler, featured a number of innovative features including a stylish, aerodynamic body shape. It used an inline 6-cylinder engine which gave the car excellent performance and it was renowned for its excellent handling. The type 328 roadster accumulated a number of prestigious wins on the racing circuit and was nominated as car of the century in 1999.
BMW's involvement in aircraft engine production during WWII led to a 3 year ban on production at the end of the war. It wasn't until 1949 that they were able to return to production which they did with the 250cc R24 motorcycle.
It was in 1951 that BMW introduced a spacious, 6-cylinder sedan called the 501. This was followed by the 502 which featured a lightweight alloy V8 engine. Later in the 1950s they began producing the BMW 507, a lightweight, V8 propelled sports car. This was the vehicle they hoped would revive the sporting success they'd achieved with the 328 roadster. But this wasn't to be. They were losing money on every 507 that was produced and so production stopped in 1960.
Also during the 1950s BMW bought the design and manufacturing rights to the Isetta which was to become one of the most successful microcars in the post WWII years. It was a time when cheap, short distance transportation was much needed and the 2-seater, with an economical 250cc engine, fit the requirements nicely. Manufacturing rights for the Isetta were sold to various production companies around