Classic Race Cars

BMW 328 Touring Coupe (1939)

April 4, 2013

In 1938 BMW’s rivals had achieved good results in using lightweight, streamlined bodies in small-engined cars in races in the Le Mans and Mille Miglia. Open-top cars had been shown to be less aerodynamically efficient than hardtops, and BMW wasn’t about to argue. In 1938 the decision was taken to build a hardtop racing saloon based on the BMW 328 Roadster. However, initial testing did not exactly yield the desired success and the engineers were busy working on other projects. Earlier that year the motor sport authorities in Italy and Germany had agreed to hold a race on the motorways between Berlin and Rome, and BMW was about to take part. The race was repeatedly postponed, but BMW was also be expected to carry the German colours with distinction in the forthcoming Mille Miglia and Le Mans races so there was not a second to waste.

With the pressure building, the racing department turned to Carrozzeria Touring to build a streamlined car for the start of the 1939 season. The Milanese coachbuilder had already completed a similar project for Alfa Romeo and agreed without hesitation. The BMW 328-based Coupe lined up for the first time at Le Mans in 1939 with Prince Max zu Schaumburg-Lippe, the NSKK (National Socialist Motoring Corps) team’s leading driver, at the wheel. The “superleggera” Coupe – weighing just 780 kg – won the 2-litre class by an impressive margin, recording an average speed of over 130 km/h. That was enough to secure fifth place in the overall classification, fending off significantly more powerful cars in the process and raising hopes for the company’s chances in the Mille Miglia the following year. In April 1940 Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Bäumer piloted the car to a resounding overall victory in the Mille Miglia. Its winning record and overall concept sealed the car’s status as a motor racing legend.