Believe the hype

Can a vintage car really be that much fun to drive in the modern world? It can if it’s a BMW 328, a 1930s machine that demonstrates clearly how racing improves the breed.

April 5, 2013
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In this, the Age of Irony, it’s rare to be genuinely amazed. And yet I am, from the moment I fire up this 1937 328 roadster and drive it away from BMW Classic’s workshop in Munich toward the backroads around Aying. I’ve driven old BMWs before, but this one is different. Where most old cars feel like Mister Magoo’s jalopy, this 75-year-old 328 feels like a real sports car, with no allowances needed for its age.

Light and agile, it handles like a dream on the undulating Bavarian backroads. There’s plenty of grip from its high-profile tires and less body roll than I’d expect. The steering is simply sublime, and even the brakes work well enough to cope with Munich traffic, fergawdsakes!

I’ve been told for years how good a 328 is, and now I know for myself. This is the real deal, a sports car for the ages. Believe the hype.

A golden age for transportation

To understand how it’s possible for a car this old to be this good, we have to go back to when this 328 was new: to 1937 or even a little before. The 1930s were something of a golden age for transportation, and everything from boats to trains to airplanes—and of course the automobile—was improving rapidly in speed, safety and comfort.

BMW was fairly new to the field of automobile manufacture, having built cars only since buying the Dixi factory in 1929, but it applied its earlier expertise building aero engines and motorcycles to make huge technological leaps in a very short time. The gap from the Dixi 3/15 HP to the 328 is enormous, and not just because the Dixi’s 15-hp four had become an 80-hp straight six by the time the first 328 was built in June 1936.

By comparison, the Dixi is mere transportation, a simple replacement for the horse and carriage that doesn’t eat hay. The 328 is a sports car, meant to win races and thrill its driver and passenger. There’s a world of difference between those two functions, and an enormous conceptual leap to be made in going from one to the other.

Also from Issue 115

  • Andrew Golden's Z4 M Roadster
  • 2013 E82 135is road test
  • 2012 E92 M3 with BMW Performance parts
  • 2013 E92 M3 Lime Rock Park track test
  • Buyer’s Guide: 1988-1999 E30 & E36 M3
  • Karl Einfalt's 1988 E28 M5
  • Peter Nettesheim's BMW motorcycle collection
  • How-to: Stop those squeaks!
  • BMW's Olympic bobsled
  • Z4 GTE: New racer for new era
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