Wars often prove to be boons for manufacturers. But with every boom there is a bust. Such was the case with the “war to end all wars” during the turn of the last century. Motor companies and steel manufacturers had profitable years as armies around Europe sought combat vehicles.
That need ended with an armistice, sending the makers of biplanes and tanks to find other markets. Germany’s BMW was no different. It moved into the manufacturing of motorcycles to the general public following the war. Its first two models, marketed as the Frink and Helios, failed miserably but the engineering the company put into them didn’t go to waste.
Launched in 1923, the first motorcycle to actually be sold as a BMW product, the 493 cubic centimeter R32, provided a twin-cylinder, side-valve engine. It became the template for design that remains to this day because it was relatively expensive but superbly engineered and constructed to make the price-tag worthwhile for buyers looking for quality. BMW changed up its range of engines, but it was short lived. The R57 only lasted three years, making it one of the more rare BMW models.