Munich/Brescia. 75 years after its debut in the legendary Mille Miglia endurance road race, the BMW 328 has now completed the latest edition of this tradition-steeped reliability trial in similarly impressive style. In signing up a total of nine BMW 328 models for this year’s event, BMW Group Classic once again demonstrated the close ties that bind the BMW brand to the Mille Miglia. All the examples of this historic sports car that lined up at the start of the world’s most celebrated classic event made it to the finish, displaying the same reliability that had helped the BMW 328 on its way to class victory in its spectacular premiere back in 1938. To the applause of countless spectators, the BMW Group Classic contingent reached the start/finish point in the north Italian town of Brescia after completing all three challenging competition stages without any technical hitches.
“To witness the BMW 328 on this highly traditional route is a fascinating experience every time,” commented Dr Ralf Rodepeter, Director BMW Museum and BMW Group Classic Marketing. “The thought of those 1,000 miles being clocked up non-stop and at top speed 75 years ago commands the utmost respect from any motor racing fan following this event. We are very proud to be able to present in such authentic form today the vehicles that achieved those feats all that time ago.”
It is the gearbox of the historic BMW 328, above all, that has to survive extraordinary loads during the Mille Miglia. That is why all the competing BMW 328 models were equipped with a faithful reconstruction of the original transmission – a recent addition to the BMW Group Classic range. This elaborately manufactured replica was developed in close collaboration with the FIA, the world motoring governing body, and FIVA, the world governing body for historic vehicles. As such it is an authentic replacement for the gearbox of the 1930s sports car classic. At the 2013 Mille Miglia, the new transmission provided persuasive evidence of its reliability.
The Mille Miglia was first held in 1927 and was soon rated as the world’s greatest motor sport challenge. Up until 1957, the cars drove on public highways and narrow urban streets, and partly also along unsurfaced roads. For racing drivers such as Tazio Nuvolari, Stirling Moss, Rudolf Caracciola, Juan Manuel Fangio and Fritz Huschke von Hanstein, the Mille Miglia became a spectacular stage, while car companies who acquitted themselves well in the race were able to demonstrate the prowess of their products in conspicuous style.
The BMW 328 was first assigned this task in the year 1938. From the word go, the teams driving a BMW 328 scored a clean sweep of first to fourth places in the 2.0-litre category. Thanks to its reliability, efficiency, low weight and outstanding handling characteristics, the Mille Miglia novice also managed to leave most of the far more powerful sports cars trailing far behind. In the end, the British team of Fane/Williams not only secured a class win but also finished in eighth place overall. Two years on, BMW would celebrate outright victory: driving the BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupé, Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Bäumer completed the Mille Miglia 1940 as overall winners.
Memories of the achievements and triumphs of the past are revived each year in what has since 1977 been staged as a 1,000-mile reliability and regularity trial. This year’s route, which the organisers measured out at exactly 1,555.24 kilometres (966.38 miles), took its cue from its historic predecessor. After the start in Brescia, the first stage led to Ferrara. The following day the route continued via Ravenna and San Marino to Rome, where the BMW 328 models among a field of some 400 contestants received a rapturous welcome in front of the Castel Sant’Angelo. On the final and longest stage, the historic automobiles passed through cities such as Siena and Florence before arriving back at the finish point in Brescia.
Alongside five original BMW 328 production models, the BMW Group Classic line-up included four highly exclusive one-offs. Among them was the winning car of 1940, the BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupé, which was this year piloted to the finish by Hanns Werner Wirth and co-driver Christian Geistdörfer. The BMW 328 MM Roadster, which came third in 1940, again made an eye-catching appearance in the 1,000-mile round trip. A further blast from the past came in the shape of the 1937 BMW 328 Berlin-Rome Touring Roadster, while the compelling vintage fleet was rounded off by the BMW 328 Kamm Coupé, whose aerodynamically honed lightweight body still bears eloquent witness today to the engineering skills of a bygone era
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