In 1936, Ernst Henne drove his prototype BMW 328 to victory in the 2.0-litre class at the annual Eifelrennen event at the Nürburgring, beating a world-class field of entrants including several 1½-litre monopostos. This achievement put BMW on the map and the new 328 model would go on to be one of the most important in the company’s history and the iconic sports car of its age.
As BMW had only been manufacturing cars for eight years and had only limited resources, the 328 came about more as an evolution of their range rather than a blank starting point. The 328 used the chassis, transverse leaf spring, independent front suspension and live rear axle from the 319, while the cylinder block and hydraulic brakes would come from the 326. The chassis was however hugely advanced; BMW’s chief engineer Fritz Fiedler created a masterpiece that was both stiff and light allowing for softer spring loads. It was clothed in a modern looking sports body designed by Peter Szymanoski who would go on to become BMW’s chief of design after WW2.
At the heart of the car was the six-cylinder engine that featured an ingenious new head designed by Rudolf Schleicher. This unit incorporated hemispherical combustion chambers and inclined valves without using overhead or twin camshafts. The engine gave a healthy output of 80hp at 5000rpm.
Its sporting credentials were soon being put to the test at racing events all over Europe and the 328 reigned supreme, taking more than 100 classic wins in 1937 including the grueling RAC Tourist Trophy. In 1938 it would repeat its class win in the RAC TT as well as class wins in the Alpine Rally and the Mille Miglia. In 1939 it would take the out right win in the RAC Rally as well as coming fifth overall and first in class at the 24 hours of Le Mans. Finally it would take the outright win in the Millie Miglia in 1940 with a special aerodynamic body as a final flourish before the war. A quite outstanding achievement and it is no wonder that these cars are so desired today.
Between 1936 and 1939 only 464 BMW 328s were produced of which fewer than 200 are known to exist today. In 1934 AFN Ltd acquired the rights to import BMWs into the UK and these right-hand drive cars were sold as Frazer Nash-BMWs. In total 48 Frazer Nash-BMW 328s were imported into Britain, some with the Germany bodywork while others had British coachwork. All but 2 of these cars survive to this day.
This Frazer Nash BMW 328, chassis 85107, was delivered from the factory to AFN London on the 2nd of July 1937, finished in white with black wings. Its first owner, Mr. W.I. Innes of Hawick, Scotland, purchased it on the 27th of January 1938 whereupon it was given the registration GHX 514.
Mr Innes was a keen motorist and he soon had it entered for the Paris Nice Trial in July/August that year. The event was a testing affair starting with flying laps of the ‘circuit de vitesse’ at Montlhéry, followed by the long road section down through Grenoble, Troyes, Dijon, Beaune, Bourg and Grasse before finishing at the Pont-du-Var just on the outskirts of Nice.
The cars were then re-examined before two final tests comprising a low speed / acceleration test and finally the La Turbie Hillclimb. 85107, not only completed the trial but came 1st in class (sub 2000cc) in the La Turbie Hillclimb and 8th overall.
What happened to the car during the war is unknown but it survived the hostilities safely and photos show it was back racing at Silverstone in 1952. Alexander Britton of Manchester then acquired the car in February 1963 and 85107 had three further owners before Peter Lovett bought the car in 1989. He kept the car three years before selling it to the Richard Wilkinson who has owned the car for the past 28 years.
On acquiring 85107, Richard had a Bristol gearbox with overdrive installed, which allows much faster cruising speeds while being gentler on the engine. The car made a big screen cameo in the film adaptation of Noel Cowards ‘Easy Virtue’ in 2008 with Jessica Beal, Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas, where it rather steals the show.
It is being offered for sale by The Classic Motor Hub.