proved an instant success, approved by the experts as well as motorcycle consumers. A comment in Der Motorwagen magazine at the time read ‘And finally, the culmination of the exhibition, the new BMW motorcycle (494cc) with the cylinders arranged transversely. Despite its youth it is a remarkably fast and successful motorcycle.’ The M2B33 486cc engine in the R32 had aluminium alloy cylinders and a light alloy cylinder head. The engine – which formed a single unit with the gearbox – produced 8.5bhp, which gave the motorcycle a top speed of 59mph. The new engine featured a recirculating wet sump oiling system at a time when most motorcycle manufacturers used a total-loss oiling system and BMW continued to use this until 1969. To counter cooling problems found with the Helios, Friz positioned the R32’s M2B33 boxer engine with the cylinder heads projecting out on each side to assist with the cooling. By 1924, BMW was producing the 500cc air-cooled horizontally opposed engine. This feature was used for decades to come, with its driveshaft instead of a chain being used to drive the rear wheel. This was a major innovation and to this day the driveshaft and boxer engine are still used on BMW motorcycles.
BMW – manufacturer of German aircraft engines during World War I – was forced to diversify after the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Initially the company turned to industrial engine design manufacturing before they then began producing motorcycles. In 1919, BMW had designed and manufactured the flat-twin M2B15 engine for the company Victoria Werke AG of Nuremberg. Initially intended as a portable industrial engine it found its main use in Victoria motorcycles. This
engine was also used in the Helios motorcycle built by Bayerische Flugzeug, which later merged into BMW AG. Following the merger, Franz Josef Popp (general director of BMW) asked Max Friz, the design director, for an assessment of the Helios motorcycle. Friz condemned the transverse- crankshaft design so Popp and Friz agreed to redesign the Helios to make a more saleable motorcycle design, resulting in the BMW R32. Exhibited at the German Motor Show in Berlin in 1923, the R32
The now familiar BMW logo first appeared on the R32.
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