BMW turns 100 this year, having come into this world on March 7th, 1916 as BFW (Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, before the name changed to Bayerische Motoren Werke the next year). Over the century that followed, BMW consistently produced some of the finest means of conveyance on Earth.
1916-1920: IIIa aircraft engine
Hey, we’ve all gotta start somewhere. When BFW/BMW first formed it included Rapp Motorenwerke, which made aircraft engines. Notably it developed what was known as the IIIa engine to improve upon the Fokker D.VII fighter. Even if you’ve never heard of Fokker or the D.VII, you know its most famous pilot, the Red Baron. He never flew the IIIa-enhanced Fokker, though, having died shortly before the BMW engine’s arrival.
1921-1930: R32 motorcycle
The first motorcycle from BMW set the template the company would use for decades to follow. Not only did it feature an air-cooled boxer engine (boxer = pistons directly opposed to one another, so it looks like they’re boxing), but the rear wheel wasn’t chain-driven like most bikes. Look carefully and you’ll see a drive shaft — it’s a rugged differentiator that would later feature prominently during World War II.