Do you believe in the afterlife? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t – but this is a story of a car that lasted much longer on the race tracks of Europe and beyond than its makers could ever have dreamed. It is normal in motor racing for a car to have a limited ‘shelf life’: today that is often no more than one year but this tale relates the history of a car and an engine that survived more than two decades of competition and spawned a cornucopia of sporting racers well into the 1950s. That car is the BMW 328 roadster and its innovative M328 engine.
This celebrated machine has already been well-covered in the pages of Vintage Road & Racecar. It was the pre-eminent 2-liter machine of its era – light, nimble and equipped with a clever, torquey 6-cylinder motor. It was less flamboyant than the sports cars of Italy and France: in fact it was a typically German master of understatement up against the stylish Alfa Romeo’s, Bugatti’s, Maserati’s and Delahaye’s. While many of these sported engines of 2.5, 3.0 and even 4.0 liters, the doughty 328 earned its spurs on the race track with just 1,971 cc.