One of the world’s most significant pre-war sports racing cars, the one-of-a-kind 1937 BMW 328 Mille Miglia ‘Buegelfalte’ went to auction in Monaco on May 1 at the Grimaldi Forum. The unique BMW 328 Buegelfalte Roadster signature collector car at the RM Auction was reportedly sold post-bidding at more than $5.6 million.
This car is the only special roadster ever built at the BMW factory in Munich, has numerous race wins to its credit (including a Mille Miglia class win) and became the pattern for a whole generation of post-war sports cars.
BMW had been actively involved in sports racing activity in the pre-war years and had enjoyed significant successes with its technically advanced, high-performance 328 model. Chassis 85032 was manufactured in May 1937 as a standard-bodied car for Rudolf Schleicher´s Experimental Department at BMW. The car participated in the 1937 Le Mans with the well-known British driver of the period, A.F.P. Fane, as well as the 1937 Tourist Trophy in the hands of H.G. Dobbs.
In autumn 1939, the car was dismantled at the BMW factory’s racing division in Milbertshofen before being extensively re-engineered and used as the basis for even more streamlined bodywork in preparation for the 1940 season and the Mille Miglia in particular. To that end, BMW built both an aerodynamic coupé and this lightweight open roadster.
Extensive modifications to 85032 included lowering the engine and driveline in the chassis to reduce the body’s frontal area and lower the center of gravity to improve handling. Its design is credited to Wilhelm Kaiser, a very experienced member of BMW’s new design department, headed by chief stylist Wilhelm Meyerhuber. A 1:10 scale model was tested in the wind tunnel of pioneering aerodynamicist Prof. Dr.-Ing. Wunibald Kamm, with a long, tapered tail that took advantage of the lowered engine and profile.
Magnesium was even used in the braking system, comprised of Alfin drum brakes with a Duplex system front and rear. The 17-inch steel disc wheels have riveted light metal rings, and the tyres were specially made by Continental for the Mille Miglia, so the car could go the entire distance without changing tyres. In true racing fashion, the rear leaf spring suspension was adjustable, controlled with additional stabilising bars. Even the hubs were super-light special edition units, as was much of the hardware, aluminium nuts, screw heads and the like.
Following its completion at BMW’s Milbertshofen works, the Bügelfalte BMW was tested on the autobahns near BMW’s Munich headquarters. One can only imagine what contemporary motorists must have thought as this space-age streamliner blasted by at unheard-of speeds!
The coachwork of two more roadsters and a second streamlined coupé was entrusted to Touring in Milan, which had the capacity of finishing them before the 1940 Mille Miglia. It should be noted that these two “second series” Touring-bodied roadsters had their complete mechanics and tubular substructure completed in Munich, before the bodywork was completed in Milan. As such, they did not have the characteristic “trouser crease” fenders.
During the war, the Bügelfalte roadster was given to Albert Speer, the Reichsminister für Bewaffnung und Munition (Armaments and Munitions). Remarkably, it survived five years of world war and was seized by Russia as reparations. The Russians awarded it to Artiom Ivanovich Mikoyan, head of the Mikoyan i Gurevich Design Bureau, creator of the famed MiG fighters. Mikoyan let his son use it, but the boy’s escapades eventually exhausted his father’s patience, and he traded the Bügelfalte in 1972 to Guido Adamson of Riga, Latvia, for a Lada, a vehicle much less inclined to excite the fantasies of a young man.
With the collapse of the “Iron Curtain,” Adamson drove the Bügelfalte from Riga to Munich and entrusted it to BMW’s care, using it occasionally, most particularly in the 1991 Mille Miglia Storica where it was featured on a BMW poster commemorating the event.
It was acquired by its present owner from Mr. Adamson in 2001 and, for the last decade, has been serviced and maintained by the expert specialists at Tom Fischer Classic & Race Car Service. Working in conjunction with BMW 328 engine specialist Georg Thiele and with utmost attention to originality, the complete mechanicals, including engine, front and rear axle and brake system, have been rebuilt.