In the words of John Oliver, screw you, 2016. Seriously, screw you. David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Garry Shandling, Muhammad Ali, Glen Frey and now Paul Rosche have all died in this awful year. Now I know Paul Rosche isn’t a name as well known as any of the other aforementioned names, but he was equally as important to BMW as all of those other names have been to the world.
Roche died yesterday, November 15, and he will be remembered for creating some of the greatest engines the world has ever seen to some of our favorite BMWs of all time. He was a genuine legend in the field of motorsport for developing engines of pure brilliance.
Paul Rosche started working for BMW in 1957, right after graduating from university and was immediately tasked with working on camshafts for the engines in cars like the BMW 507. His impeccable precision with calibrating camshafts earned him the nickname “Nocken-Paul” (Camshaft Paul). Rosche then designed the M10 engine, which was used in the the BMW 1500 and Neue Klasse of cars.
After the success of the M10 engine, BMW’s motorsport division borrowed his M10 engine. From there, Rosche developed one of the most important engines in BMW motorsport history, adding a KKK turbocharger to his M10 engine which powered BMW’s first production turbocharged car, the BMW 2002 Turbo. But Rosche was just getting started and the 2002 Turbo’s engine isn’t even one of Rosche’s best.
In 1975, Rosche was assigned to BMW Motorsport GmbH where he headed development of production and racing engines for the BMW M1. As you know, the BMW M1 had one of the greatest engines in the history of the Bavarian brand, the M88 3.5 liter I6 engine. That very same engine would go on to power the E28 BMW M5, the very first of its kind and is one of our favorite BMWs of all time, thanks in large part to its brilliant engine.
Fast forward to the ’80s and BMW entered Formula 1 thanks to the determination of Rosche. He and his team developed a 1.5 liter, 16-valve, turbocharged four-cylinder engine which initially developed 800 hp. Nelson Piquet would eventually go on to win a world championship with this engine for BMW. By 1987, that engine had nine grand prix wins and had nearly unlimited potential. Asked about the potential of the engine, Rosche said “It must have been around 1,400 hp; we don’t know for sure because the dyno didn’t go beyond 1,280 hp.” 1,400 hp from four cylinders and 1.5 liters. Incredible.
But Rosche’s pièce de résistance, his Sistine Chapel, his Mona Lisa was an engine that was never actually fitted to a BMW. It was the S70/2 that powered the mighty McLaren F1. When he McLaren F1 was under development, Gordon Murray approached BMW and Paul Rosche, whom he knew from their old F1 days, and Rosche developed an engine for Murray within some specifications that he wanted. An all-aluminum, 6.1 liter, naturally-aspirated V12 that had twelve individual throttle bodies, VANOS variable valve timing and a dry sump oil system, the S70/2 was made and it was sheer brilliance. It put out 627 hp and revved to 7,500 rpm, making the most glorious noise doing so. The S70/2 V12 is the best BMW engine ever made and it powers possibly the best supercar ever made.
There are only a handful of people in automotive history that helped shape brands like Rosche did. Pininfarina, Valentino Balbonia, Giorgetto Giugiaro and Walter Rohrl are some of those names. Rosche might not have been as popular as those others, but he’s equally as important. Paul Rosche helped shape the brand we know and love today and helped develop some of the greatest engines in the history of the automobile. If there was an automotive Hall of Fame, Rosche deserved to be a first-ballod inductee. Thank you Paul, you will genuinely be missed.