There are very few BMWs that reach the “millionaire status”, but when they do, they’re quite special. One of them is the BMW 328 Roadster from the BMW Group Classic collection, a car we had a chance to sample a few years back. The price as valued by the folks in Munich? A bit over $1 million dollars.

Built between 1936 and 1940, the BMW 328 laid down a milestone in automotive history and was the most successful sports car of the 1930s on the racing scene. Agility, acceleration, reliability and lightweight construction – the BMW designers focused on the essentials in the development of the 328, ushering in a new era in the process.

Indeed, at a time when powerful supercharged “Kompressor” machines ruled the racing roost, the BMW 328 Roadster – weighing just 780 kilograms and developing a modest 80 horsepower in series production form – was a genuine sensation. Same 80bhp M328 engine could reach a top speed of 93mph top speed, which was impressive for those times.

And sure enough, the new Roadster wasted no time in putting its burly supercharged rivals firmly in their place in its debut outing at the Nürburgring on 14 June 1936.

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The success of the BMW 328 lay in the sum of its parts: rigorously applied lightweight design, ideal weight distribution, aerodynamic lines, the perfect engine and a meticulously tuned chassis delivering flawless roadholding. It even features an oversized kidney grille which spans across the entire fascia.

The legend goes that in those early days BMW had no design studio and no wind tunnel, never mind the electronic tools their counterparts take for granted today. And it was two engineers – Rudolf Schleicher and Fritz Fiedler – who drew the car on paper and turned into a production model.

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Having made its debut as a racing car in 1936, series production of the BMW 328 finally began a year later. The start-up costs for the BMW 328 amounted to a total of 445,000 marks, a relatively modest outlay when you consider the
1.4 million marks accounted for by the BMW 320 and the 2.3 million marks it took to bring the BMW 326 Saloon to life.

And yet only 464 examples were produced up to 1940, leaving the 328 as a sought-after rarity in classic car circles today. Of the 464 examples of the BMW 328 ever built, only around 200 have survived, some 120 of which are in Germany.

Back in 1930s, the BMW 328 Roadster wasn’t cheap. At 7,400 Reichsmark, it cost as much as the BMW’s highly qualified technicians could earn in three years.

[Photos: BMW Group Classic]