It’s difficult to see BMW in a market like today. Bavaria’s luxury giant isn’t just one of the biggest names in luxury, but also it’s one of most successful carmakers worldwide. BMW struggled to stay afloat in 1950s. The brand was saved by a few vehicles, such as the BMW Isetta or the Neue Klasse. The BMW 700 was one of those cars, however.
The 700 is a rare BMW model that casual BMW enthusiasts have heard of. The 700 was an unusual car that BMW never made and is unlike any BMW has made ever since. The BMW 700, despite its unique design, was a huge success and saved the brand from certain failure in late 1950s.
In 1957, a racing driver and automotive business man, Wolfgang Denzel approached BMW with an idea for a small, stylish car that could be built on existed BMW underpinnings. It was relatively inexpensive to make, which meant it was affordable, something that BMW struggled with after the absurdly expensive 507 and 503 failed to find customers. BMW took Denzel up on the offer and he hired Giovanni Michelotti to design a car to be built on a new unibody platform but that shared the BMW 600 engine.
The BMW 700 was completely new, even though it had a rear-engine like the 600 or Isetta. The BMW 700 was sleeker and more elegant than the Isetta 600 and 600. The design, which was first shown at the Frankfurt Auto Show 1959, proved to be a huge hit. Its low cost made it even more popular.
It was okay that it wasn’t equipped with power steering or power windows as it was an economy vehicle. The car did not have air conditioning, and it had drum brakes on all four corners. However, a sophisticated-for-the-time rack and pinion steering setup and trailing arm suspension with coil springs actually made it quite nice to drive. The 700 actually was a highly successful racing car.
The BMW 700 got its name from its 697 cc (rounding up to 700 cc) two-cylinder, air-cooled flat engine. It made 32 horsepower, was paired with a four-speed automatic, and powered the rear wheels. It had a top speed of 75 mph, which was pretty decent for an economy car back in the late ’50s.
The BMW 700 is a relatively unknown car in America. Its quirky design, powerful engine and surprisingly comfortable handling make it a popular car among those who are well-versed. The car helped save BMW and saved the Bavarian brand. It stopped Daimler-Benz buying most of the shares until the Neue Klasse was available. Although the BMW 700 may not be the most significant car of BMW’s history, it is certainly one of its most distinctive and should receive more attention.
Publiated at Sun, 25 July 2021 20:25.03 +0000