The Stösser BMW – The first of its kind
Is the 80-year-old Stösser BMW wrongly advertised as the BMW 303, really the first of its kind? Our expert tries to shed some light on the matter.
Sensational find or hoax? Genuine rarity or unfortunate conversion? It is not without reason that one wonders whether the BMW supercharged racing car that has been haunting the media for a few weeks now deserves the attention it is getting. After all, the discovery would be a sensation – insofar as speculations about its significance are fulfilled. So let’s look with critical eyes at a car that has what it takes to be the find of the year….
Stösser BMW – NO EASY LEGACY
Hardly any other brand stands for sportiness alongside elite manufacturers like Porsche or Ferrari as much as BMW. After all, the joy of driving is no accident. Touring cars, endurance racing, Formula 1 – there is hardly a discipline in which the company has not been involved. But unlike Mercedes-Benz or Auto Union, for example, BMW does not have a well-documented racing history before the Second World War. Quite the contrary. It was only at the beginning of the 1930s and parallel to the political promotion of German motor sport that the company even began with genuine in-house developments.
STÖSSER-BMW – THE FIRST OF THE HOT SIX-CYLINDER MODELS
It was not until the 315/1 (1934 to 1936), which ultimately paved the way for the legendary 328 (1936 to 1942), that the image of genuine sportiness began to radiate from the brand. However, the political turmoil of the Second World War, the forced cessation of motor racing in Europe and the hopes that this destroyed, brought the era of these early BMW sports cars to an end far too soon.
All the more interesting is the racing car pictured on these pages, which appeared as if out of nowhere, with chassis and engine from the BMW factory in Eisenach. As it turned out in the last few months, the unique red car from 1934 is probably the first BMW vehicle ever built for motorsport. As was common practice at the time, the car was delivered without a body and was also built using standard parts. After all, ambitious motorsport with factory involvement did not exist until 1937. According to documents from in-house BMW experts, the car with the typical BMW round tubular frame was in fact commissioned by the wealthy driver Eugen Stösser as an explicit racing car.
Stösser BMW – AVUS, NÜRBURGRING & CO.
Stösser – racing driver and investor in one – had a compressor installed on his front mid-engine in the spirit of an emerging partnership with the Zoller company (which also supplied compressors for BMW racing motorbikes). This was extraordinary, because to this day there is no comparable setup from BMW. In this way, he brought the small six-cylinder engine, which measured only 1098 cc, to a healthy 75 hp. An elongated nose with a large radiator grille, which made room for the additional power unit, was thus the distinguishing feature of this rare vehicle for two years. Stösser fought for fame and glory until the end of 1935, sometimes alongside the world-famous Silver Arrows. Ten events in Berlin, the Eifel or in Austria are linked to the vita of the car, which was the overall winner twice, but then disappeared overnight.
Stösser sold the BMW at the end of 1935, when the racing engine had probably already been removed. With its new owner Georg Stiller, an odyssey began that was to make the car an oddity for decades: Stiller made significant changes to the bodywork, installed a 1500 cc engine and drove the car in everyday life. Thus, the former Stösser-BMW received mudguards, a new front and headlights behind the now distinctively divided radiator grille.
FAR FROM HOME
The BMW was exported to the USA via all kinds of detours, according to the quite comprehensible information provided by the previous owners, and was used there in public road traffic. When it returned to Germany in 2008 for a revision and was finally offered for sale, no one was aware of the vehicle’s heritage. The unusual silhouette of the converted pre-war vehicle transfigured the past too much.
The new owner eventually acquired the former Stösser BMW as a converted “BMW 303 with Stiller racing bodywork”. But BMW experts took notice. A car with the engine set so far back? With an unusual mount on the frame that later turned out to be the compressor’s pressure line? With documents that identified the car as a former property of Stösser? The comparison with historical literature finally brought certainty: frame number 46534 must once have been whipped across dusty tracks at full throttle by a Zoller compressor.
WHAT AM I?
There is now consensus about the history of the vehicle. Experts, the factory and former owners are convinced: this is Eugen Stösser’s 84-year-old racing car. However, the classification of this rediscovery may lead to different conclusions: On the one hand, a vehicle with racing history, proven successes and a design that is entirely unique to the BMW brand. A supercharger with six cylinders – a sporting icon. On the other hand, a unique specimen that was privately motivated and only used for a short time, only to disappear from the scene for a long time as an everyday classic. This very special curriculum vitae does not make it any easier to assess its historical value. Especially since an authentic compressor first has to be found or rebuilt according to original plans. Clearly, the exciting history of BMW’s first racing car is far from over.
Text Henry Ortmann Pictures Sven Wedemeyer
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