BMW recently released pictures of their latest hommage model, the BMW 328 Hommage. The 328 hommage marks the 75th anniversary of the renowned 328 from the 30's racing scene. If you're unfamiliar with the original 328, let's do a short recap. The 328 is considered a milestone in the auto industry. It was a sports model but on paper one could not suspect it to win any races. It wasn't particularly powerful and there wasn't any turbo or jet engine in it either, remember it was the 1930's. No, it was a perfect combination of lightness, aerodynamics and driving dynamics that made this car one of the most brilliant race cars of all time. It is most renowned for it's achievements in the all time classic Mille Miglia races, held during 1927-57, where it earned the fasted average speed of 166,7km/h, a record it holds to this day.
It was also a milestone for BMW since this was the first model that incorporated the concept of lightness as a performance factor. Later on this has been seen in numerous BMW models and other makers' model as well. For instance, the 3.0CSL, the M3 CSL and many more.
Let's dive in to the 328 hommage then. You might recognize the shape of the body, it is infact the BMW ConnectedDrive concept (link to post). However in this version, it has been stripped from all hi-tech communication to give room for raw racing spirit.
As for the original 328, lightness is key for the hommage. The entire body is made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) which BMW has started to incorporate in for instance the BMW M3 and M6. Soon it will, according to BMW, be used in a larger volume, in their new all-electric i-cars, the i3 and i8. In the 30's however the lightest materials available for the auto industry was mainly magnesium and aluminium.
Carbon fibre offers the best combination of strength and lightness today, however it has recently become very expensive since the carbon fibre suppliers are raising their prices. So it will probably be a while until we see this material used in a larger scale, for now it is best suited for concept cars and sports cars in the above €500,000-1,000,000 range such as the Pagani Zonda, the Bugatti Veyron and Koenigsegg Agera. Hopefully though it will start to reach the "lower end" of the auto market in the next coming 20 years or so.
Back to the hommage then. Let's talk about the design, also a key parameter for racing cars and a core brand value for BMW. We have seen most of the design before as I said in the ConnectedDrive concept but in order to pay tribute to the 328 the chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk has incorporated a taller grille, leather straps over the bonnet and the traditional X-tape look over the headlights. Although the hommage is interesting and inspiring it is not exactly beautiful. It is a mix of classic and modern but since that's the point of the hommage, it actually works. If they had said that this was their new Z4 concept for the future I would raise my eye brows a little higher, but for an hommage, it is truly great.
The trick is to make it obvious, of course the car doesn't need leather straps on the bonnet to hold it down and the X-tape over the headlight isn't really tape, the headlights have been designed in this way. It has an aura of lightness and racing around it. The original 328 had these design cues for primarily functional reasons, but for the audience and the general public it provided a visual cue to its racing performance and lightness, much like naked carbon fibre bodies do today.
As a last treat in this post I would also like to give you a recap of BMW's 70th anniversary of the 328. The Mille Miglia concept that was displayed in 2006. I wonder if their will be an 80th anniversary as well?