Formed in Munich from the Rapp Motoren Werke GmbH in 1917, the Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH (BMW) first entered the motor cycle trade in 1921 with a 493 c.c flat twin-cylinder engine (M2B15) that was supplied to other manufacturers. Engineer Max Friz who had previously designed the BMW IIIa aero engine used in the Fokker D.VII fighter, also designed BMW's first complete motor cycle which was shown for the first time in 1923. Designated the R32 it was a 493 c.c shaft-drive model with transversely mounted horizontally opposed twin-cylinder engine and separate gearbox. This unique design set the precedent for a prestigious and technically advanced family of BMW motor cycles that have remained essentially unchanged in their shaft-drive basic concept.

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