BMW 321

The BMW 321 is a compact six-cylinder sedan produced by the Bavarian firm between 1938 and 1941. After 1945, production resumed at theEisenach plant: 321s were built again between approximately 1945 and 1950, probably in greater numbers than before the war.
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)
Sowjetische AG Maschinenbau Awtowelo
1938–1941, 7,851 built
1945 - 1950, 8,996 built
BMW 320
BMW New Class
Body style
2-door saloon
2-door cabriolet
FR layout
1,971 cc (120.3 cu in) OHV straight-6
4-speed manual
2,750 mm (108.3 in)
4,500 mm (177.2 in)
1,540 mm (60.6 in)
1,500 mm (59 in)
Curb weight
1,000 kg (2,200 lb)
(measurements approximate)
BMW 326
BMW 320
BMW 340

The launch

The 321 was introduced at the start of 1939 as a successor to the BMW 320. It sat on a shortened version of the BMW 326 chassis. The 321 differed from the 320 in its front suspension, its larger tyres, and its styling. While the 320 used front suspension derived from the BMW 303, with a high mounted transverse leaf spring and lower control arms, the 321 used the front suspension from the 326, with upper control arms and a low mounted transverse leaf spring.

Body Options

The car was available both as a two-door sedan and as a two-door cabriolet. In addition, BMW offered a chassis-only option suitable for a coach-built body.

Engine and transmission

The 1971 cc straight 6 M78 engine was based on the engine in the BMW 326 with a claimed power output of 45 PS (33 kW; 44 hp) and maximum speed of 115 km/h (71 mph). The four-speed manual gear box was also the one already seen on the 326.


Two years after the introduction of the 321, in 1941, automobile production at the Eisenach plant was suspended in favour of war production. By then, 3,814 had been built.

Production after World War II

In 1948 the first batch of postwar BMW 321s allocated for "civilian use" was photographed leaving the Eisenach plant. The batch was of just fifteen cars
In 1945, Eisenach was occupied by American forces, but by then it had already been agreedbetween the allies that the whole of Thuringia would fall within the Soviet occupation zone: transfer of the region to the Soviets took place in July 1945. It seemed likely that BMW’s manufacturing facility would be crated up and taken by rail to the Soviet Union as part of the substantial post war reparations package. In the meantime, surviving workers returning from the war recommenced automobile production, on a very small scale, using prewar designs. Albert Seidler, the man in charge of Eisenach motor bike production, demonstrated the 321 to Marshall Zhukov and secured from him an order for five new cars. The Russians were evidently impressed, and the plant passed under the control of “Sowjetische AG Maschinenbau Awtowelo”, a Soviet directed holding company focused on vehicle production. A further 8,996 BMW 321s are thought to have been built between 1945 and 1950. Most appear to have remained to the east of the iron curtain, many being taken to the Soviet Union as part of a reparations package in respect of the Second World War. Evidence also exists for exports to the west: the car was advertised in Switzerland in 1949 with a retail price of CHF 10,300.

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Last updated on 6 April 2013 at 18:36.


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