The Bayrischen Motorenwerke originated from the Rapp Motorenwerke AG and the Bayerischen Flugzeugwerke AG, the latter however, only became important after 1922. The actual origin lies in the coming together of three men, two of whom played a particularly important role in the following course of the history of BMW. To start with however, we deal with Karl Friedrich Rapp, the owner of the company bearing his name and former engineer at Daimler. He constructed not very successful aircraft engines which, because of the wartime economy, were sold to the German military authorities. This company was taken over by Camillo Castiglioni, shareholder and later chairman at Austro-Daimler, a long-time independent branch of the headquarters in Stuttgart.
The time is shortly before the First World War (1914 - 1918). Since its motorisation the airplane had become an important instrument for the military powers. Austria-Hungary, then considerably more important than today, together with Germany formed the 'central powers' and accordingly, their demands were great. Together with Austro Daimler the V-12 cylinder which was constructed by Ferdinand Porsche was built, however, because of manufacturing bottlenecks. could not be deliver sufficiently. Thus, also companies whose quality was not necessarily comparable became interesting.
At that time, the third of the group made his appearance, Franz Josef Popp, First Lieutenant and a certified engineer in the field of aircraft construction. His responsibility was to supervise the building of 200 large-engine-plants inside Mr. Rapp's company, what he found however, were three wooden factory buildings, nearly 400 extremely loyal employees, but also far too many complaints from unsatisfied customers. Because contracts had already been signed and down-payments made, the Austrian military authority had no other choice than to allow the controller Popp to take the place of the, in the meantime, very ill Mr. Rapp.
Popp was responsible for the turnaround in the business developments of the Rapp-Works which in 1917, with the approval of Castiglione, he renamed because of its bad reputation, the Bayerische Motorenwerke GmbH, he stayed on however as managing director without a stock share. By the way, the white-blue emblem originated at this time from the stroboscope of a propeller. Popp bought a piece of ground on the northern border of the Oberwiesenfeld. During the course of the war Karl Rapp left the company.
Already, in his early days, Popp employed the engineer Max Fritz, like Popp he came from Daimler and despite developing famous GP racing cars in 1914, his skill was not appreciated enough. He brought with him the idea of an engine which could reach higher levels quicker, developing higher performance and having a distinctly lower consumption than the widespread Daimler engine. The solution to the problem lay in the variable intake- and carburetor technology.
First of all however, he re-constructed the vibration intense Rapp-six-cylinder, thus creating the first example of the famous in-line engine which would accompany BMW to this day (2010). For the military, this was not enough and the fulfilment of the Austro-Daimler V12 also failed. Only after they managed to realise and demonstrate the 'high-altitude-flight engine', did the success of the new company seem to be certain.