BMW 321, the luxury compact of World War II

The BMW 321 is a six-cylinder compact car produced by the Bavarian BMW company between 1938 and 1941, with production almost entirely coinciding with the Second World War. After 1945, production of the BMW 321 resumed at the Eisenach plant in the Soviet-occupied zone and continued until 1950.

Launch of the BMW 321


The 321 was introduced in early 1939 as the successor to the BMW 320, on a shortened version of the BMW 326 chassis. The 321 differed from the 320 in its front suspension, larger tyres and exterior design, which was available as a two-door sedan and a two-door cabriolet. In addition, BMW offered an option to buy just the chassis to be used by coachbuilders according to the customer’s taste, along the lines of what Rolls Royce was already doing in England.

Engine and transmission of the BMW 321


The 1,971 cc engine of this vehicle was based on the engine of the BMW 326 with a power output of 45 hp, which enabled it to reach a top speed of 115 km/h (115 mph).

Sales of the BMW 321


Two years after the introduction of the 321, in 1941, car production at the Eisenach plant was suspended due to the armament manufacturing needs of the German authorities, at which time the number of cars produced was 3,814. At the end of World War II, only fifteen cars left the Eisenach factory, but after the Soviet Union took control of the region, due to agreements made by the Allied troops, a further 8,996 BMW 321s are believed to have been built between 1945 and 1950. Most seem to have remained east of the Iron Curtain, many were taken to the Soviet Union as part of a package of economic compensation from Germany to the Soviet Union.