Got a 1930s BMW 328 kicking around in your barn? Of course you don’t! But you can take comfort in knowing that if you did, the Bavarians would gladly supply you with a new gearbox built to the original specs.
The 328 was and is a sex symbol, a competitive performer, and is pretty rare. In a press release, BMW said the production run was only 464 cars, all produced between 1936 and 1940. So it’s totally understandable why one might want to go to great lengths to keep the car as true to its original design as possible. Quoth the release:
Owners of this open-top vintage sports car share the earnest desire of many classic enthusiasts to possess a car that is as original as possible and in the best possible condition. It’s a wish come true thanks to the remanufacture of the original Hurth gearbox, a component that was sorely missed for decades but can now be purchased once again.
Thankfully for the privileged and purists who own those few 328s, BMW has decided to offer an authentic reproduction gearbox for the car as part of its BMW Group Classic catalog of some 40,000 components for classic Bimmers.
The modern-day reproduction gearbox is built by transmission titan ZF, who supply transmissions for modern BMWs and tons of other makes. During a time of expansion in the 1990s, ZF actually bought a division of the original Hurth supplier.
BMW noted in the release that some 328s had received replacement gearboxes that didn’t match up to the original Hurth unit’s characteristics:
Complete original gearboxes were previously unavailable for the BMW 328. Frequently synchro gearboxes from other manufacturers were used instead, although they differed from the Hurth gearbox in key details, particularly regarding their configuration – they did not share the original pattern of non-synchronised first and second gear and gears three and four with cone synchronisation.
BMW and ZF relied on the immaculate original 328s from BMW’s own classic collection in taking measurements and preparing for production of the new-old gearboxes, plus they found “contemporary construction drawings held in Eisenach’s city archives.”
As the original gearbox had been repeatedly modified, a number of variants and construction plans had to be analysed and compared. Barring a few details such as optimised materials used in current production and a reinforced bearing for the second gear, the “new-old” gearbox now fully complies with the factory status in the later production period of the BMW 328.
BMW said the new production gearboxes have met the approval of FIA and FIVA, making cars equipped with them eligible for entry into elite events such as the Mille Miglia, where the automaker said early prototypes of the transmission proved their reliability.
If you thought the 328 was a rare sight, these new-old transmissions will be even rarer. BMW said the production run totals just 55 gearboxes.