The 20th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will feature a BMW 328 that holds a special, if somewhat peculiar place in the history of motorsport. The fabled Mille Miglia-winning 1940 “Mille Miglia” Il Gran Premio Brescia Della aerodynamic coupe bodied by Touring of Milan will be the anchor of the BMW 328 class at the Florida concours Sunday.
On September 1, 1939, war swept across Europe, but that didn’t seem to faze the organizers of the Mille Miglia, the famed road race in Itlay. Not even war could dilute the competitive juices of the Automobile Club of Brescia in May 1940; it just reconfigured its beloved 1,000-mile open road race.
The race was labeled Il Gran Premio Brescia Della Mille Miglia and comprised a nine-lap competition over a triangle of roads that connected Brescia, Cremona and Mantua: 1,503 kilometers or 933 miles. Not a true “thousand miles, but a traditional Italian open-road race starting in Brescia.
The competition BMW 328 is a milestone car of great technological and design significance.”
BMW decided to take a quartet of 328s to this genuine Italian road race. Earlier in the 1930s, BMW had responded to a call from Adolph Hitler’s regime that Germany should build not only the world’s fastest and greatest pure racing cars, but the world’s best sports cars. BMW answered with the 328.
After a spectacular Le Mans debut for the new aerodynamic coupe in 1939, much was expected of the new Stromlinen Innenlenker. The Le Mans results were indeed spectacular; the new Touring-bodied coupe not only won its class, finishing fifth overall, but established a two-liter speed record that would have won Le Mans outright when racing resumed a decade later in 1949.
When Baron Huschke von Hanstein left Brescia at 6:40 a.m. on April 28, 1940, in the 328 coupe, his blood was up. At the end of the first lap he was more than one and a half minutes ahead and running as if the “Mille Miglia” was a sprint race. He never let up.
Von Hanstein and Walter Baumer led all 933 miles against larger, more-powerful Italian and French cars. The “sprint” lasted nearly nine hours. When it was over, the 328 Coupe had won by more than 16 minutes, leading an unprecedented first, third, fifth and sixth BMW sweep.
“BMW’s aerodynamic work in the ’30s paid enormous speed and efficiency dividends,” said Mark Becker, vice-chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “The Kamm-bodied 328 coupe achieved 143 mph with just 136 horsepower in 1939. The competition BMW 328 is a milestone car of great technological and design significance.”
The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is scheduled Sunday on the 10th and 18th fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida. For more information, including Friday and Saturday events leading up to the concours, see ameliaconcours.org.