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May 30, 2007

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On 22nd BMW Engineer Alexander von Falkenhausen had his 100th birthday

As a racing competitor, designer and test driver, Baron Alexander von Falkenhausen had a greater influence on the history of BMW than almost any other man. On 22 May 2007 he would have been 100 years old. Von Falkenhausen joined Bayerische Motoren Werke in 1934.

Faökenhausen 1932 (right)

He began as a race rider and designer in the motorcycle division and then switched to car racing. After the war he had a spell as an independent manufacturer of racing cars, but in 1954 returned to BMW where he headed the motor racing division.

From 1957 onward he additionally had overall responsibility for engine development. In 1976 von Falkenhausen retired as the oldest member of the company's staff. He died on May 28th 1989 at the age of 92 in his hometown, Munich.

At first glance Alexander von Falkenhausen might have seemed like a man of artistic temperament. But his modest demeanour, his alert mind and his unparalleled versatility propelled him into a unique career as an engineer and manager. He was respectfully dubbed "Lord of the Blue and White" or "Baron BMW".

Though described by some in-house technicians as a "schoolboy prank", the thing worked brilliantly; the output of the BMW 2002 rose from 200 hp to 280 hp, and it won four rounds of the European Touring Car Championship in 1969, thus securing a repeat title for BMW.

Four years later came the BMW 2002 Turbo, the first European production car to feature a turbocharged engine. When, in 1983, Nelson Piquet driving a Brabham-BMW BT52 became the first Formula One world champion to use a turbo engine, the "Lord of the Blue and White" once again had a victorious smile on his face: with the 4-cylinder engine block from 1962, the racing cylinder head and his turbocharger idea, BMW had scaled the absolute summit of motor sport.

With BMW 507

von Falkenhausen with Paul Rosche 1975

All Photos: BMW

(May 22, 2007)

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