The small Munich engineering firm Rapp Motorenwerke was a troubled aircraft engine manufacturer founded in 1913. In financial straits, founder Karl Friedrich Rapp was forced to resign and control was taken by a couple of Austrians. The new Austrian owners, Franz Josef Popp and Max Friz, subsequently merged Rapp with the even smaller Munich based Otto Aircraft firm and folded the entire mess into their own Bayerische Flugzuegwerke (BFw.) Shortly after, in 1916, the entire conglomeration was renamed Bayerische Motorenwerke (Bavarian Motor Works – get it?) The interesting part for us is that BFw had a small motorcycle sideline business that was retained, and improved upon by the recently consolidated BMW. The first BMW branded motorcycle came in the form of the R32, a 494cc flat twin cylinder engine mounted in a double loop tubular frame that had a top speed of 59 mph. The flat twin design cylinder engine architecture remains to this day, with a water cooled version introduced as recently as the fall of 2012. It is believed by many that the BMW logo was based on the circular design of a whirling propeller. This belief is surrounded by a degree of controversy, as other historians simply point to the color combination as being based on the Bavarian flag. Whatever you choose to believe, it is clear that the roots of the BMW we know today are based in aircraft engine manufacture.
While there may be some controversy over the origin of the BMW Logo, there is absolutely none regarding Yamaha. Yamaha’s distinctive logo featuring the three tuning forks is clearly attributable to the firm’s origin as a producer of Musical Instruments. Founder Torakusu Yamaha built his first reed organ in 1887. The Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd. (current Yamaha Corporation) was capitalized by Yamaha and his supporters ten years later in 1897. Pianos followed in 1900. The advent of Yamaha Motor, the motorcycle arm of the firm, came more than half a century later in 1955. That original firm continues to this day as a world leading producer of both musical instruments and powersports vehicles. The “tuning fork” folks are the current MotoGP world champions with Spanish rider Jorge Lorenzo. We don’t know if he plays piano.
Tomorrow we’ll cover the classic British bike builder BSA and relative newcomers to the scene KTM. Hope you’ll stop back.