The German BMW Company started out as an aircraft engine factory in 1916. Then, after making woodworking machinery after World War I, they concentrated on motorcycle engines with the 500cc side-valve flat twin unit designed by Max Friz. In 1923 BMW began designing and building their own motorcycles, the first being to 500cc side-valve R32. The R32 featured the transverse flat twin engine, engine speed clutch, unit gearbox and shaft transmission. The R32 also had a leaf spring front fork with trailing link action very much like Indian motorcycles.
In 1930 BMW introduced pressed steel frames and used them until 1933, when they did a redesign. At this time the first oil-damped telescopic front forks were introduced, which was a major contribution to motorcycling technology. BMW can claim to be one of the oldest motorcycle companies in existence and, with their transverse-engined flat twins, to have fostered longest-living motorcycle design ever. (The 1934 BMW pictured here is on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum by John Parham of Anamosa, Iowa.)