Lot 357

Monterey 2022

1938 BMW 328 Roadster


$698,000 USD | Sold

United States | Monterey, California



Chassis No.
  • One of 464 examples of the 328 ever made; a rare icon of BMW racing heritage
  • Supplied new in 1938 to the Munich-based BMW dealer Automag, the first officially recognized BMW dealership
  • Recipient of a concours-quality restoration from 2012 to 2019, carried out by experts in the United Kingdom
  • Eligible for numerous competition and concours events including the California Mille, Goodwood Revival, Le Mans Classic, Mille Miglia, and many more
Addendum: Please note that an import duty of 2.5% of the purchase price is payable on this lot if the buyer is a resident of the United States.

The pre-war era of automotive manufacturing saw the likes of Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Bugatti, and Mercedes-Benz typify the age with powerful-yet-complex performance machines. By contrast, the BMW 328 emerged in 1936 as a meticulously engineered, lightweight, well-balanced, and surprisingly user-friendly racer in a time when such qualities rarely transferred to cars intended for the motorsport track.

Entering production in April 1936, the 328 was extensively campaigned by BMW’s Works team at contemporary racing events. The very first car, chassis number 85001, was driven by Ernst Henne to 1st overall at the Eifelrennen Nürburgring, while in April 1937, the first customer cars were delivered. A combination of factory and privateer cars were entered into subsequent races, with both scoring notable victories in the late 1930s at the Grand Prix des Frontières, Bucharest Grand Prix, and Eläintarhanajo in Finland.

In 1938, the 328 was victorious at some 125 events, including 1-2-3 finishes at the Mille Miglia, International Avusrunnen, Grand Prix des Frontières, and two victories at the Nürburgring. These successes were followed by a three-car team entry at Le Mans in 1939 (finishing 5th, 7th, and 9th), and outright dominance at the shortened 1940 Mille Miglia, where team cars finished 1st and 3rd while privateers finished 5th and 6th. By this time, the 328 could be tuned to reach 60 mph from a standstill in 8.8 seconds, and it was capable of a top speed of over 110 mph. British BMW importer and privateer, H.J. Aldington, was once clocked hitting 117 mph at Brooklands, a staggering speed for the era.

By September 1939, 464 examples of the 328 had been produced, and the model remained dominant in club racing though the 1950s.


This car was delivered to the Munich dealer Automag on 1 April 1938. Automag was the first recorded BMW dealership, with the dealer center code “101,” and is still in existence. From then, the car’s earliest known history is limited, but it is known that in the early 1950s, chassis 85144 made its way to the United States—and it even retains a 1954/1955 parking permit from Harvard University. In 1969, the car was owned by Mr. Robert Tarwacki of South Bend, Indiana. He and his brother, Donald, were board directors of the South Bend Region of the Sports Car Club of America. The pair owned other great sportscars of the era including a Ferrari 250 and Mercedes-Benz 300SL.

Mr. James Riley of Chicago is recorded to have subsequently owned the BMW, culminating in a sale to its next owner in 1982. At this point, the car was partially restored; having owned two other 328s, however, a project car was no daunting task to its buyer, who kept the vehicle until 2010. From the early 1980s, the car had gradually progressed to the rolling-chassis stage, but in 2010 this Roadster was acquired by the consigning owner, who restarted the project from square one to achieve the level of quality the car deserved.

To this end, the workshop first addressed the body. This was entrusted to the specialist coachbuilder Simon Isles, who had experience with numerous pre-war BMWs. Isles was tasked with restoring the ash frame and metalwork, while retaining as much of the original material as possible. Numerous stampings were discovered as the body was dismantled (see photos on file); all these components were retained. Some timber around the door openings required replacement, and the only large part that could not be reused was said to be the front right wing.

With the coachwork complete, the car was transferred to Quest Restorations, where the process of stripping every last nut and bolt commenced. Ensuring that the frame was square before painting, the rolling chassis was carefully built up using new road springs, bearings, and bushings. The engine was then rebuilt by Mike Robinson and reinstalled, along with the transmission following a rebuild by Ian Nuttall Racing.

Finished in a stunning coat of black paint, the body was mated to the chassis prior to the final fitting stage. The period-correct small taillights were retained, as was the instrumentation—which was restored—and features a rarely seen small oil temperature gauge. Lastly, the period-correct Automag plaques were fixed to the body. The interior was retrimmed in deep red leather, alongside red carpets, a black hood and black tonneau covers. Unlike some other 328s, this car has a particularly attractive profile with the top raised.

Finishing touches include tools mounted in the engine bay, and a pair of rear wheel spats that can be fitted or removed as desired. All the work carried out was chronicled in photographs that are presented with the car alongside many pages of invoices.

Taking nearly seven years to complete, chassis 85144 presents beautifully today, and is a testament to the high level of craftsmanship used during the restoration. This BMW 328 Roadster, accompanied by FIVA identification issued in June 2021, is now ready to take its next owner to the many prestigious events for which it is eligible—be that on the road or on the concours field.