SOLD – 1938 Frazer Nash – BMW 327 /80

  • 1938 Frazer Nash – BMW 327 /80
  • Early, Matching Numbers example
  • The road test car featured in both The Motor and The Autocar in 1939
  • Ex Ronnie Symondson and single family ownership for 55 years
  • £200,000 nut and bolt restoration
  • Outstanding condition and wonderful history file


Before the war, BMW started in the manufacture of aero engines and motorcycles; it was with the acquisition of the Dixi works at Eisenach in 1928 that allowed BMW to enter the motorcar market. The early Dixi cars were essentially Austin 7s built under license from Austin, and whilst they soon made several improvements to the design, BMW had greater plans for their new car department. In 1933 came the first ‘true’ BMW car, the 303, which had a twin tube frame, rear swing axle and a 6-cylinder engine.

BMW’s reputation as a manufacturer of sporting motorcars really started with the annual Eifelrennen event, held at the Nürburgring on 14th June 1936.  Here Ernst Henne beat a field that included 1½-litre single seat racing cars driving the prototype of what would become one of the most iconic sports cars of all time – the legendary ‘328’. The fact that this victory had been achieved only eight years after BMW’s establishment as an automobile manufacturer is all the more remarkable.

Capitalising on this success, the company launched a new range of models that would become the foundation of their reputation as a manufacturer of the highest quality cars with both power and style. The flagship of the range was the 328, which incorporated a lightweight tubular chassis and a powerful straight-6 engine with overhead valves and triple carburettors. Alongside the 328 was the 327 which was the company’s sports tourer model based on a shortened, boxed, ladder-type chassis with semi-elliptic rear springs, a Hurth 4-speed gearbox and hydraulic brakes all round.

The 327 was available with a choice of two engines, one was the company’s standard 6-cylinder, but for an extra charge the car could be fitted with the 328’s 80hp unit. These high-power cars were denoted by the appendage /28 on the continental cars and /80 on the Frazer Nash right-hand drive British cars. This high-power unit was the masterpiece of designer Rudolf Schleicher and although only displacing 1,971cc, the engine had hemispherical combustion chambers, inclined valves without the recourse to overhead or twin camshafts and twin downdraft inlet ports giving a very credible 80bhp output in standard tune. This design had two rocker shaft (one situated above each bank of valves) giving the engine an external appearance almost indistinguishable from that of a twin-overhead-cam design but with considerable cost saving. This engine not only went into the BMW 327 and 328 but also post-War would be used by Cooper, Bristol and Frazer Nash with great racing success.


The Classic Motor Hub are delighted to offer for sale chassis #74205, a pristine BMW 327 /80 with a wonderful history, which must surely make it one of the most desirable and interesting examples of its type.

AFN Ltd. took delivery of #74205 on the 3rd of August 1938 where it was put straight into action as a demonstrator before being registered by the company on the 1st of September.  Chassis 74205, was the 5th example produced (the new model started with chassis number 74201) it is therefore an extremely early example. In fact AFN were so keen to get hold of the new model quickly that they collected this example from the factory unpainted as shown in the BMW factory records. It was then loaned on test to both The Motor magazine in March 1939 and The Autocar of April 1939 – both articles singing the new models praises and displaying some wonderful pictures on its test journey.

Shortly after the Autocar article AFN sold 74205 to Mr. A.R. Twentyman on the 29th of April 1939 before the outbreak of war when the car was laid up for the duration. Following the conflict, Mr Twentyman used it as his every day transport until the well-known Bugatti enthusiast R.C. (Ronnie) Symondson purchased it from him on the 9th of May 1951 and registered it at his home in Surrey.  Ronnie used the BMW 327 for mainly road use although he did venture onto the track once with it and his memories of the car are one of charm, comfort and reliability. It only let him down once in this period of motoring when the first gear stripped and the throttle linkage broke at the same time – the drive home was completed in second gear using the hand throttle!

The replacement first gear was made using a Bristol component-machined down in length but otherwise identical to the BMW for the Hurth gearbox. Eventually due to excessive oil consumption the block was re-bored to +20 thou with new high-compression pistons and rings fitted. The bottom half of the engine was stripped and rebuilt using original lead-bronze big end bearings – these works were done by Thompson and Taylor’s experimental department. In 1952 the paintwork was starting to show signs of its age and the car was repainted in black and grey replacing the original black and ivory livery. The mileage was still only 37,000 miles having remained unused during the war, at this stage Ronnie sold it for £750 (£55 more than the original new price in 1938) to Mr. William Basil Bryan who registered it in his name on the 16th of September 1953 The 327 would remain in the Bryan family for the following 55 years! The first journey made with the Bryan family was to take their young son Tony back to Oundle School where a top speed of 85mph was reached and a crowd of admiring schoolboys gathered around on arrival! The next major family outing was to Goodwood on Easter Monday 1954, an eventful journey with four on board when thanks to a blown core plug the car retired in a cloud of steam and the journey ended under tow from Ockley to Westcott and it remained a project that would not turn a wheel under its own power for many years.

William Bryan did set about repairing the car’s fairly routine problem but sadly his list of chores grew and the renovation outlived him. He joined the BMW Car Club becoming the social secretary and the work on the car faltered. It would seem that he was quite a perfectionist and even the smallest jobs took an eternity and so the car remained ‘mid-restoration’ until his death in 1982! Inherited by his son Tony, who had enjoyed the memorable trip back to school years before, he set about getting the family heirloom up and running. He almost managed to complete the job and in 1985 wrote an interesting account of the restoration process however it was clearly still not roadworthy. Tony eventually sold the car twenty five years later to its savior, Richard Wilkinson in 2007.

On acquiring the Bryan family car, Richard went about bringing it back to its full former glory, employing the best specialists in the country to work tirelessly until it was perfect. Steve Stanton was entrusted with the mechanical work while Panel Craft, Coachbuilt Horsepower and The Vintage and Classic Paint Shop focussed on the body and the interior trimming work was entrusted to F. Pritchard. The nut-and-bolt restoration took 4 years and was about as comprehensive as it was possible to be. Every aspect of the car was attended to and brought up to the highest standard at a cost in the region of £200,000.

To list all the work done would be impossible but every invoice for the renovation is on file with detailed accounts of the tasks performed, which makes for a very interesting, but somewhat lengthy read. A short list of some of the major work carried out is as follows:

  • The block was stripped, line bored and fitted with new liners.
  • This was combined with a new BMW crankshaft, new con-rods, new Cosworth pistons, new camshaft, cam-followers and unleaded valve seats.
  • A Bristol gearbox was installed with overdrive
  • The instruments were overhauled
  • The brakes and suspension were completely overhauled.
  • A new wiring loom was fitted with provisions for a modern telephone charger and radio.
  • The body, which had remained largely original, was stripped to bare metal, repaired and repainted – a huge job on these cars!
  • The interior was re-trimmed with Connolly hide, new carpets and double duck hood fabricated.

Following the restoration there was the inevitable period of shakedown, during which the car was looked after and serviced by the well-known VSCC regular James Baxter.

This BMW 327/80 is now presented in the most wonderful condition and has finally been used regularly. Immediately available in The Classic Motor Hub Showroom, we are proud to offer a rare opportunity to acquire a significant and beautifully restored, matching numbers Frazer Nash-BMW 327/80. These are one of the most usable and enjoyable pre-War cars to drive and with the Bristol gearbox installed are a delight for long distance rallies and tours.

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