BMW celebrates 137 birthday of Max Friz, father of the boxer engine

BMW motorcycles are perhaps best known for their horizontally-opposed twin engines, known throughout as “boxer twins” – an engine design that remained virtually unchanged for almost 100 years now.

But did you know that the man behind the boxer twin’s design was born 137 years ago today, October 1? His name is Max Friz.

137 years ago, the father of the BMW boxer engine was born imageMax Friz

Max Friz was born on October 1, 1883, in Urach, in the district of Reutlingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Though little is known about his youth, it was said that Friz had already demonstrated keen talent in the field of engineering even at a young age. At the turn of the century, in 1902, he started working for Daimler and made major contributions to the design of the racing engine for the 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix car that won the French Grand Prix.

By 1912, he was designing aircraft engines for Daimler’s engine company in Untertürkheim, near Stuttgart. In 1916, however, Friz became frustrated with Daimler’s chief engineer, Paul Daimler, son of the company’s founder, Gottlieb. Friz claimed Paul did not take his design suggestions seriously and decided to apply for a position at Rapp Motorenwerke.

After some years, Friz designed and developed aircraft engines for Germany’s war efforts, helping the company grow faster than they ever could have imagined. This necessitated the restructuring of the company and in 1917, Rapp Motorenwerke was renamed to Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH, the predecessor to the today’s BMW AG.

137 years ago, the father of the BMW boxer engine was born imageBMW R32

After Germany lost WWI, they were forbidden from building and designing new aircraft under the Treaty of Versailles. This forced them to switch what was left of their resources to the design and development of motorcycles, valuable forms of transport in war-torn Europe. With the R32 motorcycle, BMW Motorrad as we know it was born.

137 years ago, the father of the BMW boxer engine was born imageThe biggest boxer twin-engine to date, the 1,800cc “Big Boxer”

Today, that boxer twin-engine layout is still being used by BMW for a wide variety of their motorcycle models. From a measly 486cc that only produced 8.6 Ps (less power than a modern Honda Wave 125) in 1923, today’s boxer engines are more powerful and sophisticated than ever. Now, there’s the R 1250 GS with ShiftCam technology which we took to the mountains of Ilocos Sur. We sure enjoyed every bit of its 138 Ps of power and 143 Nm of torque. Then there’s the upcoming 1800cc boxer twin-powered R18, which could arrive here in the country by December or early next year.

Happy birthday Max Friz!