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Messerschmitt - marque/manufacturer information

List of all Messerschmitt cars

Messerschmitt AG, later Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB) was a famous German aircraft manufacturer, known primarily for its World War II fighter aircraft, notably the Bf 109 and Me 262. The company survived in the post-war era, undergoing a number of mergers and changing its name from Messerschmitt before being bought by DASA in 1989, now part of EADS.

Background

The government authorities were instrumental in setting up Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG (BFW) from the unprofitable Otto-Flugzeugwerke In February 1916, the south German engineering company MAN AG and several banks purchased the aircraft builder Otto-Flugzeugwerke. On this company’s premises the investors established a new business, Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG. The articles of association were drawn up on February 19 and 20, and completed on March 2, 1916. Details of the company were recorded in the Commercial Register with an equity capital of RM 1,000,000 on March 7, 1916. 36% of the capital was provided by the Bank für Handel und Industrie, Berlin, 30% by MAN AG and 34% by Hermann Bachstein, Berlin. The first Chairman of the Board of Management was Peter Eberwein, who had previously been employed at Albatros Flugzeugwerke.

Due to the need of immediate aircraft production, there was no time for development work, so BFW manufactured aircraft under license from the Albatros Flugzeugwerke of Berlin. This meant that within a month of being set up, the company was able to supply aircraft to the war ministries of Prussia and Bavaria. However, major quality problems were encountered at the start. The German air crews frequently complained about the serious defects that appeared in the first machines from BFW. The same thing had happened with the aircraft from the predecessor company run by Gustav Otto. The reason for these deficiencies was a lack of precision in production. The majority of the workforce had been taken over by BFW from Otto Flugzeugwerke. It was only organizational changes and more intensive supervision of the assembly line that succeeded in resolving these problems by the end of 1916. This done, BFW was able, in the months that followed, to turn out over 200 aircraft per month with a workforce of around 3,000, and rose to become the largest aircraft manufacturer in Bavaria.

The end of the war hit BFW hard, since military demand for aircraft collapsed. The company’s management were thus forced to look for new products with which to maintain their position in the market. Since WWI aircraft were largely built from wood to keep their weight down, BFW was equipped with the very latest joinery plant. What is more, the company still held stocks of materials sufficient for about 200 aircraft, and worth 4.7 million reichsmarks. It therefore seemed a good idea to use both the machinery and the materials for the production of furniture and fitted kitchens. In addition, from 1921 onwards, the company manufactured motorcycles of its own design under the names of Flink and Helios.

In the autumn of 1921 the Austrian financier Camillo Castiglioni first announced his interest in purchasing BFW. While most of the shareholders accepted his offer, MAN AG initially held on to its shareholding in BFW. But Castiglioni wanted to acquire all the shares. He was supported in this by BMW’s Managing Director Franz Josef Popp who, in a letter to the chairman of MAN, described BFW as a “dead factory, which possesses no plant worth mentioning, and consists very largely of dilapidated and unsuitable wooden sheds situated in a town that is extremely unfavorable for industrial activities and whose status continues to give little cause for enthusiasm”. Apparently Popp was still in close contact with Castiglioni and was perhaps even privy to the latter’s plans for merging BMW with BFW. It was probably in the spring of 1922 that Castiglioni and Popp persuaded MAN to give up its shares in BFW, so that now the company belonged exclusively to Castiglioni. Then in May of the same year, when the Italian-born investor was able to acquire BMW’s engine business from Knorr-Bremse AG, nothing more stood in the way of a merger between the aircraft company BFW and the engine builders BMW.

Reincarnation

Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Aircraft Works), also known as BFW, was reformed in 1926 in Augsburg, Bavaria when Udet-Flugzeugbau GmbH was changed into a joint-stock company. In the early stages, BMW AG held a stake in this company and was represented by Josef Popp, who held a place on the Supervisory Board.

Willy Messerschmitt joined the company in 1927 as chief designer and engineer, and formed a design team. He promoted a concept he called "light weight construction" in which many typically separate load-bearing parts were merged into a single reinforced firewall, thereby saving weight and improving performance. The first true test of the concept was in the Bf 108 Taifun sports-plane, which would soon be setting all sorts of records. Based on this performance the company was invited to submit a design for the Luftwaffe's 1935 fighter contest, winning it with the Bf 109, based on the same construction methods.

From this point on Messerschmitt became a favorite of the Nazi party, as much for his designs as his political abilities and the factory location in southern Germany away from the "clumping" of aviation firms on the northern coast. BFW was reconstituted as Messerschmitt AG on July 11, 1938, with Willy Messerschmitt as chairman and managing director. The renaming of BFW resulted in the company's RLM designation changing from Bf to Me for all newer designs after the acquisition date. Existing types, such as the Bf 109 and 110, retained their earlier designation in official documents, although sometimes the newer designations were used as well, most often by subcontractors. In practise, all BFW/Messerschmitt aircraft from 108 to 163 (not the same plane as the Me 163) were prefixed Bf, all later types with Me.

World War II

During the war Messerschmitt became a major design supplier, their Bf 109 and Bf 110 forming the vast majority of fighter strength for the first half of the war. Several other designs were also ordered, including the enormous Me 321 Gigant transport glider, and its six-engined follow on, the Me 323. However for the second half of the war, Messerschmitt turned almost entirely to jet-powered designs, producing the World's first operational jet fighter, the Me 262 Schwalbe (“Swallow”). They also produced the DFS-designed Me 163 Komet, the first rocket-powered design to enter service.

Messerschmitt had its share of poor designs as well; the Me 210, designed as a follow-on to the 110, was a disaster that almost led to the forced dissolution of the company. The design problems were eventually addressed in the Me 410 Hornisse, but only small numbers were built before all attention turned to the 262. Late in the war, Messerschmitt also worked on a heavy "Amerikabomber" design, the Me 264, which flew in prototype form but was too late to see combat.

Post-war

After World War II, the company was not allowed to produce aircraft. One alternative the company came up with was the three wheeled motorcycle/bubble car or Kabinenroller (cabinscooter) KR175 / KR200. According to an urban legend, it was made with old aeroplane parts. This is not true but as it was designed by an aircraft engineer, Fritz Fend, it is probably no coincidence it looks somewhat like an aeroplane. A well known appearance of this car is in Terry Gilliam's Brazil, to great effect, Cousin Itt drives a white one in The Addams Family, and a red KR200 was owned by the singer Elvis Presley.

The cars were actually made by Fend's own company in the Messerschmitt works at Regensburg and Willy Messerschmitt had very little to do with the vehicles other than ruling that they carried his name. Fend's aircraft influence certainly showed itself in his desire to achieve a light yet stiff frame with low wind resistance from the tandem seating with aerodynamic steel body. This resulted in a surprisingly high performance from 175 and later 200cc single cylinder two-stroke engines. Some would say that his ultimate achievement with the Kabinenroller was the four-wheeled TG500 or 'Tiger' with a twin cylinder 490cc engine capable of higher speeds and sports car handling. However, there is little doubt that the best developed and most successful was the three-wheeled KR200. Production of the KR200 ceased in 1964.

The rear-mounted engine of the 3-wheeler was a 191 cc Sachs single-cylinder twostroke, blast-cooled. A novel feature was the Siba Dynastart having both forward and reverse contact-breakers giving the car four forward and four reverse gears via the enclosed oilbath secondary chain. With handlebar-steering the control in a fast reverse gear, say at about 35 mph, was quite manageable. The general handling was good but the brakes were a weak point; a non-factory conversion to front 8-inch hydraulic brakes was marketted in Britain. For use on the UK roads the side-hinged Perspex canopy still lifted & tilted to the right. The rear seat was actually a small bench-type able to hold an adult and a child. Not many were sold in Britain due to the high price; I believe only two of the 4-wheeled variants were ever imported (BM-S)

Less known is the fact that the Messerschmitt factory also produced prefabricated houses, which were designed as "self-building-kits" mainly based on an alloy frame work.

Return to aviation

On 6 June 1968, Messerschmitt AG merged with the small civil engineering and civil aviation firm Bölkow, becoming Messerschmitt-Bölkow. The following May, the firm acquired Hamburger Flugzeugbau (HFB), the aviation division of Blohm + Voss. The company then changed its name to Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB). In 1989 MBB was taken over by Deutsche Aerospace AG (DASA), which was renamed Daimler-Benz Aerospace in 1995. With the 1998 merger of Daimler Benz and the Chrysler Corporation conglomerates, the aerospace division was renamed DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG on 7 November 1998. European defense consolidation led to DASA's being merged with Aerospatiale-Matra of France and Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA) of Spain to form the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) in 2000. The former DaimlerChrysler Aerospace now operates as "EADS Germany".

Aircraft

Model Name First flight Remarks
Bf 108 Taifun (Typhoon) 1934 trainer & transport
Bf 109 September, 1935 fighter, bomber interceptor; later versions as Me 109
Bf 110 12 May, 1936 twin-engine heavy fighter, night fighter
Me 155 not built high-altitude fighter, developed from Bf 109; not built, project transferred to Blohm + Voss as the Bv 155
Bf 161 heavy fighter; prototype
Bf 162 Jaguar 1937 schnellbomber (fast bomber) based on Bf 110
Bf 163 STOL reconnaissance aircraft; prototype built by Weserflug AG
Me 163 Komet (Comet) early 1941 rocket-powered interceptor
Me 209 1 August, 1938 designed to break world air speed record; attempted fighter conversion failed
Me 209-II 1943 fighter; update to Bf 109, never produced
Me 210 September, 1939 twin-engine heavy fighter; also used for reconnaissance
Me 261 Adolfine 1941 designed as long-range record-setter; three built and used for reconnaissance
Me 262 Schwalbe (Swallow) 18 July, 1942 twin-engine fighter & attack aircraft; first operational jet-powered fighter
Me 263 never flown rocket-powered interceptor; advanced development of Me 163
Me 264 Amerika (America) 23 December, 1942 strategic bomber, developed under Amerika Bomber program
Me 265 not built attack aircraft, proposed
Me 309 July, 1942 fighter; advanced but underperforming design meant to replace Me 109
Me 310 1 built pressurized Me 210 development, proposed
Me 321 7 March, 1941 large transport glider
Me 323 Gigant (Giant) Fall, 1941 large transport aircraft; powered development of Me 321
Me 328 Fall, 1943 pulsejet-powered selbstopfer or parasite fighter
Me 329 heavy fighter-bomber; unpowered glider only
Me 334 tailless fighter, similar to Me 163 (development abandoned)
Me 409 Zwilling (Twin) heavy fighter; combined two Me 209 fuselages into one airframe, similar to the Me 109Z and Heinkel He 111Z (development abandoned)
Me 410 Hornisse (Hornet) 1943 twin-engine heavy fighter and fast bomber; development of Me 210
Me 509 not built fighter, based on Me 309, with engine located behind cockpit as in P-39 Airacobra
Me 510 not built twin-engine fighter-bomber; Me 410 derivative
Me 600 Bussard (Buzzard) rare, provisional designation for Arthur Sack A.S.7V-1
Me 609 heavy fighter; combined two Me 309 fuselages into one airframe, as with Me 109Z and Me 409 (development abandoned)
P.1101 not flown prototype swing-wing jet interceptor; later inspired Bell X-5

References and notes

  1. ^ BMW Historical Archives www.BMWgroup.com
  2. ^ Answers.com (n.d.). . Retrieved 22 March 2007.

List of all Messerschmitt cars

Source: Wikipedia

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