It would be pretty unthinkable for modern-day BMW to sell a car that did not feature its trademark kidney grilles prominently on the front. Even for their electric cars that require no traditional radiator grille like the i3 and i8, BMW still managed to work those organ-that-makes-pee-shaped elements into the cars’ faces. But BMW hasn’t always been so strict about this. There have been a few kidney-less BMW holdouts, and for your edification, I’ve compiled them into a handy chart. You’re welcome.
The 1933 BMW 303 was the first BMW to feature the kidney grille design, which is why two of BMW’s earlier cars didn’t feature the grille—it didn’t exist yet.
BMW was very consistent with the grille design until after WWII, when they licensed the Iso Isetta design for the BMW Isetta, which had a door on the front, and an engine in the back and no grille.
The Isetta-derived BMW 600 and the later, much more conventional-looking BMW 700 followed, and also avoided the kidneys.
When BMW bought out German automaker Glas, they brought over two Glas models—one of which was retrofitted with a little pair of kidneys, the other not.
Why am I telling you all this? It’s all here:
There, see! As far as I can tell, it’s just these six models that got BMW badges and no kidneys. I’m not counting racing-specific cars or concepts and one-offs, just production cars.
I do have one I’m not sure of, though:
Right after WWII, BMW’s Eisenach factory was on the other side of the wall, and under Soviet control. The factory was cut off from the rest of BMW in what became West Germany, but for a while, before the factory changed its name to EMW, some BMW 340s were built at the factory, and some were built with updated styling that lacked the kidney grilles.
In fact, since the other factories weren’t able to produce cars right away, all 1945 to 1951 “BMWs” were built at this factory that wasn’t exactly still a BMW factory.
These weren’t technically from BMW as we now know it, and were closer to Wartburg ancestors, but they’re still kidney-grille-free cars with BMW roundels. So do they count? Maybe?
Did I miss any? I know you’ll tell me if I did, but it never hurts to ask.