Max Friz (1883 in Urach – 1966 in Tegernsee) was a German mechanical engineer specializing in engine design. He was the key contributor of engine design and innovation that led to the founding of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) in 1917.
Assumed to be originally from Urach, very little is known about Friz' youth. It is known however, that at a young age, he apprenticed to the Kuhn steam engine company in Cannstatt starting in 1898. In 1902 he enrolled at the Royal Building Trade School in Stuttgart-Esslingen furthering his engineering skills. In 1906 he was employed by Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, in the Design Office, making major contributions to the design of the racing engine for the 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix car that won the French Grand Prix.<ref>BMW Historical Archives</ref>
Friz designed the first practical German aircraft engines in 1912-1913 while at Austro-Daimler. The engines had separate cylinders on the crankcase and an overhead camshaft driven by a vertical shaft and bevel gears. At the end of 1916 the young engineer Max Friz applied for a position with Rapp Motorenwerke. At that time Friz was still working for the Daimler engine company in Untertürkheim, near Stuttgart. However, he was frustrated because the chief engineer, Paul Daimler, ignored the suggestions of his young assistant on engine development. Faced with this situation, Friz remembered his former colleague, Karl Rapp. At first Rapp was going to turn down Friz’s request; however, Josef Popp successfully intervened on Friz’s behalf, because he recognized that Rapp Motorenwerke lacked an able designer.
At the Daimler engine company, Max Friz had tried in vain to develop an over-sized, high-compression engine, but Paul Daimler had firmly committed himself to supercharger technology. Not until he had moved to Munich was Friz able to put his own ideas for a high-altitude engine into practice. In the space of a few weeks he designed a new aero-engine, which, with an innovative carburettor and a variety of other technical details, was superior to any other German aero-engine. Later, this engine would gain world renown under the designation “BMW IIIa”.
Friz was appointed to General Manager of BMW-Flugmotorenbau GmbH, Munich in 1934, and was there until 1937. With BMW continued growth into automobiles, Friz succeeded Leo C. Grass as General Manager of Flugmotorenfabrik Eisenach GmbH, overseeing development of automobile engine design and development. 1945 Friz retired from BMW. Friz was honored with an Honorary Doctorate from the Munich College of Advanced Technology in 1954.
Died in Tegernsee.
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