Written by Rob James
The BMW 2002 was crucial to helping to save BMW from bankruptcy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Coming as part of the German automaker’s ‘New Class’ series in the 1960s, the 2002 was particularly popular in the United States, and helped to brand BMW as a leader in sporty compact and luxury cars. The two door compact sedan 2002 and its sportier 2002tii also paved the way for the success of the BMW 3 and 5 Series, setting up a legacy that underpins BMW’s success today.
BMW made a number of costly gambles after World War II that almost led them to collapse in the 1960s. The BMW 501 was associated with high cost, but limited appeal cars, while the company also over invested in failed bubble design cars. Competition with the VW Beetle in the early 1960s also led to problems for the German carmaker.
Investment from Harald and Herbert Quandt, however, helped BMW to gradually recover with the New Class from 1962. The 1500 four door Saloon, and the development of sportier models in the BMW 1600 helped popularise BMWs in the United States, with the four and two door 1600 particularly epitomising the New Class’s handling and performance strengths.
The introduction of the 2000 New Class Coupe also helped to distinguish BMW’s strengths in the four door sedan market from 1966, which was helped by the performance of the 1600-2 two door model, and the 1600ti. However, experiments in providing a larger engine for a two door marque, which were offset by the need to bring BMWs in line with US safety regulations, saw the German company turn towards the power of the BMW 2002 from 1968.
The BMW 2002
Installing a 2.0 litre engine in a 1600 type two seater model provided the BMW 2002 with an edge over its competitors, with the sport performance of the car helped by its participation in the European Touring Car Championship. The 2000/2 seater model became commonly known as the 2002, and was gradually exported from 1968. Early changes from the 1600s were, however, minor, with the engine size added to by reclining seats, a three finger clutch in 1969, and automatic transmission in the same year. The car also faced challenges to comply with safety regulations, while still producing high speeds.
The BMW 2002’s sports potential was upgraded in 1971 with the 2002tii, a faster, more powerful modification that was later joined by turbo charged marques in Europe in 1973. The 2002ii retained the two door sports sedan basis of the 2002, but through a four cylinder engine with 5800rpm, a 188mph top speed, and the ability to achieve 0-60mph in 9.8 seconds.
The use of a Kugelfischer fuel injection system also helped the car to a higher compression ratio. Subsequent editions of the BMW 2002, the 2002tii, Turbo versions in Europe, and touring cars, helped to strengthen the New Class’s reputation around the world, before the introduction of the BMW 3 Series in 1975 caused the ending of production.
The BMW 2002 sold 860,000 units by 1976, and helped turn around the fortunes of BMW. The particular impact of the car in the United States also helped establish the BMW brand as one of the most admired among car enthusiasts. The 2002 also influenced the design of the BMW 3 and 5 series, while its power translated into the successful development of the BMW M Series from 1972.
Rob James is a mechanic and kit car enthusiast, his favourite car manufacturer is Cooper BMW. He Recommend you check out your local approved dealer and pick up one of these iconic motors! In his spare time Rob likes to blog about automotive news, general maintenance and enthusiast rallies.