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History of the BMW 2002

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History of the BMW 2002

The BMW 2002 of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s started the success for the Company and led to the very successful 3-Series. As early as 1963, BMW had discussed the need to enter new niche markets, with a range of powerful and light compact two door cars. If you’re looking to buy a BMW 2002, hopefully understanding the background of the cars history will help you in your final decision.

A huge following for the powerful and agile cars, the “02” soon built up and set new standards for small cars. They were the vehicle of choice for many drivers and competed with great success in touring car races across the globe, helping re-establish the sporting image that BMW had enjoyed in the 1930’s.

The focus on a short wheelbase two door car would bring handling advantages, the lighter body would help improve performance whilst the two door set up would provide a sporty look. The two door saloon did not take long to design with the four door New Class model wheelbase shortened by two inches to 98.4 inches. The interior was re-designed to suit by Wilhelm Hofmeister whilst the front of the car received a minor facelift. Most of the running gear was supplied by the existing four-door saloons, although there was a narrow track rear axle, which made front and rear tracks equal on the two-door model. The decision was made to launch the car with the 1,573cc “1600” engine and, decided to call it the 1600-2 (the figure 2 standing for its two doors).

Launched in March 1966 the 1600-2 was immediately acclaimed as a winner. The lighter body made the car nearly as fast as the 1800 sedan, while the excellent handling added a sporting ingredient missing in the larger car. The motoring press was unable to resist comparisons with Alfa Romeo’s sports cars, which suited BMW’s needs perfectly. At the Frankfurt Motor show in autumn 1967, they announced an even sportier version – the 1600ti – with a 105 hp twin carburetor engine.

In the late 1960’s BMW were considering the possibility of giving their two-door vehicle another engine in the shape of a 2-litre relative of the 1600ti’s four cylinders. Not long after the 1600-2 was announced, Alex von Falkenhausen had a 2-litre engine fitted into an example of the car for his own use. Completely independently, BMW’s Planning Director Helmut Werner Bonsch had exactly the same conversion carried out on his car. Neither man knew of the other’s car until one day when both cars were in the BMW workshops at the same time. Both were very keen about their 2-litre two-doors, and decided to put a formal proposal to the BMW Board that such a model should be considered for production.

The cause was helped thanks to rave reviews for the 1600-2 models in the American motoring press. BMW were well aware of the importance of sales success in such a large market and up until this point they did not have a successful model. Wishing to capitalize on the successful reviews, importer Max Hoffman urged BMW to provide him with a similar model, preferably with even more performance. The only model in that range was the 1600ti. Unfortunately, the twin-carburettor engine did not meet the new Federal exhaust emissions regulations, and therefore could not be sold in the US. However, the 100hp 2-litre engine in the 2000 coupe had been made to meet the regulations.

The solution was simple, BMW Sales Director Paul Hahnemann was well aware of the US market requirement, and so he supported the proposal for a 2-litre version of the two-door car and the sales argument won the day despite opposition and the 2002 was born. There were three distinct “generations” of the BMW 2002 range during its eight and a half year production life. The first generation cars were built between 1968 and 1971. The second generation, or model 71, cars were built between 1971 and 1973. And the third generation, or model 73, cars were built between 1973 and the end of production in 1976.

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