From as far back as I can remember, BMW cars have always been sporting in nature and imbued with quality. For BMW in the 1960s and 1970s, this period was one of growth, new models and greater public awareness for the brand. ‘Sporting’ and ‘quality’ are not always comfortable bedfellows when combined with bold innovation, but this successful marriage was certainly achieved by BMW in the 1960s and 1970s.
It could be said that with the ‘New Class’ model range introduced in 1961, that BMW pioneered the compact, sporty saloon class which created a sensation in the years that followed. Around the world, the BMW 1500/1800/2000 ‘New Class’ was known by different names, and in Rhodesia this series was called the 1800 Tiger, which in its day summed up the car’s performance quite well. Between the years 1962-1972, an impressive 337,597 units of the New Class series were produced.
Based on the New Class, the smaller 02 Series was introduced in 1966, at first as the 1602. Various engine and performance upgrades were introduced to offer the customer improved driving quality and to keep the model competitive. The name Max Hoffman keeps cropping up in articles and books when one is reading about foreign or imported cars in the USA. Hoffman, a self-styled motor dealer in New York, did more than most give him credit for, when it came to promoting European exotica in the USA. It was Hoffman who spread the word about Porsche in the USA, and he also requested various performance enhanced models from Stuttgart. When it came to BMW, he too suggested to the Munich manufacturer that they should consider introducing a higher performing 02 model, at a time when American customers were demanding more sporty performance from their cars in the 1970s. This coincided with two of BMW’s own executives who, unbeknown to each other, ‘upgraded’ their 1602 company cars to take a 2-litre engine. Thus, the 2002 model was born two years after the 1602.
Several manufacturers were experimenting with turbocharging in the 1960s and 1970s, and each will claim to have been the first to introduce this technology into their production models. General Motors tried this in the 1960s with the Chevrolet Corvair Monza and the Oldsmobile Jetfire but following reliability problems, both models were withdrawn. In the early 1970s it was Porsche and BMW who succeeded with productionising this technology, and both the Porsche 930 Turbo and the BMW 2002 Turbo went on to become iconic performance roadgoing models.
The most impressive common denominator in all of the BMW models listed above, was the (almost) indestructible 2-litre M10 engine. This engine was used in motorsport with amazing results in the DTM racing series in Germany, and by other race car manufacturers (Chevron B8), who also valued the development potential of the basic engine block. The 2002 Turbo also competed in the Trans-Am series in America where in 1970 it competed with some success against the likes of Alfa Romeo, Porsche and Datsun.
This week we have dived into our archives to reveal a small selection of BMW 2000 images, as well as the 02 Series, and my own 1969 BMW 2000 CS. In the decade from 1966-1976, a total of 143,764 units of the 02 Series were produced, which included the Turbo and Cabriolet models. These latter two models only made up five per cent of the total production, the bulk being the standard 1602 and 2002 models. A much-loved model was the 3-door Touring, introduced in 1971 for just one year, with the result that these cars are today much sought after, thanks to the low production numbers.
Today, the 02 Series is enjoying a resurgence in popularity which has resulted in prices for these models rising, but the 2000 New Class and 02 Series are still undervalued in the market. You’d better get your skates on and find one while you still can!
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: BMW, Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale