16th April, 2006
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the BMW 02 Series.
From 1966 the series packaged the BMW mantra of dynamic driving in compact
form, spawning a generation of high performance cars and engines that were
present in motorsport several decades later. The engine from the 2002 formed the
foundation for the first BMW Formula 1 engine that took Nelson Piquet to victory
Forty years on, the 02 Series is enjoying renewed popularity, proving that
good BMW cars never die, they just improve with maturity.
A new era of automobile class: The 02.
Originally, it was only an internal designation, but these digits were to
become the stuff of legends: 2, later 02. In 1966, they were applied for the
first time to the type designation of the new 1600 and were simply meant to
identify it as the new two-door from BMW – by contrast to the standard BMW 1600
with four doors. Of course, this designation was only necessary on paper,
because the two models were actually quite distinct, even down to the family
The new type was smaller and even more agile than the saloons in the New
Class. The fact that the total length of the 1600-2 had been reduced by 27
centimetres to 4.23 metres played a role in defining its sporty profile, while
the wheelbase of 2,500 millimetres was only shortened by 5 centimetres. The
width of 1,330 millimetres for the front-axle track remained unchanged to match
the short overhangs. The roof was 4 centimetres lower which combined with the
flat front windscreen, the round headlamps and circular taillights to emphasise
dynamic appearance and sportiness.
Successful birthday surprise: The 1600-2.
The new model had its
first official outing on a very special occasion: On 7th May 1966, BMW AG
celebrated its 50th birthday. And this was the day on which the Chairman of the
Board of Management Gerhard Wilcke presented the BMW 1600-2 to the assembled
guests at the Bavarian State Opera House. Three days later, the two-door model
was launched in the public arena at the Geneva Motor Show. This was to be the
start of one of the most successful birthday surprises that BMW had ever given
to its customers.
Three years of development time.
Engineers worked on the secret
project identified by the development number 114 for three years. When they
started out, the Board of Management and Supervisory Board were still
considering development of the BMW LS in parallel, based on the BMW 700.
However, the minutes of a Supervisory Board meeting on 21st November 1963 stated
that “concerns related to timing, marketing and price tended to favour rejection
of this concept”. Instead, the board members put forward arguments for a
two-door saloon with a dry weight of around 775 kilogrammes to be launched at the
Frankfurt Motor Show in 1965. They recommended a water-cooled horizontal
four-cylinder and capacity between 1.2 and 1.5 litres. The car was to have cost
around 6,500 marks.
Board resolution: Two doors it is.
Not everything remained the
same. In fact nothing did. Only the two doors. And even that wasn’t certain from
the start. Six months after the Supervisory Board meeting referred to, the
minutes for the Board of Management meeting on 9th April 1964 state: “The issue of
whether to build the BMW 114 with four doors was again discussed. Following
extensive debate, the Board of Management reiterated its decision, only to
manufacture the BMW 114 in a two-door version. The following considerations were
- If the BMW 114 is only planned with four doors right from the start, the
sales price will increase by DM 325.
- If there is only a four-door version of the BMW 114, additional investment
of DM 2 million is required.
- If the car is planned in a four-door and in a two-door version, additional
investment of DM 5.9 million is incurred.
If a decision is taken to have a four-door version instead of a two-door
version, the plan to have the car ready for volume production in September 1965
is not realistic.”
Growth market: 1,300 cc becomes 1,600 cc.
Even the capacity class
originally envisaged quickly became unattractive. The desire for more power
grew. Registrations of cars with 1.5 litre engines had increased by around 80
percent within a period of three years. Necessity therefore became the mother of
invention as far as the Board of Management were concerned, and the new model
was given the 1.6 litre engine of the four-door car.
This meant that the engineering under the bonnet of the new car was only
marginally different from the previous 1600 model with four doors, which was
coming to the end of its production run at that very time. The four-cylinder
engine with a capacity of 1,573 cc was installed under the
bonnet, inclined at 30 degrees as in all BMW automobiles at the time.
The chassis with front suspension struts on wishbones and rear axle with
semi-trailing links came from the New Class. The complex independent front and
rear suspension was an additional factor that made the 1600-2 distinctly
superior even to much more expensive cars in the 1960s. The braking system was
also extremely advanced and powerful. Drum brakes were adequate for the rear
wheels, but disc brakes were fitted to the front. At the time, these were rather
unusual and generally reserved for expensive cars or sports cars.
Sportiness in figures: 940 kilos.
The 1600-2 was not
cheap. The showroom price of 8,650 marks – “includes heating” Motor Revue noted
dryly in the summer of 1966 – was roughly equivalent to the average earnings a
worker took home every year. But there again, purchasers were buying a very
modern car that accelerated to a speed of 100 in around 13 seconds, and with a
top speed of 166 km/h was one of the fastest cars on the road.
The concept had a much bigger future than many critics credited the car with
in the early stages, and than many advocates dared to dream of. A number of
despairing dealers in Munich asked “who on earth is going to buy the thing”, but
they were soon put straight by their customers. During the first year,
BMW produced 13,244 units, and in 1967 the two-door with its volume of 38,572
units had almost equalled production of the four-door model with its volume of
“The car that lots of fans have been waiting to drive for a long time.”
No wonder – for the new two-door model appealed to the critics right
from the start. A leading German automobile magazine wrote that “the BMW is one
of the most enjoyable cars to drive”. Commentators raved about the “driving
position, ease and directness of steering, good vision, neutral cornering, good
road holding for the wheels, light response of the engine to movements of the
accelerator”, and declared the 1600-2 to be a “more agile, more compact and more
closely tailored to the driver than the four-door saloon”. A colleague of the
test driver captured the general mood: “The BMW 1600-2 is precisely the sort of
car that lots of sporty driving fans have been waiting for.”
For decades, the 1600-2 demonstrated unimagined potential especially in the
classic BMW domain of power unit engineering. In 1966, BMW power unit engineer
Ludwig Apfelbeck conjured up an engine for Formula 2 packing more than 200 bhp.
The trade press heralded this achievement with the accolade “This miracle has
four valves”. Incidentally, even in 1980 this engine was still serving as the
basis for the turbo engine delivering up to 1,300 bhp with which Nelson Piquet
took the Formula 1 World Championship title driving the Brabham BMW in 1983.
BMW bucked sluggish sales.
At the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1967, the
latest success was placed on a sounder footing. The 1600-2 was joined by the
1600 TI with twin carburettor and higher compression. The suffix -2 was
left off and instead the letters ti adorned the rear end, standing for “Turismo
Internazionale”. The 1600-2 Convertible was also new. This was to be the last
completely open BMW for some time to come. The success of the two-door saloons
notched up sales growth of 27 percent and 22 percent respectively for BMW during
the financial years 1966 and 1967, despite the fact that the world economy was
going through a recession which resulted in a 19 percent loss of revenues for the
The 1968 revolution: The BMW 2002.
And the story continued in the
same vein. Automobile enthusiasts in all age groups were experiencing a
furore around a new “small” BMW: the 2002, which for many years was an icon.
At the beginning of 1967, engineers had fitted two BMW
1600 two-door saloons with the two-litre engine from the New Class on a test
basis. The “Test Drivers” at the time were no less than the engine designer and
racing driver Alexander von Falkenhausen and Planning Director Helmut Werner
Bönsch, who had a great time driving the test models around as everyday
vehicles. The BMW Board of Management initially took rather a reserved approach,
but finally Sales Director Paul Hahnemann once again succeeded in convincing his
executive colleagues on the Board of Management that a car like this had to be a
success – and he was to be proved right.
Germany and Europe weren’t the only markets interested in a fast compact car
like this. Business in the USA was just getting going, and this model would
undoubtedly allow much stronger expansion of business there.
Power pack for DM 9,240.
Announced as a “Power Pack”, the BMW 2002
met the high expectations in every respect, and the price of the new model was a
genuine sensation. Since all the components already had a track record and were
available, it was possible to market the 2002 at a price of DM 9,240 in the home
market of Germany. At that
time, this was just one thousand marks more than the price for a standard
mid-range car. But instead of needing 16 seconds to hit 100 km/h,
the sporty BMW customer could now purchase a four-door automobile with a big
boot that was able to match this achievement in only 10.7 seconds. You needed a
genuine sports car to pull ahead of a new BMW 2002.
The superior power meant that it wasn’t even necessary to have a macho
profile. BMW even refrained from having a model badge on the radiator grille –
this was only mounted at the rear. This model gave the term “understatement” a
new meaning in German automobile construction. The 2002 often bore the typical
colours of the 1970s – like “Golf” yellow or “Inka” orange – and it was unique
in combining the typical BMW virtues of practicality and dynamic driving style.
This car was a family vehicle and sports car at the same time.
Production volume of a bestseller: 330,212 BMW 2002.
In the first
year of production alone, BMW sold almost 29,000 cars of the Type 2002. By 1972,
this figure was to increase steadily to a level approaching 60,000 units a year.
Around 20 percent of the cars were exported to the USA. This sales success was
unparalleled. An incredible 330,212 cars had rolled off the assembly line by the
time production came to an end in 1975, and this represented the lion’s share of
the 02 Series. This car was followed in 1968 by the 2002 ti delivering a top
speed of 185 km/h. And that was at a time when the average output of
cars registered in Germany languished at 51 bhp.
BMW 2002 ti
“Now we’ll turn it into a turbo.”
Right from the start, BMW also
entered the 2002 in circuit races. And it wasn’t long before the first successes
came in the European Touring Car Championship. Dieter Quester won ahead of the
competition from Porsche and Alfa Romeo with the additional fillip of a lap
record in the second race. This was followed by a brilliant season of wins
crowned by the European Championship title. Right from the start, a number of
private racing outfits opted for the fast-moving two-litre car. At Christmas
1968, racing director Alex von Falkenhausen took a far-reaching decision. In
order to meet the increasingly tough competition head on, he decided “now we’ll
turn it into a turbo”. Using an exhaust turbine catapulted the output of the
2002 tiK from 205 bhp generated by the naturally aspirated engine to a
turbocharged output of 280 bhp. But there was a risk involved here – racing
engines frequently exploded, and not just on the test rig. Paul Rosche – the
father of the engine that was to become the Formula 1 World Championship engine
– commented: “We actually considered during initial trials on the test rig
whether this engine couldn’t be appropriated for Formula 1. After all, the
potential for power seemed to be limitless. And we subsequently continued to
breathe life into this dream.” After taming the explosive power, the mission was
to launch the power of the engine on the roads. The tyres previously used for
the 2002 ti were hopelessly overstretched in the lower gears, and they had to be
replaced by an impressive set of Formula 2 tyres with up to 260 millimetres of
road contact. The wider wheel arches needed to accommodate the new tyres were to
become the hallmark of the powerful automobile built in Munich. This was to be
the car driven by Dieter Quester when he defended his title in 1969.
BMW 2002 tii
Variations on the theme of success: convertible and touring.
era of the 02 inaugurated its most successful year in 1971 with four new models.
The 1802 now inserted itself between the basic model now designated the 1602 and
the two-litre model, while the 2002 tii (the second i stood for injection) with
a 130 bhp injection engine replaced the 2002 ti.
Two new bodywork designs were also added: the 2002 Convertible with a fixed
roll-over bar and the 2000 touring. Both cars incorporated solutions that were
not only exciting but unique. The open 2002 had a removable roof element running
along the entire length of the door, a C-pillar raked forwards, and a fabric
roof behind which incorporated a rear windscreen. This meant that the car could
either be driven with a type of extended sliding roof, or as a landaulet open at
the back, or open at both front and back.
The touring model was the first estate car in Germany to be designed with a
split rear seat. This model was designed by Paul Bracq. It had the front end of
the 02 Series and a rear end that had undergone significant changes. The
conventional notchback was replaced in this four-seater by a slanting tailgate,
and it was 12 centimetres shorter than the saloons. The four-seater touring car
was years in advance of the subsequent trend for hatchback saloons and even
later sports estate cars. It was supplied with all engine versions.
The flyer: 2002 turbo.
With one exception: The 2002 turbo
generating 170 bhp. This was only available as a saloon, and it provided a
sensation on its debut at the 1973 Frankfurt Motor Show. This car was the
crowning glory of the 02 series with a top speed of 210 km/h. For ten months, it
was only available in white and silver. A stroke of fate and the oil crisis were
the decisive factors determining the brief production time for the fastest and
most powerful 02. The western world reacted to the threats of the oil-exporting
countries with measures verging on panic. Speed limits and driving bans were
introduced. The price of petrol rocketed from 70 to 90 pfennigs, and
sophisticated feats of advanced engineering like the 2002 turbo fell victim to
the spirit of the times. The turbocharged BMW was once again a pioneering model.
It was the first European volume-produced car with an exhaust turbocharger.
Of course, BMW wasn’t only making waves in 1973 with the turbo. When it came
to passive safety, the 02 was also right out in front: headrestraints and safety
belts (both of these features were compulsory from 1972 in all cars in Australia
.. editor) in the front formed part of the standard equipment, as was a
crash-optimised four-spoke steering wheel. Production of the 02 Series continued
with the distinctive rectangular taillights.
Rally as with Formula 2 engine.
BMW also made its sporting mark on
the rally scene with the 2002 during those years, in line with the company’s
racing heritage. The 2002 had a capacity of precisely 1,990 cc designed for rough
road surfaces, and it had the Formula 2 engine under the bonnet, with a
four-valve cylinder head and petrol injection. The four-cylinder was designed
with a bore of 89 millimetres and a stroke of 80 millimetres. This meant it had a
very short stroke, with a high compression of 11 : 1. This combination enabled the
four-cylinder crankshaft to generate high speeds of rotation. The engine delivered
rated power of 240 bhp at 9,000 rpm, corresponding to volumetric efficiency of
120.6 bhp/litre. A kerb weight of 950 kilograms gave the Rally 2002 outstanding
performance, as was proven impressively by racing drivers Jean Todt and Achim
Warmbold. The BMW Team competed with this 2002 in six races for the Rally World
Championship and European Championship.
The 02 was also an ideal vehicle for amateur motor sport enthusiasts. Private
drivers sponsored by BMW drove 02 automobiles in innumerable races with a
diverse range of power levels. One brochure published by BMW Motorsport GmbH
reported: “Sport for leisure is one of the most important initiatives in the BMW
motor sport programme. By attracting as many drivers as possible for leisure
sport, BMW is fulfilling a didactic role. The yearning for sporty driving and
the pleasure involved are on the increase. The current conditions on the roads,
with the number of cars continuously rising, make it virtually impossible to
have a sporty driving style on normal highways. The idea in Munich is that
leisure sport will relieve the pressure on roads caused by ‘sporty driving’
while providing an arena for sporty drivers to exercise their passion on clearly
defined roads and circuits where ordinary traffic has in some cases been
End of an era: The first 3 Series arrives.
The 02 Series powered by
batteries was a notable feature of the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. The first 5
Series automobile was launched immediately after the Games, and this car
introduced a new era in the visual profile of BMW. This series also heralded
replacement of the small class, though the appearance of the new series by no
means consigned the 02 to the history books. In 1974, one year before the 02
Series was replaced by the 3 Series, 02 production reached its pinnacle at
111,239 units. On this basis, BMW achieved an extremely self-assured change of
models. The first 3 Series was launched and at the same time the 1502 was
introduced as the new, last and then in fact only model in the 02 Series. The
car was powered by a 1602 engine with low compression and together with the 518
was the first BMW to run on regular petrol. The model was a big success: 71,564
units costing DM 11,900 rolled off the Munich assembly lines up to 1977. Board
Chairman Eberhard von Kuenheim enthused in an interview held in 1976: “80
percent of the purchasers of the 1502 owned a car manufactured by another
carmaker before they bought the 1502.”
In 1977, the 02 proved that it was still in a position to compete on the race
track. Klaus Ludwig claimed a commanding victory at the German Racing
Championship driving a 2002 turbo from the Schnitzer Team. This was the last big
win for the 2002 in its active period. Today, it continues to seek fame and
glory – in races for historic vehicles.
“Sporty saloons with long life spans.”
Today, the 02 success
remains a special phenomenon in the history of the automobile. Even many years
after production came to an end, the “zero two” has retained its fascination for
the friends of zappy automobiles. Used cars also proved their worth as “sporty
automobiles with a long life” in a major used-car special edition for the year
1978: “The small BMW models of the 02 Series were renowned as the epitome of the
compact sporty saloon throughout their production life. The fact that production
has now come to an end hasn’t done anything to change that reputation. The
two-door BMW is based on an outstanding reputation – not simply because of its
rewarding driving performance, but also because of exceptional reliability in
BMW 2002 turbo
Other BMW news: here.
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