Four cylinder turbos are par for the course in so many cars, including BMWs. But it was an exotic novelty in 1974.
This was an interesting car in it’s day, certainly. They only ended up making 1,672 during the production run (including 12 prototypes). People blame the gas crisis for this, but I am not completely sure it was that simple. Looking at the performance figures, they were quick for the times, but not exactly great. Looking at the power ratings and weight, it actually seems odd, really. 2300 pounds and 170 hp should be able to better 8.0 seconds to 60. Possibly a result of that really low compression? Also, note the 18 gallon fuel tank. Fun fact: the reversed “obrut” script on the air dam was copied by Mitsubishi on several of their early turbocharged cars in the early 80’s, such as the Lancer and Galant series.
These early turbos had a rather non-linear torque curve (to put it mildly), and were generally not at their best (to put it mildly) in sprints to modest speeds, lie 0-60. They needed to be on the boost more consistently to strut their stuff. High speeds were more like their domain. But frankly, these early turbos often just didn’t yet fulfill their potential. Which rather explains why BMW dropped it quite quickly. A small six for the new 3 series was much more like it.
I’d be curious about the quarter mile trap speed. The 16.2-second ET is about in line with the 0-60, but sometimes cars with powerful but peaky engines will reflect that in a high trap speed with less impressive acceleration times. (Strong low-end torque and well-chosen gearing can buy you a surprising amount on the bottom end, but will be slower on top if that’s not backed by additional power.)
I’ve only ever come across one of these in the flesh. A guy I met years ago had one for the track, but it had been completely made over under the hood with something that required a chip, etc. Extra bummer was, he had resprayed the car so it also lost its distinctive stripe and obrut callout. Yes, it was genuine and yes, it was a shame to see it as such.
Jekyll-and-Hyde character… they may have been ahead of the curve but the principle was still an untamed beast for the road. Turbo for the completist but Tii for the connoisseur.
Surely this was intended mainly as a homologation special? It always surprised me that there was such a time lapse between GM discovering turbocharging in the 60s and the European manufacturers discovering it in the 70s.
I note the article was penned by journalist/Le Mans winner Paul Frere, who knew a thing or two about driving fast cars.
If it was meant to be a homologation model, I’m not aware of any applications these were used in. I can say this; Schnitzer and Alpina made some fairly decent rally cars out of the 2002 (Schnitzer being the better of the two), but they certainly weren’t podium cars in those pre-WRC days. I highly doubt BMW created the Turbo for this purpose. I think they just made it as a high end new tech sports sedan, and the market balked at that. Check out the options a Turbo could be had with: a five-speed manual gearbox, 6×13-inch alloy wheels, rear window defroster, laminated glass, rear seat belts, passenger-side exterior mirror, velour floor mats, lockable glove box, lockable gas cap, manual sunroof, power sunroof, front fog lights, rear fog light, headlight washer/wipers, tinted glass, radio with cassette player and the exterior Motorsport stripes. Why bother with all these variations if that were the case?
it wasn’t an homologation special. It essentially was a limited production version of something they’d been fooling around with. “Let’s put a turbo on it. Sure, why not?”
I thought this model was just an offshoot of the Paul Bracq BMW Turbo concept car, but Dieter Quester won the 1969 European Touring Car Championship in a factory turbo (2002 TiK). This is what probably emboldened BMW, but there doesn’t seem to have been any homologation requirements leading to the road series.
British diesel trucks and buses were being turboed when the motoways became a thing to improve schedule times, it just took a while for the technology to filter down to petrol engined cars for more performance.
I don’t think for street drivers the Turbo offered enough extra performance to justify the cost and complexity. With a little quick and lazy research, I find that the 73 2002ti put out 130 HP from 2 liters and had a top speed of 118 mph. The article above says that the 170 HP Turbo would reach 121-122, and perhaps 125 with a nose spoiler.
The article also points out however that low end torque suffered from the reduced compression ratio, and of course turbo lag hampered drivability. Thus in the twisties you would be working harder constantly shifting to keep the turbo on the boil and we’re probably not much, if any faster, than the non-turbo 2002ti. For the autobahn the track the extra power was meaningful perhaps, but otherwise….
Early turbos also lived pretty short lived before screeching to a halt – you had to treat them properly to keep them alive. In those days that meant seriously frequent oil changes and remembering to idle car for a few minutes before shutting it off as otherwise you would coke the oil in the turbo’s bearings, and the bearings would seize.
The 2002ti was a car I really wanted at the time, and at $4500 or so ($25K today) was achievable but at $6600 according to R&T above ($37K today) the Turbo was priced up in Porsche territory.
Which all explains why it didn’t sell. For good reasons.
This is similar to the argument against Ford Mustang SVO with 2.3-litre turbocharged inline four in the 1980s.
Lokki- a base 2002 with a sunroof and a radio ran just over $3500 delivered in Munich at the time. The tii version was over $700 more, just enough to be a budget-buster for me. That car taught me that all 2002’s at the time were better autobahn cruisers than alpine runners- the car ate synchro’s on the alpine roads I routinely travelled at the time.
The 2002 Turbo was introduced amidst the oil crisis ( 12 MPG) when Germans were not allowed to use the Autobahn on Sundays.
Its agressive Turbo lettering on the front spoiler in reversed printing was perceived as way too agressive and unappropropriate regarding 20.000 casualties per year on German roads.
The scrutiny caused a backlash leading to hearings and debates in the German Bundestag (parliament).
BMW changed the reversed “Turbo” emblem but eventually had to stop selling it.
Ironically, 15 years later BMW were running print ads: ” a BMW needs a turbo like Concorde needs a propeller”
Nice german Corvair!!!
This car was a runout special, to keep interest going in the 02 range until the 3 series arrived in 1975. BMW had the same reasoning with the e12 M535i and the e28 M535i & M5. Maintain interest in an aging range.
These are the worst 2002 Turbo figures I have seen, typical Road & Track. Normally it’s 0-60 mph in 7 seconds flat and 130 mph +
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Copyright 2011 - 2021 Curbside Classics. All Rights Reserved.