Vintage R&T Road Test: 1968 BMW 2002 – “But Where Did The Extra Horsepower Go?”

It’s always fun to go back and see what magazines said about cars that developed into legends and icons, like the BMW 2002. BMW importer Max Hoffman’s push to drop in the largest displacement version (2.0 L) of the BMW four into the fairly new 1600-2 is seen as a counterpoint to John DeLorean’s sneaking in a 389 V8 into the mid-sized Tempest/LeMans and creating the legendary GTO.

But folks easily forget that the 1600 was already a hot little number, and it turns out that the 1968 2 liter 2002 wasn’t really any faster. R&T asks: “Where did the extra horsepower go?”

Did you have to ask?

R&T starts with a quick summary of the “Neue Klasse” cars that spawned the smaller 1600-2, which got rave reviews by R&T and everyone else.

The 96 hp 1600-2 was off to a terrific start, but of course BMW was not going to leave things at that. The 1600 TI version got a hotter engine, with twin carbs, higher compression and other changes to make 118 hp. But…1968 was the first year for the new federal emission regulations, and BMW saw the writing on the wall: it was not going to be possible to make it comply and still retain its full power.

So the fallback was to simply drop the single-carb 2 liter version from the larger 2000 sedan, which was rated at 113 hp. This engine also had a torque curve more suitable for ordinary drivers, which were quickly representing a greater percentage of BMW buyers as it had already become a hot item.

The 2002 weighed 160 lbs more than the 1600-2, which was not accounted for, as its essentially the same engine with larger displacement. That combined with a 10% taller final drive gearing and the dulling effect of the emission controls resulted in the 2002 being essentially the same. Of course that’s comparing the ’68 2002 with a non-smogged ’67 1600-2; R&T pointed out the the desmogged 1600 might also have lost some of its verve.

Speaking of, I experienced the verve of a 1600-2 in the right hands when I was in 8th grade, when a youthful new priest at Immaculate Conception drove me and another out to a CYO event at a retreat facility in the country in his new Bimmer. He drove like the devil…I’d never been in a car drive so fully and intensely. I’m not sure what his intent was, but it left me a changed person.


The 2002 got lots of good marks from R&T, not surprisingly. But in the end, they concluded that “the 1600 remains the best value in the BMW line”.