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”.
Was this Immaculate Conception church the one in Springfield Missouri? I got my hand slapped with a ruler more than once by Sister Angelica in the 2nd grade.
Articles like this make it easy for me to understand why Americans were slow to adopt cars like this in the 60s. By and large, Americans bought cars based on size and engine power. For the same money as this small, 113hp 2-door sedan, an American could order a 1968 Chevelle SS396 with a decent handful of options. Which was the better car? Certainly the BMW had all sorts of finesse that the Chevelle couldn’t even dream of, but most Americans weren’t thinking that way in 1968.
That was how I felt about the 3 series in the late ’70s and throughout the ’80s. Small, plain, not all that fast. I just didn’t see much of a value proposition.
Count my British dad as someone who agreed with the typical American auto consumer. He drove small nice handling European cars for twenty years before emigrating to Canada in 1968.
He was amazed that American cars offered so much more for the same money. Roominess, power and a modest dollop of luxury, in his view, far ahead of the “miserable ” (his word) affordable European cars. In particular he found affordable automatic transmissions, power steering and brakes, and smooth V8s to be particularly attractive. He never went back to his compact European cars again and didn’t seem to be nostalgic about them.
He bought mid priced American cars from then on, and scorned European cars as being poor value, even when I pointed out to him, in the early 80s, a new Mercedes sedan was within his budget.
To his credit, he favored mid sized Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs, and would pay extra for a larger engine and the factory handling package, perhaps buying into GMs idea of what a European influenced American car should be.
Not to mention Chevrolet parts and service were far easier and cheaper to find in 1968 than a Broke My Wallet dealer.
Wasn’t the expense and bother of maintenance/repairs a large part of the
snob appealstatus symbolism of BMW, Jaguar, and MB back then (and now)?
My first car in 1975 was a 68 chevelle ss396, i was crazy about muscle cars. After enlisting in the Army i found myself stationed in Germany in 78 where i bought a 71 1600 and immediately fell love. As of today ive owned 9 2002s, its been a love affair that has lasted over 40 years.
I rise in defense of this delightful car. Their attraction is obvious to me, because of, among other things, the fun factor, the high quality of fit and finish, the convenient size, and the good fuel economy.
To each his own, of course. Shoddily assembled, bloated, gas-guzzling American barges have their place! I even owned one once. Hey, they had great air conditioning! But my preference runs to the BMW and it isn’t particularly close.
“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.”
Paul: I had a similar experience at a monastery in Kitzingen. The monchs took my brother and me along to bishop’s residency in Wuerzburg. The young monch put the pedal to the floor of the VW without mercy and engaged in close call passing maneuvers. All on Bundestrasse 8. There was no general speed limit at that time. I think he wanted to be a bit closer to the Lord. Too close for comfort, I’d say.
To this day the BMW 2002 serves as a benchmark for me. Consider that a 2010 Ford Focus comes with a 2 L engine that is slightly stronger (140), offers similar passenger space and weighs roughly the same. And this Ford feel quite lively too.
Isn’t that net horsepower and the 2002’s gross? Of course, newer cars are quite a bit heavier–and safer in a major collision.
Yeah. I think the carbureted 2-liter engine was rated 100 PS DIN in Germany, which was a net rating (in metric horsepower) and didn’t reflect the emissions control changes. So, a modern engine with 140 net horsepower is about 40% more powerful.
I consider the VW Golf as kind of a modern BMW 2002.
Both the Golf and the 2002 have good handling, plenty of room, decent power to weight and a strong, stiff body. Neither would break the bank, either.
In fact, when pushed hard, my Golf oversteers.
One of the few benefits of living in rust-prone regions of North America is that it can make otherwise un-affordable cars available on student budgets.
Just out of university in Halifax NS in the summer of 1979, I managed to buy a 1973 BMW 2002. Mechanically it was fine. Structurally however it was evaporating at a steady rate, and by the summer of 1981 it was done.
But what a great two years… 🙂
Some people got the message, my parents had a used BMW 2000 4 door in the 70s, until rust, failing syncros and a heavy clutch made them replace it with a brand new Honda Accord. I though it was one the coolest cars they owned although I was too young to ever drive it.
The counterpoint is my cousin who called his 2002 a money pit but still has a 2002 as his Facebook icon and still drives a modern BMW
Back in the mid ’70s I remember my dad and our neighbor competing on winding hilly German backcountry roads: Audi Super 90 vs. BMW 1700, later BMW 2000 vs Audi 100 GL. The BMWs forever got in trouble on wet or icy roads when the Audis still were under control. All of them gave in after 9 or 12 years on rust issues. The risk of fatal accidents on BMWs was definitely higher as many non-talented amateur drivers tested physical borders of traction. Audi owners were a bit more relaxed those days: Many Audis were ordered with the smallest engine avail (1.8L 80 hp) but chrome trim and dual headlights whereas BMW drivers all wanted the front spoiler with the mirror lettering “turbo”.
What a great car!!! My father owned one for more than 20 years. Absolute driving pleasure and a car with a unique character. Only good memories.
I’m driving an upgraded 1602 with no pollution junk, (basically a 73) now for 27 years. I bought a rolling shell and built it from a huge supply of used and some new parts. It still drives as new, cheap and easy to maintain, 26>28 mpgs, will cruise at 75mph all day, has a huge trunk, up graded A/C, fantastick visibility, on and on. 20 years from now I expect ( I’ll be dead ,since I’m 84) it will be doing the same thing.). What more could you want? It’s also beautiful!