The BMW 2002

With the sale of the BMW 2002 race car from the ’09 La Carrera Panamericana, we at NBB say good-bye to a little piece of history. To keep that story alive, we will continue with the blog from 2008 giving a brief background on the company and the car…

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The BMW 2002

A short history will tell you that BMW or Bavarian Motor Works is an old company, dating back to 1916. Originally a manufacture of aircraft engines, they were forced to stop production after WW1 and shifted to motorcycles by 1923. In the 30’s they began again to build aircraft engines for Germany’s Luftwaffe. In the long run, that didn’t work out, so by 1959 they were on the brink of bankruptcy. The gas shortage of the late 50’s revived the company with the building of the Italian designed Isetta or the ” Bubble Car”. In the early 60’s BMW started to produce what was known as the “New Class” starting with the 1500. This was the start of the company’s comeback into the automobile market. The 1500 ultimately led to the development of the 1600, 1800, 2000 and 2002. The 2002 was produced between 1968 and 1976 and was probably the most important model in BMW’s history. It’s designation stands for 2 liter engine and 2 doors, hence 2002. The 2-door sedan redefined the image of BMW. It combined powerful engine and agile handling with solid German build quality and practical 4-person accommodation into a reasonably priced package.
It actually started life in 1966 in the form of 1600-2 (2 doors). It was derived from the contemporary 1600 sedan, with rear doors deleted and wheelbase shortened by 50 mm to make it lighter and more agile for handling. Its 1.6-litre sohc engine produced 85 horsepower and enabled the 2100 lb little car to outperform many contemporary sports cars. Its all independent suspensions (with MacPherson struts up front and semi-trailing arm at the rear) and front disc brakes were not found in any cars at the same price level, providing great handling. On the other hand, 1600-2 provided all the practicalities of a sedan – a properly-sized rear seats, excellent visibility (thanks to large windows and slim pillars) and a big trunk.The 1600-2 received many appreciations from the press and the market. Sales exceeded BMW’s expectation and production volume ramped up quickly to meet demand. But this was only the beginning. Next year, BMW introduced 1600ti, a hotter version of 1600-2. It used higher compression ratio and twin-choke Solex carburetors to raised the output to 105 hp.
Because the 1600ti engine could not pass Federal emission regulations, it was not offered in the US. With the huge potential of that market in mind, BMW developed a 2.0-litre engine for the car. Big engine in a small car, it became the mighty 2002. About 80,000 were produced for the US, in total about 425,000 were produced world wide. The cars built from the years 1968 to 1973 had the round tail lights, while the cars built from 1974 to 1976 had bigger bumpers, and square tail lights. Various state of tune were available: the regular 2002 had a single carburetor to produce 100 hp, the 2002ti got 120 hp through twin-carburetors and lastly, a mechanical fuel injection and higher compression ratio helped 2002tii to squeeze out 130 hp. In the latter form, it could top 118 mph and did 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds.
So this short history of the “The Ultimate Driving Machine” now takes us to finding one or two for the La Carrera Panamericana.