The BMW 2002 is the most important model in BMW's history. It established BMW as a builder of quality performance sports sedans, brought global success and cracked the lucrative US market. The 2002 was the precursor to the 3 Series which built on the 2002's success and became the class leader for more than three decades.
The 2002 was designed in Italy by Giovanni Michelotti and based on the "New Series" 1500 and 1600 sedans with a 5cm shortening in wheelbase. Introduced in January 1968 and sold through to 1975 the 20 in the name refers to the 2.0 litre capacity while the 02 represents the two doors.
The model owes its existence to Max Hoffman, the US BMW importer of the period who requested BMW place the 2.0 litre engine in the 1600-2 body. The 1600 cc engine could not pass the US smog emission requirements.
The 2002 model received four badges through its life:
* 2002 - a single carburettor engine
* 2002 Ti - twin carburettor engine
* 2002 Tii - fuel injected engine
* 2002 Turbo - Limited production Turbocharged engine
Four different body styles were sold through the production run;
* The standard two door hardtop (the only body style available for the turbo version)
* The Baur cabriolet - a removable metal centre roof section with a folding soft rear behind a reinforced t-roof.
* The Touring - a cross between a 2-door wagon and hatchback.
* The very rare full-convertible soft-top.
All retained the same basic engine, a 1990 cc cast iron block, aluminium head unit set at a 30 degree incline. The main change through the life of the power train, besides the fuel and induction delivery systems were two changes to the head design.
All leading motoring magazines of the period were universal in their praise for the 2002. The virtues of its performance and quality were expounded with the only regular criticism being around the austere looks of the cars styling and interior. Some also noted the limited rear leg room.
The 2002 had a very strong racing career that continues now in historic race series. In 1969 Dieter Quester won the European Touring Car Championship in the 2.0 litre class and was runner up overall to the Porsche 911. He also managed to win four rounds of the championship outright.
BMW has recently revisited the concept of the 2002 with the introduction of the 1-series, the spiritual re-interpretation of the ground breaking original. The 1-series has re-set the package after the bloating of the 3 series that saw engine capacity and cylinder numbers double in the top of the line performance versions .