The Genesis of Modern BMWs: The 2002

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Tired of hearing about 5000lbs M cars? Let ‘s get back to basics; the 2002. Why is the 2002 so important in BMW history? Why does every BMW (from the E46 M3 to a lowly E90 320i) owe its existence to the 2002? The 2002 model was introduced in 1968 to the US market after two years of sales within Europe. American car buyers viewed the car as roomy for a two-door, with a large trunk and that German engineered quality that we have come to love. Over 850,000 of the model were sold around the world until in 1977 the beloved 3er replaced it.

With only 130 hp and 135 lbs. of torque (I say only because by today ‘s standards that is miniscule) the tii benefited from its superb handling and a lighter weight (2225 lbs). BMW accomplished this by designing a rigid monocoque chassis that was the base for all other aspects. Steering utilized a rack-and-pinion worm and ball setup, the car featured an almost unheard of(for the time period) independent rear suspension and the front featured MacPherson struts along with coil springs. Power front discs along with rear drums provided the braking grip. There was one transmission option, so take it or leave it; a four-speed manual that even included a third floor mounted pedal for the clutch.

Here ‘s a bit more background via Wikipedia:

Today, German BMW importer Max Hoffman is credited for the car ‘s creation, and indeed it was his very own idea. He had suggested to BMW ‘s engineering director that a 2.0 L engine should be installed into the small two-door 1600-2 to improve performance and emissions. The engineering director argued that the larger motor would not fit, but Hoffman countered that it certainly would fit; if he refused to put the motor in, Hoffman would personally take a car with the new engine to Georg_Meier, a famous motorcycle racer, for installation. Almost immediately, this brought action, and the resulting 2002 (named after the new motor ‘s displacement) was popular in its first year on sale stateside.

BMW ‘s 2002 Series is credited for inventing the category for compact sporting sedans, a category widely popular now through models from various German, Japanese and American makes of small 2-door sedans with high performance engines, suspensions and aggressive sports car-like features.

But perhaps it ‘s best summed up by the January 1972 issue of Motor Trend when the tii was described as nothing less than the most fun anyone has ever built into a car.

Portions of this article we ‘re previously published.

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  • alan

    Where do you guys get your information?

    The ’02s are a derivative of the neue klasse sedans which first started production in ’62. Two door 1600-2’s followed in ’66. The neue klasse cars are widely viewed as the cars that saved bmw, post-war. The two liters cars came later.

    Tii’s are usually listed as 130 bhp, and yes, there was a transmission option. You could get a five speed manual.

    Not rack and pinion. It’s worm and ball:

    Tii’s are nice, but carburated (solex) models were trivial to keep running well.

    There are a lot of good ’02 sites on the web, and good books as well. They’re great little cars, and worth reading up on.

  • Luis

    Good article! 🙂 .. how do I manage to download these pictures from your photo gallery?

  • @Luis: Click “link” on the lower left of the flash photo viewer and that will take you to the Flickr page of that image. From there you can download the highest resolution provided you are logged into your Flickr account (free).

  • Barry

    These pics are indeed amazing.

  • Barry

    I would love to buy a Bimmer like this or an E30 as a DD. My only issue is the efficiency. I would really want 30mpg and cant even think of a motor that would be suitable for it.

  • Barry, an M10 engine in a 2002 can return 30mpg with a MegaSquirted fuel injection set up…if you’re willing to go that route. I can get 25-28 mpg in my 02 even with a larger 38/38 weber downdraft carb. Although, my engine has had some head work.

    I suppose the NK sedans were the first to really take off, sales-wise, for BMW. But the 1600/2002s sold the US on the BMW marque paving the way for the yuppie 80s and BMW dominance in the States. I suppose you could also argue that the Isetta helped spur BMW sales post-war bringing the blau mit weiss to the masses.

    And I wonder if there weren’t, technically, 3 transmission options for the tii. The standard 4-spd, 5-spd overdrive and the rare close ratio dog-leg 5-spd. Not sure if the dog-leg was an option throughout the whole run, but I know they were fitted and are rare as hens teeth today. So many of the options were dealer installs as well (radios, A/C) that it makes it difficult to track what was available for each model year.

  • Barry


    Hmm…I didnt know that. Thanks Brad!