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story by David s. wallets • photos as credited

The BMW 2002 is the quintessential sport sedan. Fight us.

It’s one of those classics that simply fits in everywhere, from track days and social gatherings to road races and historic rallies. What other car can glide past the velvet ropes in Monterey, yet still look casual at any local event?

The 2002 also offers a roomy cockpit, plenty of performance, and classic good looks. For half a century now it has defined its genre.

Convinced that you need one? Good, because now’s the time to buy, as prices have been ticking upward. Fortunately BMW made a ton of them, and the aftermarket is vast.

The 2002 comes from BMW’s golden era of New Class coupes and sedans. Throughout the ’60s and well into the ’70s, these New Class machines mixed world-class performance with classic styling. BMW was at the top of its game.

The 2002 story actually begins with the 1966 release of the 1600–2, the coupe later known as the 1602 and also the 1600. Whatever the designation on the tail, it looked like the famed 2002 but came with a smaller engine–which, as you can likely guess, displaced just 1600cc. So while it looked great, performance was a little light by some standards.

How the 1600 became the 2002 is a tale of classic hotrodding. As the story goes, Helmut Werner Bönsch (BMW’s director of product planning) and Alex von Falkenhausen (designer of the M10 engine), unbeknownst to each other, both had a 2-liter engine fitted in their personal 1600. BMW’s higher-ups approved this swap for production, and Max Hoffman, BMW’s American importer, started bringing in this new 2002 for the 1968 model year.

Road & Track didn’t find the 2002 much faster than the 1600–they reasoned that the updated emissions equipment wasn’t helping in that regard–but still gave the new car high marks: “Modern sports car performance for 4 passengers at a reasonable price.”

Need more get-up-and-go? The fuel-injected 2002tii began arriving stateside for the 1972 model year. Two years later, the model was saddled with bigger, heavier bumpers, deemed necessary to meet updated crash standards. At the same time, the cute round taillights were replaced with square ones.

Other variants of the 2002 were offered, but not all were sold through U.S. dealerships. Thanks to the passage of time, however, they can now be found here. We’re talking about models like the dual-carbureted 2002ti, the three-door Touring model and the force-fed 2002 Turbo. According to Hagerty’s Valuation Tool, a good first-year, standard-spec 2002 starts a little north of $10,000. Expect to pay more for the rare models, though; a Turbo, for example, is now a six-figure purchase.

The good news? Even the standard 2002 is a keeper.

Read the rest of the story

Pushrod
Pushrod New Reader
3/7/19 5:57 p.m.

Good article, except that it ignores the fact that the 1600 was 200 lbs. lighter than the lightest 2002. The 1600 was plenty quick for the street and/or its time... so much for the "performance was a little light."statement ... :)

rattfink81
rattfink81 New Reader
3/7/19 6:24 p.m.

Still one of my favorite cars. Had a 1974 Tii about 10 years ago. It had a crappy 20 foot single stage paint job, e21 sport seats, LSD rear,  and the 5 speed and ran damn well with the original fuel injection setup. Like a dumb I had to many running cars and projects(I was buying wrecked/rotted e30’s and parting them) so I sold it for what I bought it for which was just over challenge money. Kid who bought was a flat brim wearing new age Vw dubbed who had it relisted  on Craigslist for triple the price before he was back in dirty jersey. I swear I’ll own another but at the current prices(and climbing) it’s doubtful

02Pilot
02Pilot SuperDork
3/7/19 6:45 p.m.

I've had mine for close to 25 years at this point, and I'm not selling it (I get an offer or two a year from random people I encounter while driving it). They are great fun. Prices on cars and parts are definitely going up, though - I just increased my agreed value with Hagerty to compensate.

conesare2seconds
conesare2seconds Dork
3/7/19 7:08 p.m.

Dad was a US Army junior officer stationed in Frankfurt from ‘66 to ‘70.  He and mom came back to the states with Danish modern furniture, a purchased-new ‘68 2002 and me. 

The 2002 lasted until 1984, when it was smacked by a drunk driver while parked in front of our house one Sunday. Parts availability in the 70s was iffy at best. By the 80s many were NLA - obsolete.

We never found replacements for the ignition switch cover panels the fire department busted to extinguish the fire that started when the switch shorted.  Miraculously, the car soldiered on for years afterward.  

I swore I’d own one someday but the timing wasn’t right or my wallet was too light.  On the lottery list for sure. 

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
3/7/19 7:31 p.m.

In 1978 as a 16 year old I announced to my father I was going to buy a BMW 2002 and since he was in a Toyota / Beetle/ Datsun stage he forbid me to buy a German car as he challenged the reliability compared to his Corolla. 

Two years later he allowed me to purchase a Datsun 310GX.  

I stopped pricing out 2002’s a few years ago and attempted to live vicariously through that Harv guy in Cleveland who had the sweet flared orange 2002.  

M2Pilot
M2Pilot Dork
3/7/19 8:19 p.m.

My first new car was a '71 2002.  I've owned 2 others since.  The most recent one had s14 M3 engine,5 speed, suspension mods etc.  After 14 years of ownership, I sold it last week, but to my son, so it's still in the family.

Another easy brake upgrade is to use Volvo 240 calipers & 320 discs up front.

If I may mention it here, a great source for information on these cars is bmw2002faq.com

Coupefan
Coupefan Reader
3/7/19 8:53 p.m.

Per the story's author, just replace everything with 320 components, which begs the question, why not start with a 320 to begin with???  Ironic, eh?

tlott01
tlott01 New Reader
3/8/19 11:22 a.m.

My ex-wife and I went through a 2002 phase in the late 80s - at one point we had 4, one of which was strictly a parts car and another Sahara Beige 1600 that was bought for parts but ended up being a back-up daily driver because the parts weren't usable on any of our 02s. At the end of the 02 phase (and the marriage, shortly afterwards), I acquired an early 320i that needed mechanical work. The 320i was more refined, but never matched the sheer fun of my 73' 02. Granted, the 02 had all the contemporary fun mods (Bilsteins, sway bars, lowering springs, front camber plates, Stahl header, Ansa exhaust, 32/36 Weber carb, 320is Recaros, mahoghany steering wheel & shift knob, coco mats, gold center 13x6 Panasport wheels with Phoenix Stahlflex tires, etc), but it was just plain fun to drive. Literally a go-kart with a back seat. It was a Boston car and cancer eventually killed it - I traded it for 320i parts when the rear shock towers started to crumble. Great fun while it lasted!

aircooled
aircooled MegaDork
3/8/19 11:38 a.m.
Coupefan said:

Per the story's author, just replace everything with 320 components, which begs the question, why not start with a 320 to begin with???  Ironic, eh?

- WAY lighter, like around 1000lbs!!!

- WAY more performance (see above)

- Better MPH (see above)

- Less strain on components (see above)

- Classic styling e.g. cooler

- No emissions testing

- Cheaper insurance (?)

- Q-ship effect

- Missing all those "modern features" that create reliability issues

- Will hold value MUCH better

- No need to worry about surviving big crashes indecision

 

 

Campbelljj
Campbelljj New Reader
3/9/19 7:23 a.m.

Another rust killer is rear shock towers. They're fixable. My 3rd car was a 72 inka tii. Bought it for $2,400 with 70k on the clock in 1980-81. Was super reliable, practical and fun to drive. Probably should have kept it, but I have a late model e30 so all is well. 

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
3/9/19 8:08 a.m.
Coupefan said:

Per the story's author, just replace everything with 320 components, which begs the question, why not start with a 320 to begin with???  Ironic, eh?

2002s have the clutch and brake pedal pivots at the correct end, that's why.

 

(disclaimer  I have never even seen an E21 in person, the closest I have got to them was buying a set of 320 wheels with a bag of change, but I assume that BMW switched to top-pivoting pedals with the E21 chassis given how similar it is to the E30.  But I did get to do a mechanical restoration on a '73 2002 and the thing I loved most about it was that the pedals pivoted at the floor where they SHOULD)

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