The BMW 1600 was an evolution of the New class series, receiving revamped styling from Georg Bertram and Manfred Rennen in-house at BMW in the mid-1960s.
The new design was to be shorter and cheaper than the sedans it was based on and would continue to be sold throughout 02 series production. These simpler, lighter cars received inline four-cylinder engines M10s slightly enlarged over time, going from the initial 1,573 cc powerplant to a turbocharged 1,990 cc powerplant in their most powerful specification in 1973.
It’s no Turbo 2002, yet. The car I drove a few weekends ago – owned by my friend Darius – has the standard 2.0-litre mill mated to a 4-speed manual gearbox.
It’s a very slow car by today’s standards, and even in 1974 when this example was sold, the new 99 horsepower wasn’t exactly exciting.
No real changes were made either; the car still has its unique factory Weber carburettor, rather flimsy bucket seats, spongy stock springs, tiny 13-inch wheels and thick-wall tires. The only thing Darius has done beyond routine maintenance is install polyurethane suspension bushings.
Still, riding that old machine was so much more fun than I imagined.
Simply put, BMW chassis are good, even those designed 50 years ago. Now, in 2022 – amid the deep sea of incredibly modified cars, uncontrollable wait times for quality parts, attention-grabbing social media builds and skyrocketing prices on vintage cars – it’s is your friendly reminder that sometimes less is more. Owning a classic car doesn’t need to break your wallet, and there’s so much joy to be found in a simple car like a stock BMW 02.
The suspension is compliant and user-friendly, the open differential ensures you can’t make a costly mistake in an unfamiliar car – although a limited-slip unit would be nice – and the engine was surprisingly responsive around 4,000 rpm. Gliding through the cabin with the windows down makes you feel like you’re going a lot faster than you actually are.
Still, the supple car was incredibly comfortable as it weaved its way quickly over the undulating surfaces of narrow roads and twisting California highways.
It’s a classic car you can live with, a car you can shop in, a car you can take on trips, and a car you can light up at night to let off steam on your favorite road.
Darius did just that during his time with the car, but with his first baby on the way, it’s time for the 2002 to move on. “I just can’t be that dad with four project cars and a newborn.
Not that 2002 is a project, but you understand. Darius is a responsible man, and if I were a hair less responsible than me, the 2002 would already be mine. Well – instead it goes up Bring a trailer soon.
Godspeed, small 2002.