Saturday, February 25, 2017

Probably the coolest car built in 1975

1975 was one of the worst years for automobiles in history. Almost every car from every country was terrible. Even the timeless VW Beetle was chubby and bloated as it marched towards extinction. Behold the one bright spot on the Autobahn:
What we have here is a 1975 BMW 2002 in Malaga Red. The name Malaga refers to the coastal Spanish town of the same name. However the color must come from the local sweet fortified red wine made from Pedro Ximinez grapes. It was right up there with Muscatel and Lancers in '75 though rarely seen now.
There is an inherent eagerness to these little rides that I love, especially when the front bumper has been removed like this one. Sure it's had some bumps and scrapes (the plastic grill bars are completely missing from behind the signature BMW kidney centerpiece) but she's still raring to go! Too bad she's wearing a parking ticket for being too awesome.
Look how sweet the proportions of this ride are. The tall cabin with its superlative visibility, the forward-leaning front, and the wheels out near the edges of the body give this a capable presence.
Inside is clean and functional with handsome leather seats and a sensible no frills look throughout. The fact that this is furnished with the 4 speed manual transmission guarantees this is FUN to drive.
This basic design came out in 1966 as the 1600-2 (known as the 2-Series within BMW). Several body styles were available in those first few years including a 2 door hatchback and a sweet convertible.
*Purists will insist that the earlier pre-1974 models were the ones to have with their round taillights and smaller bumpers. However I do know one former owner who strongly prefers the square taillight version. This was basically the only outward change in the entire production run.
The 1600 name referred to the size of the engine. Then 3 guys named Helmut, Alex, and Max colluded to bring us this little rocket. Helmut Werner Bönsch and Alex von Falkenhausen both worked at BMW in the early '70s (where else would you work with those fantastically German names?!). Independantly of each other they each had the larger 2.0 liter BMW M10 engine installed in their 1600-2. When they discovered that they'd both built the same hot rod they both went to the top brass with their idea to release it to the public.
At the same time Helmut & Alex were showing their bosses their sweet modified 1600-2s Max Hoffman (the sole U.S. BMW importer at the time) started asking for a more powerful version of the small car. BMW gave the project the green light and viola the 2002 was born.
Make no mistake; the 02-Series put BMW on the world stage. These cars were an immediate hit and the engineering quality finally got the recognition it deserves. If you've ridden in one you can attest to the upright seating position and 360 degree view. If you've had the pleasure of driving one of these little race cars you know the wonderful handling capabilities. They're low to the ground with an excellent front-to-back weight ratio. Long before Mini coined the term "go cart handling" this little number offered just that.
Well that's where we'll leave this little racer.
Values for these have started to climb but they're still very affordable when compared to many classics that are less fun to own and drive. The performance remains fully capable to handle modern traffic and parking isn't an issue (though don't tell that to this poor bastard who's about to discover that ticket). A quick search found a dozen or so in the 10-25 thousand range as well as a couple around $5,000. If you're someone who like to really drive their classic or would participate in a vintage rally I highly recommend a 2002.

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