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BMW's Sensational 2002


1971 BMW 2002

A few years ago, a question on the television game show Jeopardy elicited wrong answers from each of the contestants. The question was "What do the letters BMW represent?" Despite BMW’s popularity, most people haven’t a clue as to what those letters stand for.  For the record, BMW means Bavarian Motor Works. (In the native language it's Bayerische Motoren Werke, AG).

In the late 1950's BMW exported a few of their mini-cars, the Isetta and 600, to the U.S.  These were little more than novelty vehicles in a land where giant fins and wild paint schemes with two or three colors were the rule.  A few expensive, V8 powered 507 sports cars made it here as well. In the 1960s, BMW began a determined push into the American car market.  First, the 1500 series was released in the compact market, and sales began to grow. Over the next few years, new series with larger engine sizes were released. The 2000 series was released in 1965 and offered both four-door sedan and coupe models. America soon came to know BMW as a reliable and sporty compact with a distinctly European flavor.

In the fall of 1967, the 2002 came to the U.S. and it was greeted with healthy sales, but mixed reviews. Under the hood of the 2002 was an in-line four-cylinder engine sporting 1990cc (121.4 cid), and a rating of 100hp at 5,000 rpm. Its cast-iron block with aluminum heads and single overhead camshaft used a compression ratio of 8.5:1 and created 123 lbs of foot torque at 3,000 rpm. The performance version, the Ti, did not make it to our shores due to ever tightening emission requirements. It added about 20 horsepower through the use of a 9.3:1 compression ratio, and twin Solex carbs. Top speed went from 100 mph to nearly 115 mph. The 2002 sits on a 98.4" wheelbase and measures 166.5" from bumper-to-bumper. The rooftop climbs to 55.5" and it weighs just a little over 2,070 lbs. Disc brakes were used on the front wheels, while the rear wheels utilized conventional drum brakes. Unusual for the day, suspension was independent all-around. A list price of $2,750 was comparable to a Mustang or Camaro with a six.


The base 2002 sedan was produced from 1968 to 1975 with only a few minor styling changes. In 1969, BMW's 2002 models imported into the U.S.A. were equipped with tachometers and an upgraded interior with Saki fabric. In 1971 special alloy cast wheels using five slots for venting the brakes were available and today these are considered a big plus in stock restorations.



BMW 2002 Touring
The Touring version with it's hatchback design presents a sleeker profile.  It was not exported to the U.S.
1972 BMW 2002 Bauer Convertible
The convertible was actually a coupe conversion performed by the Baur company in Germany.
1975 BMW 2002
Starting in '74, the 02 grew some ugly bumpers.

1971 also brought us the jewel in the 2002 BMW line-up, the Tii.  It featured a German-designed Kugelfischer fuel injection system, a compression ratio of 10.3:1, and a horsepower rating of 130. The power to weight ratio was excellent at about 16 lbs. per hp.  A targa/convertible version, which was actually a factory authorized conversion in Germany by Bauer, was also imported in 1971.  It was based on the base 2002.

In Europe, the 2002Ti was replaced by the 2002-Turbo in 1973, with an advertised output of up to 170 hp from the 1,990 cc four-banger.  The Turbo was never officially imported to the states.

Starting in 1974, the federally mandated 5-mph rubber-backed bumpers adorned U.S. versions, as did other "safety" features.  All told, these added about 200 pounds to the weight of the car. Taillights went from round to rectangular.

1976 was the last year of the 2002. The convertible and Tii were gone and the base four got dual hemispherical combustion chambers which helped with emissions and fuel efficiency in a gas-conscious world.

Over the nine model year run a total of 339,084 2002 base models and 16,448 Ti versions were produced. 4,189 Cabriolets were converted by Baur and production for the Tii amounted to 7,451.


The most popular and sought after models are those that wear the "Tii" badge. To help verify that you have an authentic Tii, check the build plate located under the hood. On the 1972 and 1973 models, the Tii used an unique tag with the model identified on it, while the 1973 edition used a tag that showed 2002/2002Tii on it. For the '72 and '73 editions the id number prefix starts with "276", going from 0001 to 4522. For 1974 the prefix for the Tii models was 278, and they ran from 0001 to 2929.

Also be sure to check the VIN on the steering column with the one under the hood to make sure they do match. (Original engines also have the same VIN stamped on them back by the starter mounting flange.  Other items that denote original Tii models are larger brakes (a 23 mm master cylinder vs. the 20mm unit), a relocated alternator, beefed up suspension, and a clock.


As good as these cars were, they aren’t without faults. "They looked good on the street," says Les Jackson, a Washington D.C. based auto writer who has experienced 2002's at speed, "but their aerodynamics were rather poor. Above 75 mph the wind buffeted them around quite a bit, making them a real thrill to drive.  One department where the 2002 was a champion," said Jackson, "was in the area of body rust. Everything from the fenders to the doors are very prone to returning to nature."  Beside the body panels, also check out the rear shock towers as they often succumb to the elements. While looking at the shock towers in the trunk, check out the spare tire storage well. On later model cars the floor boards, especially under the front seats, should be thoroughly inspected.

High mileage 2002 engines are perfect candidates for at least a head rebuild or replacement. Also make sure the fuel injection system is working properly on the Tii.  When test driving a BMW 2002 you may find that the synchros are rather notchy between 2nd and 3rd.  Generally these are robust gearboxes and should be completely serviceable despite occasional grinding.

Most 2002s exhibit deterioration of the interior soft trim and the weather stripping around the windows and trunk lid. Also check out the headliner for water damage caused by a leaky sunroof.


Standard models of the 2002 over the past few years have been fairly stable, bouncing between $3,000 for a decent driver up to around $6,000 or so for nice #2 original or restored examples. The convertible models command about a 40% premium. A recent top is a big plus -- they’re not cheap. If you are looking for a Tii, expect prices to range from 25 to 40% more than the base models.

The BMW 2002 is a very affordable European sports car. With top examples rarely hitting the $10,000 mark, these little cars, especially the Tii edition, are true bargains for the owner who wants a reasonably quick, agile, economical and practical collector car.   Click here for latest values. 

We would like to thank Ben Thongsai and Filippo Morelli of for their assistance in the preparation of this market review. - end -

(C) Copyright 1999-2001 VMR International, Inc.  All rights reserved.  This article first appeared in the March 2000 issue of Collector Car & Truck Market Guide.


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