BMW’s post-war recovery was somewhat rocky, and by the mid-1950s, their product line was a disjointed mix of luxurious but dated sedans, the luscious but money-losing 507 sports car, and the tiny single-cylinder Isetta microcar. BMW had new models such as the 700 and 1500 on the drawing board but lacked the funds to develop them. Daimler-Benz approached the board with a takeover proposal, which came perilously close to approval, and if not for the influential board member Herbert Quandt having a change of heart before the vote, the deal would have surely gone through. Quandt considered the interest of the workers in the assembly plants and decided it was worth the financial risk to save BMW. Once in control of the company, he began investing heavily in the product line, first introducing the new two-cylinder 700 coupe and 700 LS sedan. The 700 was a critical bridge from the Isetta to a line of larger, more modern family sedans and it put BMW on more stable financial footing.
Next to get the green light was the 1500 “Neue Klasse,” which is arguably the single most important model in BMW’s 100-plus year history. The Neue Klasse was designed from the ground-up to sustain BMW for many years, and it succeeded in transforming the company’s fortunes. Based on a new monocoque four-door body shell, the 1500 had independent suspension all around with McPherson struts in front and trailing arms in the rear. The engine was also new: A superb inline-four with single-overhead-cam, hemispherical combustion chambers, and a stout cast-iron block. Some early 1500 models had teething problems, but by 1964, the vastly improved 1600 solved most of those issues, and sales climbed steadily. The stylish 2000C coupe joined the line in 1965, and in 1966 the 1600-2 (later 1602) two-door saloon was introduced. The two-door “02 series” as it would become known, was the sportiest of the standard line, with engines of up to two liters, and performance options such as twin carburetors (from 1968) and mechanical fuel injection (from 1971).
If the Neue Klasse was the most important car in BMW’s history, the 2002 was possibly the most crucial model of the Neue Klasse. Before its introduction in 1968, BMW’s involvement in the US market was minimal. But the 2002 was an instant cult-classic, transforming BMW’s image thanks to superb handling and exceptional build quality – all at a reasonable price. Before long, its European racing heritage spilled over to US shores, and 2002s were tackling everything from club-level gymkhanas to SCCA Trans-Am. The 2002 established BMW’s reputation in the US, paved the way for larger, more luxurious six-cylinder sedans and coupes, and served as the blueprint for the 3-series, which remains the benchmark to which all other sports sedans are measured.
This 1972 2002 is recently out of long-term, single-family ownership and is a beautiful, largely original car presented in Agave over a saddle-brown interior. The history file includes the German temporary registration, indicating it was collected new at the factory under the European delivery program. The first owner, Mr. Phillip Gearhart, owned the car from 1972 through 1986, then transferred ownership to his son-in-law from Pennsylvania, who owned it through 2019. Along the way, this desirable round-taillight 2002 was well maintained and kept in remarkably original condition. It has never been fully restored; instead, it has had a light cosmetic freshening, including one respray in the factory shade of Agave green. The body is respectably straight, with a couple of minor imperfections noted from use and storage. The paintwork is also quite good, with a glossy finish and consistent quality. It appears some minor bodywork was performed before painting, and the original finish is preserved in the engine bay and on the underside of the car. Critically, the unibody shell is very solid with no signs of repairs on the floors, boot floor, sills, chassis legs, and other critical structural areas. The bright alloy trim and bumpers are in good condition, and the car rides on the original 13” steel wheels with factory-correct stainless wheel covers.
The saddle interior is remarkably untouched and well-preserved, with basketweave-pattern vinyl upholstery in excellent condition on the front and rear seats. Door panels are outstanding originals, and the dash is free of cracks and in superb condition. Correct original VDO gauges work as they should, and the switches are all in good order. Loop carpeting and the original headlining are both in outstanding condition. It is refreshingly correct inside, down to the original steering wheel and nearly unworn black plastic shift knob.
BMW’s legendary M10 is one of the greatest four-cylinder engines of all time. Torquey and full of character, the virtually-bulletproof bottom end made it an ideal candidate for tuning and racing. This car retains its original numbers-matching 2-liter block, mated to a Getrag four-speed manual gearbox. It breathes through a correct single Solex carburetor, with the proper air cleaner, and factory cast iron exhaust manifold. It runs quite well, feeling eager through the whole rev range, propelling the lightweight 2002 along with ease. The unassisted steering is light and the handling surefooted, thanks to modern radial tires on the 13-inch wheels. Gear changes are positive and precise thanks to a recently rebuilt shift lever. Sporty, yet composed and comfortable, the 2002 is an eager companion for carving up twisty roads, and equally happy to cruise along at 70+ mph.
With cult-classic status, many 2002s have lived hard lives or have been modified beyond recognition. This desirable “roundie” is refreshingly faithful to factory specifications and has enjoyed a pampered life, remaining incredibly sound and original. It is the perfect choice for entry into The Vintage or any number of BMW CCCA club events and is sure to bring many miles of joy to its next owner.
Offers welcome and trades considered