It is very easy to label a car a failure, but the reasons for failure can be many and varied: wrong forecasts, poor planning, poor quality, too high a price, a failed design or simply the wrong time for market launch, just like the BMW 2002 turbo 50 years ago.
The BMW 2002 turbo was not the first production car with a turbocharger, as there were already models from the USA. But it deserves the honour of being the first German production car with turbocharging, even before the Porsche 911 Turbo, although only 1,672 units were produced between September 1973 and June 1975.
Gallery: BMW 2002 turbo (1973-74)
The BMW 2002 turbo was powered by the proven four-cylinder engine that also made the 2002 Ti (1968-1972) and 2002 Tii (1971-1975) into true sports cars. This was the 2.0-litre M10 inline engine, which was considered one of the most reliable of the brand's engines. In the 2002 Ti it produced 118 bhp (88 kW) at 5,500 rpm, in the 2002 Tii it produced 129 bhp (96 kW) at 5,800 rpm with injection in the intake manifold.
BMW 2002 turbo engine
Although a six-cylinder engine was considered for more power, it was left for the then new 5 Series and the E3 and E9 luxury class, because it would barely fit in the engine bay of the 02 and would have been heavier.
BMW 2002 turbo
A turbocharger from Kühnle, Kopp und Kausch (KKK) provided an additional 40 bhp and 63.5 Nm, resulting in 168 bhp (125 kW) at 5,800 rpm and 240 Nm at 4,000 rpm. To ensure safe 'take-up' of this power, ventilated discs were used on the front wheels and larger drum brakes were used on the rear axle compared to the standard model.
BMW specified that, ex-factory, the 1,080 kilogram turbocharged 2002 took 7.0 seconds to reach 100 km/h from a standstill and had a top speed of 130 mph (211 km/h). These are not crazy figures from today's perspective, but 50 years ago it outperformed a Porsche 911 S in acceleration. As long as you revved the engine above 4,000 revs... only then did the car really 'take off' (turbo lag effect).
Interior of the BMW 2002 turbo
The press at the time criticised the paintwork, which was too thick, and the spoilers of the early cars were unusual at the time. The inscription '2002 turbo' appeared on the front spoiler written backwards, so that drivers about to be overtaken could see in the rear-view mirror which car was trying to overtake them.
This was too much for some, especially in the autumn of 1973, during the oil crisis, when fuel prices soared to a level that today would be equivalent to more than three euros. Visually, the only body colours available were white and silver.
The nail in the coffin of the BMW 2002 turbo was not that it consumed more fuel, but rather the unfavourable timing of its appearance and, above all, its high price. It cost a whopping 18,720 Deutschmarks at the time it went on sale, and the 2002 tii was about 4,000 Deutschmarks cheaper. By comparison, for the same money, you could also get a Mercedes-Benz 250 saloon.
The 2002 turbo is still a rarity, which is nowadays close to the €100,000 mark. At the time when the 2002 turbo was discontinued, BMW launched a completely different model: the 1502 was launched as an economy model with 75 bhp and a price of DM 11,390. It was a great success, with more than 77,000 vehicles produced in just two years.