The 1974 BMW 2002 Turbo was not only BMW’s first production Turbo vehicle but also the first mass-produced Turbocharged passenger car.
Today, BMW is synonymous with performance driving machines. However, it did not always start that way. BMW or Bavarian Motor Werks started life in 1916 as a manufacturer of aircraft engines, of all things.
It wasn’t until 1923 that the company diversified into automobile and motorcycle production with the purchase of Automobilwerk Eisenach, a small automobile manufacturer. After a brief interruption to produce aircraft engines between 1939 and 1945 for the German military, the company spent the next 14 years rebuilding what it had lost during World War II.
By 1959, the manufacturer was in debt and losing money. The head of BMW’s supervisory board, Dr. Hans Feith had proposed a merger with larger Daimler Benz, the parent company of Mercedes Benz. The proposed merger was opposed by dealers and by a small group of shareholders, including the heads of the Quandt Group, BMW’s largest shareholder.
In 1960, BMW began internal development on a new range of models called the “Neue Klasse” (New Class) project. This resulted in a range of four door sedans in 1962 that are credited with helping to save the company and establishing it as a manufacturer of sports sedans.
In 1965, the range was expanded to include the 2000 C and 2000 CS luxury coupes. In 1966, the range was further expanded to include the legendary 02 Series compact coupes, the single vehicle largely credited with saving BMW and making it what it is today.
A background in Motorsports
In 1969, BMW won the European Touring Car Championship with a BMW 2002 powered by a 275 hp turbocharged engine. The 1972 Turbo concept car was built on a modified 2002 chassis, also using a turbocharged engine from the BMW 2002.
BMW applied the same engineering prowess to the BMW 2002 to create the 1974 BMW 2002 Turbo, the first mass-produced vehicle to use turbocharging.
It was an awkward vehicle with bulging fiberglass fenders and the words “Turbo” inscribed backwards on the front air dam to warn autobahn drivers of what was quickly approaching in their rear view mirrors. Once the vehicle had passed, the only thing to identify the white blur that just sped by was the black strip above the trunk line that is the rear spoiler.
The 1974 BMW 2002 Turbo
The BMW 2002 Turbo was introduced at the 1973 Frankfurt Motor Show as a 1974 model. It was based on the BMW 2002 Tiii engine and used a KKK turbocharger. To prevent engine knocking, engine compression was dropped to 6.9:1. Fuel delivery was courtesy of a modified Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection that featured an integrated boost enrichment feature.
The addition of the turbocharger was sufficient to boost output of the boosted 2002 Tii power plant from 130 hp in a stock BMW 2002 Tii to 170 hp at 5,800 rpm and 181 lb-ft of torque. This is a bump of 40 hp and 51 lb-ft of torque over the stock Tii, the top-of-the-line 2002 at the time.
This boost in performance was sufficient to propel the vehicle from zero to 62 miles per hour in 7.1 seconds and 100 to 18.0 seconds accelerating through to 132 miles per hour. The quarter mile was burned in 10.3 seconds at 77.7 miles per hour.
The performance difference between the Turbo and the Tii is most apparent above 4,000 rpm, which came on like a whip. Like the Porsche 911 Turbo introduced a year later, turbo lag was an issue. However, the problem was exacerbated by the fact that the 2002 Turbo wore tiny 185/70VR13 tires leading to power-slides out of corners when the turbo kicked in.
Putting power to the pavement was through a four speed manual transmission. However, it was available with a five-speed transmission as well as an option.
Stopping power was through a two-circuit brake system with power brakes, with large internally vented disc brakes in front and reinforced drum brakes with brake-pressure release in back.
Differences between stock Tii and the Turbo extended into the cabin as well. According to the sales literature, the seats had strengthened special anchoring and seat belts with retractors.
A matter of bad timing
The popularity of turbocharging today has to do with increased efficiency, making more from less. Turbo technology in the mid-1970s had everything to do with performance. As a result, fuel consumption, oil consumption and air consumption meant nothing.
This lack of concern for consumption is ultimately what killed the 2002 Turbo. The oil shortage of the mid-seventies that killed the American muscle car was not just limited to the United States. The effects were global.
The 1974 BMW 2002 Turbo was only produced for one year before it was cancelled. All 1,672 copies were one color, Chamoinix white and like the 1973 Porsche 911 RS, were only sold in Europe.
The 1974 BMW 2002 Turbo, a desirable collectible
Because of its pedigree and very limited production run, it is a very desirable collectible. Prices tend to run considerably higher than an equivalent condition BMW 2002 Tii. Along with everything German, the 1974 BMW 2002 Turbo has been increasing in value with a restored example selling for $145,000 at auction.