For most people the 02 Series is the most significant post-war BMW. No doubt, it’s highly iconic and one of BMW’s best sold models. It combined a tight suspension setup with an ohc-engine. Something that was rare in the mid-price segment in the late 60’s. Numerous victories on and off-road did the rest to establish the legend around the 02 Series.
The origin of modern BMWs
But what many people don’t know is that the 02 was not the earliest ancestor of today’s BMWs. The 02 was basically a 2-door version that was derived from the so-called “Neue Klasse”, a 4-door sports sedan which was produced from 1962 through 1972.
It started as the BMW 1500 which already had a 80hp engine with a single carburetor. The 1500 was the first car to be equipped with the infamous M10 four-banger. The M10 was not only the basis for the legendary M30 inline-six cylinder, it also reached its final road-going stage as the S14 – the engine that fired the E30 M3.
The ‘Neues Klasse’ started everything that defined BMW for a long time: the shark nose, the “Hofmeister”-kink, superior suspension, and competitive engines. And by the way it saved BMW economically back then.
The long way home
My BMW 1800 is a late model from ’71 which was originally sold to Sweden. As the name implies, it is powered by a 1.8-litre engine that produces up to 90hp. Since the Swedes have a very distinct sense for safety, my car is upgraded with some features like headrests and automatic seat belts all around. A vacuum brake booster is installed and fully functional. It even got the front-plug for the heating device.
Little is known about its time in Sweden, except that it had an accident with a Mercedes-Benz 280E long ago. The front parts were replaced. Whereas the outside panels are pretty clean, you can still spot the evidences in the engine bay like paint drippings and the mediocre cabling harness. Surely, time didn’t left the body untouched, but the black/white interior is surprisingly intact and clean. It is mostly rust-free due to the Swedish preservation measures.
Wolfgang, the pre-owner, brought the car to Germany in 2015 because his father used to have the same car when it was new. He did what was necessary to bring the 1800 back on German roads and drove it for roughly 3,000 kms. His wife finally pushed him to sell it, eventually because he already owned too many vintage cars – 7 or so.
I knew about the “Neue Klasse” before, but I never actively pursued one.
I stumbled over it accidentally when I was browsing the web for pre-80’s BMWs. It was located just outside of Bremen and Sebastian persuaded me to take a look. I did not mean to buy a car at that very moment, but I had just seen a pretty cool flick on the NK that made me curios. After the test-drive, I said to myself: “Now or never.” Old cars is an old man’s activity in Germany, and Wolfgang was happy to sell it to a “youth one” in order to pass on the torch to the next generation.
Always something to do
I’ve already conducted a couple of minor works. I refurbished the carburetor and the fuel lines. I also replaced the steering wheel and added a rpm-meter what turned out to be quite tricky as you can read here. But I made also some useful upgrades like replacing the troublesome point ignition with a Pertronix Ignitor Kit. A set of Bilstein gas shocks is already bought and waits patiently to be installed.
Basically there is always something to do. I had to replace part of the interior trim and I have to take care of the harness someday. A spring to hold the trunk lid open broke off on one of the very first trips. A loud bang came from the rear when I was going 120 on the highway. I instantly thought something serious went off the rear-axle and certainly was relieved that it was just the spring. However, it needs some attention too sometime. The engine is leaking oil – obviously! And just today I found out that the whippers don’t work anymore. Why? I don’t know yet.
And of course swapping in a 2.0-litre engine with twin carbs is planned. But this will be another story. Stay tuned!