For BMW the 1950s was a desperate time, but thankfully the launch of its Neue Klass (New Class) sedans in the 1960s saw the firm’s fortunes swinging around. While some credit for this recovery can be attributed to the four-door saloons, the real stand out in cementing the outfit as a global giant were the two-door sporting saloons.
The thinking was simple: a two-door would reintroduce the real sporting characteristics the firm had earned in the 1930s. Two-doors meant a shorter wheelbase to enhance handling, a lighter body for better performance and a more athletic aesthetic.
In record time the wheelbase was chopped from 100.4 inches to 98.4. Most of the mechanicals carried over but designer Hofmeister redid the cabin and a facelift was given to the front end. In March 1966 BMW launched the new 1573cc (1600) model called the 1600-2 and it immediately became a winner. The diet programme when compared to the four-door meant the 1600 could keep up with the four-door 1800 in the performance department and the handling and sporting feel blew the socks off most testers, with the only cars really comparable in most minds being the Alfa Romeo Giulia and GTV.
BMW engine development top dog Alex von Falkenhausen slotted an existing 2-litre into his personal 1600-2. Unknown to him BMW’s Planning Director Helmut Werner Bönsch carried out the same conversion on his car and it was only when both cars arrived at the BMW workshop on the same day mid-1967, where they both talked enthusiastically about their machines, that the idea of a production run really took off.
A proposal was put to the directors, it went through relatively smoothly and the 2002 was born.