The result of that evolution we looked at was the famous 2002, but before that model emerged there were several baby steps along the way. Today’s car is one of them; the 1800 sedan, and we also just looked at the 2000C recently. While this particular 1800 looks similar to the car I looked at back in 2020, it’s a year older and has quite a few mods. The market has also moved on substantially from 2020, so let’s see what the resulting asking price equates to:
Stepping even a bit further back in BMWâ€™s timeline, today we have a Neue Klasse Coupe. The E120 was an evolution of the Bertone 3200CS design from the early 1960s, but BMWâ€™s design head â€“ one very famous Mr. Wilhelm Hofmeister â€“ certainly added his own distinctive flair. However, he wasnâ€™t alone â€“ some of the most famous car designers from the period had influence â€“ from the aforementioned Bertone, Giugiaro, and of course Michelotti (designer of the 700 series as well) all had a hand.
While the lines looked exotic, underneath the chassis and drivetrain were borrowed straight from the more pedestrian Neue Klasse sedans. Power came from the venerable 2.0 inline-4 M10 fed by twin Solex carbs. The CS had the higher compression (9.3:1) 120 horsepower version, while the C and CA made due with 100. This was still a huge step for BMW, who lacked the capability to produce the complex body structure on its normal assembly lines. As a result, like its successors the E9 and early E24 models, the 2000C, CA and CS Coupes would be produced by Karmann in OsnabrÃ¼ck. A total of approximately 13,691 were produced between its 1965 launch and the takeover of the 2800CS introduction in 1968.
So, theyâ€™re old, a bit quirky-looking by BMW standards, and rare. That certainly makes for the potential for a collector car! Let’s check out this first-year 2000C:
BMWâ€™s long road to recovery in the postwar era was interesting to say the least. Before the war, BMW had a moderately successful series of luxury and sports cars with its 326, 327 and 328 lineup. However, the market for those cars in Germany didnâ€™t exist in the early 1950s and the technology was quite dated, so BMW found itself reliant upon an Italian-designed and licensed bubble car â€” the Isetta â€” to sustain early sales. Of course, with their motorcycle expertise, the air-cooled twins that found their way into Isettas were reliable (though not sprightly) units.
Though economical, a family sedan the Isetta did not make, so starting in 1957 BMW stretched the two seats into four and created the 600. With just shy of 600cc from an enlarged rear-mounted engine borrowed from a R67 motorcycle and a four-speed manual gearbox driving a new semi-independent trailing arm rear end, the 600 was a serious step forward for the company. The improvements were masked behind a familiar face (which still served as the primary door, as with the Isetta) and the 600 was not a sales success, with just shy of 35,000 produced. Intended to compete with the Beetle, it offered little respite from Volkswagenâ€™s steamrolling sales success.
To remedy this, BMW continued to develop the 600 chassis into the larger and more conventional 700 model. Launched in 1959 as BMW skirted attempts by Daimler-Benz to purchase the Munich-based firm, the 700 heralded BMWâ€™s first true postwar sedan. Yet in spite of the conventional sedan proportions, the 700 retained the motorcycle-based air-cooled flat-twin in the back, driving the rear wheels. Back when BMWâ€™s naming conventions matched their engine sizes, the eponymous sedanâ€™s power was upgraded to nearly 700cc and 30 horsepower â€” 50 percent more than the 600. Styling came from Italian Giovanni Michelotti, who would go on to pen the next generation of BMW sedans.
The 700 was available in three configurations â€” the conventional sedan, a sporty-rooflined coupe, and a convertible, each sporting era-correct tail fins. True to the companyâ€™s history, BMW even raced the 700 in rally, circuit and hill-climb events. The 700 would go on to be a relative sales boom for the company, bridging the gap between the borrowed Isetta models and the companyâ€™s first postwar conventional sedan: the water-cooled, front-engine Neue Klasse you probably remember best in the form of the legendary 2002.
The Neue Klasse launched with quite a splash in 1961 at the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung in Frankfurt, and signaled a new direction for the company. Badged the 1500 due to its 1499cc M10 water-cooled inline-4, the 1500 was later joined by larger displacement models, some with fuel injection; the 1800 in 1963 and the 2000 in 1966. In 1964, the 1500 was replaced by the enlarged 1600. The M10 was punched out to 1573cc and now produced 4 more horsepower for a total of 84. While the 1600 wasn’t the first Neue Klasse, it was the first commercially successful model; between the beginning of 1966 and the end of 1968, BMW produced nearly 70,000 units of this model alone. But if you spent a bit more, you could get its larger-engined sibling:
To me it’s always a bit interesting to talk about peoples’ motivations in getting a particular car, especially so when that car is a classic. For example, consider my Audi GT versus a Quattro. These days, if you can find one a mint condition Audi GT will set you back around $6,000 – $8,000 for the very best examples we’ve seen. That amount may get you a wreck of a Quattro, but likely not a particularly drivable one and certainly one you’ll be chasing parts and rust on for a decade at least. In terms of driving experience, the GT is out of the box 90% of the Ur-Quattro experience for 90% plus of the time. Brought to a show, many non-Audi folks could probably not tell them apart. Yet, in terms of value gap, the iconic Quattro far outstrips the classic GT. We see it in other areas, too – for example a 73 911S versus a 77 911S, a E28 535is versus a M5, or even a 325is versus an M3. If you’re smart with your money, choosing the lesser example may not get you the headlines, but stretching your budget to get into a less serviceable iconic car is not likely to bring you more happiness, only more headaches. So while a plain-Jane 1968 BMW 2002 may not get all the price of the Turbo or even the tii models, it’s certainly worthy of consideration:
Update 9/5/19: This 1602 Touring sold for $18,300.
If you’ve missed the most recent bandwagon, it’s been firmly hitched to the back of the E30 Touring. Recently these cars passed the magical “25 Year” importation ban and have begun flooding the market. The reason is simple; they haven’t previously been available here, the E30 market is red hot, and they’re relatively dirt cheap in Europe. But if you really want to show up those bandwagon-jumping E30 hispters at the local show, why not look towards the original Touring – the Michelotti-designed, E10-based ‘E6’ 1600, 1800 or 2000 Touring models. Shortened by about 6 inches and with additional glass, the Touring had modern conveniences like split-folding rear seats and was available only for a short run between 1971 and 1974. It ran the full production line in engines minus the turbo; the most valuable examples are clean tii versions or the ultra-rare Alpina variants, but even a nice clean basic example of any shows just what a neat design it was: