The range of compact executive sedans of the BMW 02 series proves that big things can be achieved with something small. It is a shortened version of BMW’s famous Neue Klasse (New Class) sedans produced between 1962 and 1967. It was built on the same platform, complete with BMW’s signature pair of vertical kidney grilles, round headlamps and a side profile reminiscent of a shark’s nose.
The 02 series was indeed a new class of happiness for BMW because it played a big part in helping the German carmaker escape bankruptcy. This little Neue Klasse of happiness not only helped save BMW from a protracted financial crisis that began in the 1950s, but it is also the car that launched the Bimmer’s career in the mid-sized sports sedan segment.
Not to be confused with the 2014 BMW 2 Series cars, the 02 Series, also known as BMW 2002, was produced from 1966 to 1977, with the first being the BMW 1600-2. It was launched at the Geneva Motor Show and did not stop selling until 1975. By this time, the 1600-2 designation had been streamlined to 1602. With the “2” in its name referring to the two-door, today this car is one of the world’s most coveted vintage cars – a collector’s wet dream.
Features of the 1966 BMW 02 series (1602)
Built on the BMW Type 114 chassis, the BMW 1602 was the first of the O2 series and an entry-level 2-door Bimmer. Although it identified as a Neue Klasse sedan, it had a 98 inch wheelbase which was 2 inches shorter than its Neue Klasse predecessors. The full body profile is approximately 167 inches long and 64 inches wide, making it about 10 inches shorter than the original Neue Klasse sedans.
The 2072lb curb weight and 6.3in ground clearance promoted sturdiness and road grip, while also promoting light weight to promote its sporting qualities. BMW designers created the 02 series under the direction of the respected BMW chief designer Wilhelm Hofmeister. The 2-door rear-wheel sedan would be followed by a Body Bauro-built convertible type the following year.
The Type 114 platform came with MacPherson strut front suspension, a suspension system that uses the top of a telescopic damper as the top steering pivot. This type of suspension system is common on front- and rear-wheel drive vehicles and on cars with an independent suspension system.
The rear suspension consisted of coil springs, semi-trailing arm and wishbone, while the front suspension consisted of MacPherson struts, coil springs and lower wishbone. The chassis proved to be adequate for the road grip, handling and overall structural integrity of the Bimmer for a comfortable ride. As a shortened Neue Class sedan and entry-level BMW, the 1966 BMW 1602 was cheaper.
Weighing in at approximately 2,000 pounds and featuring a naturally aspirated, gas-powered, naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine, the car can reach a top speed of 160 km/h. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. The gasoline engine could deliver 82 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 95 lb-ft of torque at 5,700 rpm. It had disc brakes on the front wheels and drum brakes at the rear. By the standards of the American automotive scene in the 1960s, this was not an impressive power.
However, the minuscule power didn’t stop the 02 Bimmer from selling by the hundreds of thousands over an eleven-year period. The 02 Series, including turbocharged touring versions, also took part in motorsport competitions between 1968 and 1986. Data from the Racing Sportscars database shows that the 02 Bimmers competed in 600 events during that period, with a 68 percent finish ratio and 50 event wins. †
How rare is the BMW 02 series?
When we said the BMW 02 is one of the most coveted vintage cars in the world, we meant it. Our choice of words has been carefully chosen. Only collectors and gearheads with knowledge of historical nameplates will look for one of these Bimmers. In other words, the 02 series is so rare that when you tell a real gearbox you have a 2002 BMW, they go crazy.
Most people are more aware of the BMW 3 Series that replaced it in 1975. BMW sold more than 830,000 units of the 02 series between 1966 and 1977, of which the 1602 sold 266,967 units between 1966 and 1975. A fastback concept based on the De 02 series debuted at the 1969 Paris Motor Show, but never went into production.
Despite the 02’s apparent obscurity, the nameplate is a cult classic that enjoys a worldwide network of fans that you can join online, especially on social media platforms like Facebook. We mention this because you are more likely to find a 1966 02 for sale through an online “Oh Two” community than at conventional classic car dealers.
The chances of getting hold of a 1966 BMW 1602 are much smaller than, say, a 1968 BMW E10 2002. The series also had strong competitors such as the 1972 De Tomaso Pantera L and the 1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia GT 1300 Junior. E10 2002s are listed on ClassicTrader with prices ranging from $18,476.65 to $61,962.50.
Ranking of the rarest BMWs ever made