Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
8/25/08 3:20 p.m.

The last BMW 2002 came down the assembly line about 30 years ago, ending an important chapter in the manufacturer’s history. However, thanks to the magic of new old stock parts as well as the wrenching skills of BMW’s Mobile Tradition heritage department, we just drove a brand-new example.

Most car makers don’t spend a lot of time building their discontinued models, but BMW wanted to prove something: More than 90 percent of the parts that make up their 2002 are still available through their official channels. The look may be classic, but technically this car is only a few months old.

Looking Back to Go Forward

When the 2002 came out for the 1968 model year, BMW was still a struggling German car maker trying to figure out what it could do best. The company produced a string of beautiful but unsuccessful big cars in the early ’50s, followed by a strange tangent of microcars during the latter half of the decade that admittedly saved the company from a Mercedes-Benz buyout. BMW finally started to gain steam with their 1600 models.

Released about halfway through the ’60s, the 1600 models featured the now-legendary BMW looks along with an airy, near-perfect cabin. Unfortunately, BMW’s 1573cc four-cylinder engines weren’t powerful enough for American tastes, and the cars weren’t too successful in the U.S. A much-needed boost in sales came only after BWW followed the advice of U.S. importer Max Hoffman and fitted the boxy little Bavarian with a larger 2.0-liter engine.

The 2002 was a smash hit that helped pave the way for the huge sales and strong reputation that ultimately followed for the company. This model put BMW on the map with American enthusiasts, and today many still cherish the 2002 because the cars work so well as daily drivers, vintage racers or weekend cruisers.

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