It was BMW's "Neue Klasse" post-war sedans that are credited with saving the brand, and following them, the "02" series coupes have stood as one of the brand's icons and established their role and leadership as a sports sedan manufacturer. Introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1973, the 2002 Turbo was the pinnacle of the New Class lineup, sporting a turbocharged, mechanically fuel-injected variant of the famous m10 power plant. With 170 horsepower on tap, and vibrant stripes hinting at a not-so-subtle demeanor, the 1,672 examples of the '02 Turbo have skyrocketed in value, surpassing more than $100,000 for prime examples. At the 2016 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, we were graced by the presence of a surviving, driven example from the Hughes Motorsport Collection in Sunset, South Carolina.
With 91,000 miles reading on the odometer hidden behind the Turbo-only red gauge bezel, it's clear that this particular car has been thoroughly enjoyed throughout its life. Minor rock chips and blemishes hint at past adventures through winding roads, but the overall condition leaves it worthy of its place on the Concours green. Shown just as it was delivered when new, the '02 offered an astounding look into the past at BMW's first-ever turbocharged production car - a method of induction that has found its way, 40 years later, into the entire BMW lineup as the demand for both efficiency and power have grown.
Although not an "M" car in any official capacity, the 2002 Turbo was developed by BMW's Motorsport division, also responsible for the 3.0CSL at the time. The heart of the 2002 Turbo is similar in architecture to its much more tame naturally-aspirated counterpart. Based on the 2-liter M10 engine, the Turbo has been fitted with the Kugelfischer fuel injection similar to the 2002tii, although modified for the turbo application. A KKK turbocharger brings the extra manifold pressure to the table, combined with a dropped compression ration of just 6.9:1, bumping power significantly for the lightweight coupe. Head modifications round out the big changes.
Underneath the car, the 2002 Turbo differs from its base-model counterparts even further. New rear springs, an alternate front sway bar, and reinforced trailing arms, among other minutiae, are some of the changes that help to finalize the character of the 2002 Turbo. The 3-spoke steering wheel and the red gauge bezel are the most obvious interior details of the Turbo, while the exterior is marked with early Motorsport colors. The first Turbos were decorated with the famous "obrut" turbo script, meant to read "turbo" in the rear view mirror of a leading car.
Of all its quirky characteristics and refined nuances, one thing is certain of the '02 Turbo: it is the ultimate driving machine. Its spirit lives on in many ways, from the all-new M2 that mimics its very essence, to the turbocharged layout that has found its way to nearly every car in the BMW model range. In celebration of 100 years of BMW, 50 years of the 2002, and one year since we were last on the greens of Amelia Island, this particular 2002 Turbo marks the first of many features to come.