BMW 2002 turbo E20

BMW 2002 TURBO E20.

The first of its kind.

BMW 2002 turbo E20.The first of its kind.

In 1973, the BMW 2002 turbo celebrated its debut, while the world watched the oil price with bated breath as it climbed ever higher. Nobody knew where it would end. The reaction from the German government was unambiguous: To save valuable fuel, it imposed four car-free Sundays and a 6-month autobahn speed limit of 100 km/h. Fuel saving by law, as it were. Who would have thought that in this context an automobile with 170 hp and a top speed of well over 200 km/h would emerge as an important vehicle of the era? Probably no one. But it’s a fact, because the BMW 2002 turbo is the forerunner of all internal combustion engines with an exhaust turbocharger – and from a technical point of view the First Mover of countless production cars of all makes which still follow its technology today .  

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A white BMW 2002 turbo, rear view

In the 1970s, the tear-off edge on the boot lid was an unambiguous sign of sporting ambition. From a technical point of view, the rear spoiler ensured less uplift.


The lucky first owners of the BMW 2002 turbo, the new top model of the successful BMW 02 series which started leaving the factory in October 1973, had to exercise a lot of patience before they could watch the speedometer of their two-door BMW head towards 211 km/h. The turbo debutante’s top speed was extremely impressive for the time. It meant that the BMW 2002 turbo was playing in the top league in the 1970s – offering as it were a season ticket for the overtaking lane of the autobahn.


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  • 01 Max. output: 125 kW (170 hp)
  • 02 Max. torque: 240 Nm
  • 03 Displacement: 1.990 cm³
  • 04 0-100 km/h in 7.0 seconds
  • 05 Top speed: 211 km/h
A white BMW 2002 turbo, side view

The plastic wing extensions give one a sense of how much power was in the BMW 2002 turbo. For use on the racetrack they were screwed on to the body and could be easily removed to fit wider wheels. Modest from today’s point of view – 185/70 HR 13 tyres on 5.5- or 6-inch steel rims, at the time an unmistakeable statement.


The BMW 2002 turbo is powered by the tried and tested four-cylinder engine, which also made real sports cars out of the 2002 ti (1968-1972) and 2002 tii (1971-1975). The M10 inline engine with two-litre capacity is seen as reliable. In the 2002 ti, it develops 88 kW (120 hp) at 5,500 revs, in the 2002 tii with Kugelfischer intake manifold fuel injection 96 kW (130 hp) at 5,800 revs. With the Kühnle, Kopp and Kausch turbocharger (KKK), that’s another 40 hp and 63.5 Nm on top, which makes 125 kW (170 hp) at 5,800 revs and 240 Nm at 4,000 revs. To bring all those horses to a safe halt, the front wheels were equipped with internally ventilated disc brakes and larger drum brakes on the rear axle than on the series equivalent.

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Technical drawing of the engine and the KKK exhaust gas turbocharger of the BMW 2002 turbo

Technical drawing of the Kühnle Kopp and Kausch exhaust gas turbocharger in the BMW 2002 turbo.

Engine compartment of the BMW 2002 turbo with the internally labelled M10 engine

Under the bonnet: In the 2002 turbo, the internally labelled M10 four-cylinder engine delivered a stunning 170 hp.


On the impressive front bumper, "2002" is written on one side, "turbo" on the other. The original intention of sending a message to the driver in front to make room didn’t sit well with the prevailing climate of fuel saving. What remained were the characteristic blue-violet-red of BMW Motorsport GmbH, the predecessor to M GmbH. The bodywork was in either white or silver.

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BMW 2002 turbo with reverse lettering in the front apron

Those with mirror-reading skills had a clear advantage – everyone else had to use their rear-view mirrors. Found by many to be provocative, the reverse lettering was not fitted as standard.


Power and forward thrust, turbo kick, an irrepressible will to accelerate – the compact BMW 2002 turbo has a sporty aura. 4,220 mm long, just 1,630 mm wide and fitted with small, 13-inch wheels, the aura of the potent lightweight with its striking wider wings is like a wrestler in body armour. Already from a distance, the look suggests that this vehicle harbours sporting ambitions. The front suspension is taken care of by McPherson struts with coil springs and anti-roll bars, the rear by a semi-trailing link axle. The manual shift offers four gears, with five as an option.

The BMW 2002 turbo drew a lot of attention and fulfilled the expectations linked to an M vehicle. And in that respect nothing has changed. Car mag Auto Bild put it like this: “18,720 Mark, around 9,400 Euro, for the fastest BMW sounds like a typing error but was the actual purchase price in 1973.”


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BMW 2002 turbo at Laguna Seca Raceway

The BMW 2002 turbo accelerated from 0 to 160 km/h in 18 seconds.


7.0 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h – a stunning statistic for the 1970s. At 4,000 revs, the exhaust gas turbocharger takes over and the power begins, as car magazine Auto Zeitung (13.12.2017) wrote, “to explode. The word turbo lag is a harmless euphemism for how stunningly the full power of 170 hp kicked in.”

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Interior of the BMW 2002 turbo with steering wheel and gear lever

Sportily spartan: The interior is reduced to the essential. Manual shifting through four or optionally five gears.


The cockpit is dominated by the red trim surrounding the three circular instruments and, like the two additional displays in the middle of the dashboard – clock to the left, turbo pressure to the right, exclusive to the 2002 turbo. Sporting seats and leather steering wheel were standard. The window winder and the quarterlight wheel are hidden in the door panel. The car is spartanly equipped – the accent is on sport. And the dominant sound in the interior, which went on to accompany generations of sports-mad drivers, is the whistle of the turbocharger.

The all-round view in the 02er BMW is a sight for sore eyes. A, B and C columns are delicately crafted and barely noticeable. Thanks to the large areas of glass and low shoulder line, the driver enjoys unimpaired vision in all directions. The rear bench seat offers sufficient space for two, or three at a squeeze.  

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Finding a collector’s car like this is hard and sites like have very few on offer. Prices are always over 100,000 Euro, with or without an official valuation. Visually, the condition is almost always very good. The value of the rare 2002 turbo began rising fairly quickly. Owners who’d never even driven on a racetrack enjoyed a considerable value development for their pioneering turbo.

In total, up to June 1975 only 1,672 units of this exceptional automobile were produced and sold. What became of the wild innovation of an exhaust gas turbo charger in a series sportscar is well known and documented.


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BMW 2002 turbo E20