Although the 2002 gets the majority of credit for BMW’s North American success, the models that laid the ground work for sports sedan dominance for half a century laid in the Neue Klasse sedans and related coupes released in 1962. From humble beginnings as an alternate for the growing German Post-War Middle Class, the 1500, 1800 and 2000 series sedans defined dynamic motoring the world over.
While redefining the world order of preferred athletic motoring, these cars also made sure that the BMW brand didn’t slink into bankruptcy and oblivion in a cold, harsh, competitive marketplace. They also set the style template for most Mid-sized BMW sedans for decades to come.
Before they became sales champions, they were critical darlings. By 1967, the range of sedans racked up plenty of accolades on both sides of the Atlantic, praising the dexterity of handling, the suppleness of ride and the sprightliness of performance from the overhead Cam 4 Cylinder engines.
More zing than comparable Mercedes offerings, less of the reliability foibles of Italian offerings and less of the luxuriant nature of French offerings, nevermind a complete lack of direct American rivals soon lifted the Neue Klasse sedans as the medium priced import to imitate. Granted it took nearly 20 years for domestic brands to directly craft a rival type of car, these sedans were the benchmark many a Japanese Sedan set for themselves as they expanded their territory in the United States market during the 1970’s. The Datsun 510 isn’t called a “Poor Man’s BMW” for no reason at all.
Acknowledging the United States market of more equals better, the TiLux model introduced in 1967 catered to expanded desires from these machines as more luxuriant models were being designed. The displacement boost was in acknowledgement that to truly compete with imported rivals on the domestic market, a smooth and sturdy Six Cylinder was preferable for torque hungry Americans.
Inside, more luxuries like a wood faced instrument panel to complement the Teutonic efficiency (and/or dourness) made models more competitive in environment with Mercedes Benz and soon, Audi offerings. Refinement of the design year after year, with more muscle brought in more buyers looking for international intriguing snob appeal. It set the stage perfectly for the introduction of the boxy, upright and cheaper 2 door sedan 2002 version that blew enthusiasts away and captured the imagination of a new breed of American driver in 1968.
Tired of over-powered, underbraked and understeering options given to them, the more sophisticated and engaged driver started looking abroad for their motoring options. The truly sophisticated options from American brands found themselves equipped to dance via option packages or expenses, sometimes foresaking one objective skill for another.
This is where BMW in particular exploited their magical skills to produce a full model range of compelling and competent dancing machines that offered something distinct and delicious to many hungry souls. BMW ignited a different type of passion with their Neue Klasse sedans that has been passed down to many American consumers 50 years later. Some would argue the purity of the experience has been watered down in the most recent versions. Whatever your beliefs, you have to give a tip of the hat to the models that started many an international love affair from a half century ago.