Monday July 11, 2016
Written by Andy Roberts, Classic Car Enthusiast & Writer
This year sees BMW celebrate its 100th birthday and compiling a ‘Top Ten’ will always be an interesting task given the sheer embarrassment of automotive riches.
Some would insist on including the E26 M1, others would cite the E28 and there will be those who regard the second generation 3-Series as pivotal in the company’s development. But, as this is indeed to be a ‘Top Ten’ rather than a ‘Top 50’, I have decided on a very subjective choice based upon my own favourites…
‘Baroque Angel’ 1951-1963
The first post-war executive BMW with a nickname deriving from the distinctive coachwork. The 1954 502 was the first post-war German V8 car and the range was beloved of the country’s police forces but a price of four times the average annual wage made them a comparatively rare sight in their homeland.
An important part of BMW history although it was based on the 1953 Italian Iso. A number were built in Brighton and three wheel models were popular with British motorcycle licence holders. The steering column was universally jointed while the sliding roof was meant to double as an escape hatch!
A folly - BMW lost money on the each of the 252 507s they made – but both a Mercedes-Benz 300SL rival and one of the most magnificent grand tourers in motoring history. Power was from the 3.2 litre V8 engine, the top speed was 122 mph and owners included Elvis Presley.
In 1959 the rear engine 700 was a clear sign that the company was aiming the cheaper models beyond the bubble car market. It was BMW’s first monococque-built car with styling by Giovanni Michelotti and a choice of saloon, coupe and convertible bodies. A very underrated car in the UK.
1500 ‘Neue Klasse’ 1961-1964
One of the most important cars in the company’s history; a four door saloon with coachwork that established the ‘BMW look’ for generations with a new 1.5 litre OHC engine. A prime example of the right model at the right place and one that saved its manufacturer from commercial disaster.
3200CS 1962 – 1965
A combination of the Baroque’s floorplan, the 3.2 litre V8 engine and Bertone’s coachwork, the 3200CS marked the end of the first generation of upmarket post-war BMWs. IT was also a stylistic anticipation of future products as it was the original car to feature the ‘Hofmeister Kick’ in the C-pillar.
2000 C/CS 1965 – 1969
An exquisite (no less a word will suffice) blend of Wilhelm Hofmeister designed coachwork and 2 litre engine in eithers single carburettor ‘C’ or twin carburettor ‘CS’ forms. The flagship of the ‘Neue Klasse’ range and with frontal treatment bluntly informed other road users, that a BMW was waiting to overtake…
2002 1968 – 1976
Take the compact body of the 1602, combine it with the engine from the 2000CS and the result was a keynote BMW that redefined the term ‘compact sports saloon’. Those of us of a certain age will remember the 1973 Turbo model, with the mirror writing on the front spoiler.
BMW’s rival to the XJ6 and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class; many enthusiasts regarded the E3’s road manners to be at least the equal of both competitors. The range was topped by the 3.3 Li –transport for Jason King lookalike tycoons – while Thames Valley police used the 3.0Si to catch errant motorists.
E12 5-Series 1972- 1981
The ‘Neue Klasse’ models were always going to be difficult to replace but the E12 managed this very challenging feat. The 525 flagship was one of the best luxury cars of its class, the M535i was capable of 140 mph but all models conveyed a definite sense of understated elegance.