Monday October 21, 2019
When Autocar evaluated the BMW 1800 Ti their conclusion is best described as ‘uber-1965’;
For the sporting driver who is denied a two-seater for family reasons we would put this 1800TI high on the list. Yet this car would appeal as much to the young (but rich) bachelor who enjoys his driving, knows how to handle a fast machine and most of all appreciates quality engineering.
In other words, it was the ideal car for Goodwood, the Henley Regatta, or merely sailing past other motorists along the A4155.
By the mid-1960s, the era of the Isetta had already passed, the delightful 700 was about to cease production, and the BMW name was now associated with the finest of sporting saloons.
The background to the “Neue Klasse” range is well-known.
By the late 1950s, the profit margins on the Isetta were too small, the 600 was not selling in the hoped-for volumes while the 502 “Baroque Angel” and the magnificent 507 were cars for the well-heeled.
Fortunately, the debut of the 700 in 1959 meant sufficient confidence in the firm for shareholders to ward off an attempt by Deutsche Bank to sell BMW to Daimler-Benz.
Besides, there was an ambitious new project to consider - four-door transport for the affluent middle-classes.
The 1500 made its bow at the 1961 Frankfurt International Motor Show, with BMW promising a car that offered ‘sportiness, refinement, genuine comfort and timeless elegance’.
It almost instantly struck a chord with lawyers and accountants – the type of prospective customer who mourned the impending demise of the Borgward Isabella or who were looking to trade up from a Ford Taunus 12M Super or an Opel Rekord P2.
The coachwork was low-key but elegant, and the 1500 was the first BMW to feature the “Hofmeister kink” in the rear door.
Power was from the M10 SOHC 1.5-litre engine that the company boasted would be ‘up to the minute for the next ten years’.
The initial price was DM 9,485 and the sales team on the BMW stand received thousands of advance orders.
Full production commenced in February of 1962, and the 1500 became the car of choice of the “Aufsteigers” (social climbers).
A Motor Sport test from early 1963 noted ‘As soon as you begin to drive the BMW 1500 you are conscious that here is a small car with extremely good performance and plenty of life.
It also imparts a sense of quality and well-being in a typically modern manner’
The UK price was £1,376 – expensive but not uncompetitive as there was no real domestic equivalent to the 1500.
Even allowing for import duties, the Vauxhall VX 4/90 FB, Sunbeam Rapier, MG Magnette and Riley 4/72 “Farinas” all appealed to a wholly different sector of the market.
The potential 1500 owner was far more likely to have also considered the Alfa Romeo Giulia or the Lancia Flavia before he or she decided to ‘graduate to a BMW’.
September 1963 saw the debut of the 1800, with a 1,773cc version of the M10 unit.
An Autocar test from that November concluded that it would’ appeal to enthusiasts for the marque and attract new ones’.
The cost of £1,441 6s 1d was steep – the BMW was more expensive than the new Rover 2000 – but it was far from unreasonable.
Meanwhile, very keen motorists were attracted by the version of the 1800 that bore a discrete badge containing the letters “Ti” – ‘for drivers who are never content and always look for more’.
For an additional £134 you gained twin Solex carburettors, 20 bhp more power over the standard model and a top speed of nearly 110 mph.
BMW introduced the 1500’s successor, the 1600, in 1964 and in the following year they unveiled the 2000, followed in 1966 by the even more desirable 2000Ti – ‘the absolute fastest car at the Nürburgring’ according to BMW.
A 1966 Motor report was headlined ‘Everything just right’.
Of course, the buyer had the right to expect very high standards for their £1,798 10s, but the tester thought this ‘acceptable or even moderate’ for such a car.
For those who demanded a mild touch of flamboyance, there was the British-market only “Frazer-Nash 2000 Ti”.
The association between FZ and BMW dated back to 1933 and the ‘ideal car for those seeking a fast luxurious saloon’ featured Cibie quartz-iodine auxiliary lamps, a black vinyl roof, a wood-rimmed steering wheel and gear knob, a head restraint and rug for the front passenger, and radial-ply tyres.
It was a car that ‘should top any "short list" drawn up by a buyer with £1,830 to spend’ considered Motor Sport, although this was a select group of drivers.
Today, the FN 2000 Ti is one of the most exclusive of the Neue Klasse family.
BMW own flagship version of the 2000Ti was the “Ti-Lux”, which in 1969 cost a vast £2,214 11s 4d but, according to Autocar, offered ‘all that the sporting family man is likely to ask’.
Towards the end of the year, the Ti was joined by the “Tii”; the Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection was a “first” for BMW.
We should also mention an incredibly ill-judged UK advertising campaign of the early 1970s - headlined with ‘Take Me To Your Husband’ over a picture of a 2000.
The copy featured such gems as ‘I was made for a man like yours’. The copy, which reads as though it was rejected from Carry On at Your Convenience,concluded thus: ‘So, go ahead and take me to your husband.
What if he does fall in love? It’s better than having him fall for another woman’.
But not even lines that were utterly dreadful even by the standards of nearly fifty years ago cannot detract from the importance of the Neue Klasse.
Had the original 1500 failed to sell, it is highly unlikely that the BMW would have survived beyond the 1960s.
The 5 Series succeeded the 1800/2000 in 1972 and today the ‘car of rare distinction’ is rightly celebrated as a ground-breaking saloon. And few could resist the lure of this promotional short.