IN 1968, an unassuming two-door sedan from a virtually unknown Bavarian carmaker arrived in the US, setting off a groundswell of enthusiasm that has yet to recede. The 2002 introduced a generation of enthusiasts to BMW's unique combination of performance and practicality, and it's been recognized as a quintessential BMW ever since.
The 2002's qualities may be well known, but its origins remain shrouded in mystery and misinformation. BMW's US importer, Max Hoffman, said the car was built at his instigation, and his claim has been repeated for more than 50 years. In truth, the 2002's creation had little to do with Hoffman, who was hardly a hero in any story about BMW. Quite the contrary, as an investigation of files within the BMW Archive has revealed.
No car is created by one person, and the 2002 story has many heroes: the designers who created an iconic BMW, the federal regulators who sought to limit motor vehicle emissions, the engineers who figured out how to make that possible without sacrificing performance, and the executives who approved it for production.
This is their story, and that of one of the best-loved automobiles of all time.
About the author: For 17 years, Jackie Jouret was editor-in-chief of Bimmer, the magazine about BMW, for which she authored countless stories about all aspects of BMW, its cars and its history. Since 2016, she has contributed a monthly column about BMW history to Roundel, the magazine of the BMW Car Club of America, and has authored three books to accompany the BMW CCA Foundation's exhibits celebrating 75 years of BMW motorsport, the 50th anniversary of the 2002, and the 50th birthday of the CCA.