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2002 Turbo
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  BMW 2002 Turbo
 

  Article Image gallery (23) Specifications  
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Country of origin:Germany
Produced from:1973 - 1974
Numbers built:1672
Introduced at:1973 Frankfurt Motor Show
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:Before December 1st, 2004
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Click here to download printer friendly versionForced induction went through a revival in the early 1970s. It was first used as a relatively simple method to increase power in the 1920s, when the Supercharger made its debut. In the 1930s motor racing was dominated by supercharged cars like the Alfa Romeo P3 and the Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix cars. Many high end road cars also used the system, with the Duesenberg SJ and Bugatti Type 57Cs as good examples. After rule changes at the end of the 1951 season, the Supercharger disappeared from Grand Prix racing and the streets.

Being driven by the engine's driveshaft, Superchargers suck up a lot of energy from the engine, so to be effective it first needs to overcome its own power loss. With better fuels and technology, the Naturally Aspirated engines made a strong comeback in the 1950s. At the end of 1960s a new form of forced induction was heavily experimented with, the Turbo. A turbine in the Turbo is driven using the engine's exhaust fumes, which is far more efficient than the Supercharger's drive. Using the energy created by the fan, the fuel mixture is inducted under high pressure.

Although the Turbo is a more efficient system, it does not deliver the power as smoothly as a Supercharger. A minimum amount of engine revolutions is required to get the turbine spinning fast enough. This, combined with the lower compression the engines can run at to compensate for the high pressure of the Turbo, results to what is commonly referred to as Turbo lag; the complete lack of power below a certain rpm. When the Turbo does start to work, it usually does so with a big kick, resulting in treacherous driving characteristics of Turbo cars.

As a final evolution of the four cylinder engine, BMW first showed a Turbocharged version in 1972, fitted in the Paul Bracq designed BMW Turbo Concept. A year later, the Turbo made its production debut in the BMW 2002 Turbo. It was mainly intended as a homologation special and used the Naturally Aspirated BMW 2002 Tii as a base. Flared fenders and the BMW Motorsport striping made the cars easily recognizable. One of the most striking details was the '2002 Turbo' written mirrored on the front lip.

Both the 2002 Turbo's aggressive appearance and tricky handling caused public outrage at the car's launch. Under pressure of the BMW board of directors, the 2002 Turbo script on the nose was dropped. The tricky handling was a direct result of the Turbo lag, for which the 2002 Turbo is a school book example today. Below 4000 rpm the 2 litre engine's power was minimal, but once up to speed the engine was good for 170 bhp. The 4000 rpm power boost came very sudden and especially in corners required the driver's utmost attention.

Production lasted just over a year, with the 2002 model being replaced by the new 3-Series. Only 1672 examples produced, painted in either chamonix white or polaris silver. BMW continued using the Turbo with a lot of success in motor racing, most notably in Formula 1 in the 1980s, but the German manufacturer never built a road going petrol engined Turbo again. Ever since the 2002 Turbo's launch, many manufacturers worked hard to cure the Turbo's lag. Of the many solutions tried, especially the easier to spin, lightweight turbine was a big improvement.

Although the 2002 Turbo was never officially sold in the United States, both pictured examples are seen at the 2004 Concorso Italiano in Monterey, California.

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  Article Image gallery (23) Specifications