Turbocharged engines may dominate today’s BMW lineup, but they were rare in the production cars of the early 1970s. BMW first experimented with turbocharging in the futuristic Paul Bracq-designed Turbo concept, which was introduced just in time for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
The Turbo’s design elements remained conceptual until they reappeared on the M1 in 1978, but its turbocharged four-cylinder engine was put into production just a year later, when the 2002 Turbo debuted at the 1973 Frankfurt Auto Show.
To make the 2002 Turbo, BMW started with the 1,990cc M10 four-cylinder from the 2002 tii and added a KKK turbocharger that bumped output from 130 horsepower at 5,800 rpm to 170 hp at the same engine speed. Turbo upgrades also included an oil cooler and a high-performance capacitor ignition system, as well as a limited slip differential, vented brake discs up front (of the same 256mm diameter as the tii’s) and 250mm drums at the rear (20mm larger than the tii’s).
The car also received a more performance-tuned suspension: According to the M Registry, that consisted of 2002 tii springs up front and Turbo-specific rear springs “with three different spring pads to adjust the ride height,” paired with Bilstein shocks. The 2002’s 16mm rear anti-roll bar was retained, but on the Turbo it was matched to a 20mm front bar instead of the usual 15mm unit. The Turbo also got reinforced trailing arms, rear wheel bearings, hubs and stub axles. The cockpit featured a sport steering wheel, Rentrop bucket seats and a red instrument panel to surround the gauges. Structurally, the Turbo differed from a regular 2002 with heavier front frame rails, a thicker floor around the rear suspension mounts, a revised trunk floor to accommodate a larger spare tire and special 70-liter fuel tank, and a unique nose panel.
The exterior is defined by the distinctive fender flares added to accommodate the Turbo’s wider tires, which measured 185/70HR-13 where the 2002 tii’s checked in at 165HR-13, plus front and rear spoilers that made it look more like a race car than a street-legal road car even without the optional Motorsport stripes—themselves another Bracq design. The original version of that striping featured the world “Turbo” written in reverse on the front spoiler, so that drivers could tell what was approaching in the rear view mirror. That car would be coming up fast, too: Where the 2002 tii needed 9.4 seconds to make the zero to 62 mph dash, the Turbo needed just 6.9 seconds, while top speed increased from 118 mph to 131.
Unfortunately for BMW, the timing of the Turbo’s debut couldn’t have been worse, coinciding as it did with the start of the OPEC oil embargo. It was a bad time for performance cars, and only 1,672 of the 2002 Turbos were built before BMW pulled the plug on this high-strung hot rod.
None of the 1,672 Turbos built by BMW were officially sold in the U.S., so it’s pretty unusual to come across a beautiful example like the one Ignatey Terzian has in his garage in Queens, New York. An Armenian born in Iran, Terzian lived in that country until he came to the U.S. some 35 years ago.