In 1973, the average house sold for around $32,000, a gallon of gas for 40 cents. Billy Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, and Muhammad Ali lost his heavyweight world championship to Ken Norton, only to win it back six months later. The OPEC oil embargo kicked off a worldwide recession, and President Nixon addressed the Watergate break-in on national TV, declaring, “I am not a crook.”
Also in 1973, a young couple from Southern California, Barry and Lynn Friesen, bought a brand-new 2002 tii from Long Beach BMW. They’d just sold their 1963 split-window Corvette Stingray, and Lynn needed a new daily driver. After the Corvette, Lynn found the standard 2002 a bit lacking, shall we say, and she decided the sportier 2002 tii would be more fun.
The making of a Bavarian hot rod
As it turns out, that dynamic informed the car’s creation. Max Hoffman, BMW’s U.S. importer at the time, was well aware that the standard 2002 didn’t have enough power to satisfy American drivers. Its 90-hp (SAE) four-cylinder engine was downright anemic compared to the engines in most American cars of the era, and it paled next to the 250-hp 327 that constituted the base engine in the Friesens’ 1963 Corvette. The 2002 may have been more agile in the corners, but it was severely underpowered by comparison.
BMW offered the more powerful 120-hp 2002 ti in Europe, but the twin-carb 2002 wouldn’t meet U.S. emissions requirements. Hoffman knew that BMW had been experimenting with fuel injection on the M10 four-cylinder engine, however, and he demanded that BMW install it in the 2002.
Despite initial resistance within BMW, the 2002 tii was introduced in April 1971. With Kugelfischer PL 04 fuel injection instead of a single Solex 40 PDSI carburetor, the 1,990cc four made 125 hp in U.S. spec instead of just 90, and a Bavarian hot rod was born.
It was still underpowered compared to an American muscle car, of course, or even the 180-hp E9 3.0 CS coupe that BMW also offered customers. Nonetheless, the tii’s smaller, lighter and more agile packaging made it the car of choice for driving enthusiasts who valued fun in the corners over higher outright speeds—which became irrelevant anyway when the U.S. government imposed a 55-mph national speed limit from 1974 to 1987, ostensibly to save gas during the aforementioned OPEC oil crisis.