We know BMW as the Ultimate Driving Machine today. However, that wasn’t always the case for BMW in America. In fact, in the early ’60s, BMW was just another quirky German brand that your weird neighbor bought. It wasn’t until the Neue Klasse of cars that put BMW on the map in the US. One of the first of those cars was the BMW 1600, the precursor to the now-famous BMW 2002. In this latest video from Jay Leno’s Garage, we see why the 1600 became so popular in the ‘States and brought BMW to the mainstream.
This particular 1967 BMW 1600 is owned by a BMW enthusiast, Lisa Hong, who’s owned quite a few of classic Bimmers. A BMW 2002, E30 M3 and E36 M3 are just some of the cars she’s owned. While she modifies most of her cars, the 1600 is only very lightly restored. It’s still very pure and looks perfectly classic. It’s unmodified and almost entirely original, making it quite special. The Derby grey paint color, which is what Hong named the car after, has been resprayed but it’s the original color. It’s also a very cool color, one that you don’t see often.
Inside, it wears the classic vinyl and cloth seats that many BMWs of this era wore. It’s an interior scheme that fits the era well and looks cool enough to leave without modifying. I also like how bare it is on the inside, with no radio or air-conditioning. It’s as simple as it gets. Though, I’m not sure about that steering wheel. I know it’s original and it’s cool to keep the car that way but seeing a steering wheel that lacks a roundel in a BMW is just odd. Plus, it looks like it came out of a Buick, which was BMW’s intention at the time, so as to bring in American customers but still…Buick.
Under the hood is as simple an engine as it gets but that’s what makes it so great. It used a 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine that made around 90 hp. Considering the car weighed just over 2,000 lbs, that’s actually enough to scoot it around. That little engine was mated to a four-speed manual and powered the rear wheels. This sort of simplistic driving needs to be experienced by enthusiasts every now and again, to remind them that driving fun isn’t about performance numbers or power figures. In fact, sometimes those can get in the way of the fun.
Hong seems like a true enthusiast who really cars about the BMW brand and really likes her classics. It’s a cool video and a cool car, one that’s often forgotten, thanks to the popularity of its successor, the famous BMW 2002.