If you are a fan of BMW, you may have heard of the legendary 2002 model, which was one of the most successful and influential cars of the 1960s and 1970s. But did you know that there were another versions of the 2002 that were made exclusively for the South African market? It was called the BMW 2000 SA and 2004 SA, and it had a very interesting origin story. During a trip to South Africa, we had the chance to see the two models side-by-side.

It All Started With Glass

The BMW 2004 SA was based on the BMW 2000 SA, which in turn was derived from the Glas 1700, a sedan model designed by Italian stylist Pietro Frua and produced by Hans Glas GmbH, a small German car manufacturer that was acquired by BMW in 1966. The Glas 1700 had a sleek and elegant body, but also a robust and reliable engine that used a timing belt with an overhead camshaft, a technology that BMW wanted to adopt for its own models.

BMW decided to use the Glas 1700 as the basis for its first car to be manufactured in South Africa, where it had established a production plant in Rosslyn, near Pretoria, in 1968. The plant was a joint venture between BMW AG and several local investors, who saw an opportunity to cater to the growing demand for premium cars in the country. The first model to roll out of the plant was the BMW 1800 SA, which was essentially a rebadged Glas 1700 with a larger engine and some minor cosmetic changes. The following year, the more powerful BMW 2000 SA was introduced, featuring a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 100 horsepower. The car essentially had a Glas-design without the iconic BMW design elements, like the double headlamps or kidney grille. But the engine came from BMW.

Well Received In South Africa

The BMW 1800 SA and 2000 SA models were well received by the South African customers, who appreciated their quality, performance and style. However, they also faced some competition from other European and Japanese brands, as well as from the political and economic turmoil that plagued South Africa in the 1970s. To keep up with the changing times and tastes, BMW decided to update its South African models in 1973, giving them a more modern and distinctive look.

The facelifted models were named BMW 1804 SA and BMW 2004 SA, and they featured a new front end that incorporated the iconic BMW kidney grille and round headlights, as well as new rear lights and bumpers. The interior was also upgraded with new instruments, seats and trim. The engine remained unchanged, but the suspension was improved for better handling and comfort. The BMW 2004 SA also offered an automatic transmission option for the first time.

One Year Production

The BMW 1804 SA and 2004 SA models were only produced for one year, as they were replaced by the more advanced and popular E12 BMW 5 Series in 1974. However, they left a lasting impression on the South African motoring scene, as they represented the first line of BMWs built specifically for the local market. They also paved the way for future models that would make BMW one of the most successful and respected car brands in South Africa.

Today, the BMW 1804 SA and 2004 SA models are very rare and sought-after by collectors and enthusiasts, who appreciate their unique history and design. They are also a testament to BMW’s commitment to innovation and excellence, as well as to its long-standing relationship with South Africa.