The Neue Klasse is the car that saved BMW. After the decade of the 1950s, when the company was selling the polar opposites that were the Isetta and line of perimeter-frame and V8-powered Baroque Angel models including the aluminum-bodied 507, BMW found itself on the brink of financial ruin, and was almost merged with Daimler Benz in what would have effectively been a fire sale. It was an expansion in the ownership stake by the Quandt family that staved off what seemed inevitable, and allowed the automaker to develop the Neue Klasse in 1960 ahead of its 1962 market introduction.
Marking a total departure from previous model offerings, the Neue Klasse is an early interpretation of what BMW eventually specialized in: a practical four-door sedan with room for the entire family that doesn’t mind being put through its paces on a cambered turn. BMW’s sport sedan legacy can be traced directly to the Neue Klasse, which spawned a lineage of other models including the legendary 2002 and 2000C and 2000CS Neue Klasse coupes, which are the predecessors of the E9 coupes that came to define BMW’s motorsport efforts of the 1970s.
The Neue Klasse was also a landmark for BMW in terms of design. Concieved by Wilhelm Hofmeister with Giovanni Michelotti serving as a consultant, the model line serves as a study in terms of the industry standard three-box layout, and was the first BMW model with the signature Hofmeister kink integrated within the rear door and window frame. BMW also produced 200 1800Ti/SA models during 1964 and 1965, which were specifically built for racing thanks to dual Weber carburetors, disc brakes, and a five-speed manual transmission.
In a new video from BMW Classic, hosts Marc and Christoph explain and drive a BMW 2000 Neue Klasse sedan. The hosts give context to the model and its historical importance in BMW history, and testify to its driving prowess, which remains nonetheless convincing more than 60 years after the Neue Klasse was designed. A lot has changed for BMW since the days of the Neue Klasse, but even when looking at something as modern and capable as the current 5 Series or M5, it’s clear that BMW has been working to perfect the same fundamental formula for the better part of a century.—Alex Tock
[Photo and video courtesy BMW AG.]