March 10, 2016 @ 04:13 PM

Legends and Legacies: BMW 1500

To celebrate BMW’s centenary year, we look back to the car that defined the brand. In a way.

This time 100 years ago, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG established its business as an entity following the restructuring of the Rapp Motorenwerke aircraft manufacturing firm. Yes, if you understood that right, BMW wasn’t created to manufacture cars but aircraft engines instead. Even after the company had to cease manufacturing aircraft engines, BMW had turned to creating motorcycles instead.

The company’s first car only came around in 1928-29, where BMW had created the BMW Dixi that was based on the Austin 7. The Dixi can hardly be called a BMW as the car was licensed from the Austin Motor Company. Although the brand had created a number of cars throughout the 20s, 30s and 40s the cars that really took off and wedged itself firmly in car enthusiasts’ minds are the New Class.

But it wasn’t until 1962 that BMW started creating their trademark luxury vehicles known as the Neue Klasse, or in English, the New Class. These cars came after the creation of the Isetta, a strange contraption whose steering column was attached to the door invented to save the company from its financial crisis. The New Class vehicles not only ensured the company’s soundness in the finance department they were also the cars that cemented BMW’s trademark as sports sedan makers.

There were coupes and sedans alike from the new class of BMW and the car that started off the New Class was the 1500, a four-door compact executive car introduced at the 1961 Frankfurt Motor Show. The 1500 immediately became the manufacturer’s best-selling model of that time hence further saving the company from bankruptcy.

It’s not surprising at all that the 1500 had shot to the best-sellers list immediately after its launch. The car had received tons of attention during its introduction in the 40th IAA and even bookings were made. The hype of the motor show was then followed by the speculative hype on whether BMW would actually build the car or how long production will be delayed.

BMW had defied all odds and launched the 1500 almost on schedule and proceeded to cater to the large numbers of booking the car had amounted during and after the prototype was previewed at the motor show.

And it wasn’t just because the 1500 is one of the most stylish cars of its time with the continued use of the kidney grille and that little kink in the design that captured the world’s attention it was also the 1.5-litre engine that gave the car its fame as well.

The four-cylinder unit was developed by Alexander von Falkenhausen and is capable of producing 80bhp at 5700rpm and 118Nm at 3000rpm, giving the 1500 the ability to work its way up to a top speed of 150kph. BMW claims that the 1500 has a fuel consumption that undercuts the ten-litre mark per 100km on the road. Something that only BMW could claim back then.

With the success the 1500 had brought BMW, designers had proceeded to spawn numerous other versions of the car thus creating the New Class series. Discounting the 1600 which came in 1964 to replace the 1500, BMW had created two-door versions in both coupe and sedan forms known as the 2000C and 2000CS coupe series and the 1602 two-door sedan, slowly evolving towards the very famous and world renown BMW 2002 Turbo.

So here’s to 100 years of BMW, the abbreviation that most of us in this generation had no idea what it stands for. And here’s to 54 years of the New Class vehicles that gave BMW their trademark sporty sedan reputation!

Jerrica Leong

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