Friday, September 18, 2015

The New Six

Anyone familiar with the history of the BMW marque knows full well the rivalry it has with its fellow German luxury sport sedan manufacturer, Mercedes Benz. Following World War II and throughout the 1950s and much of the 1960s, Mercedes maintained a fairly commanding lead in the sport luxury market place. In 1968 BMW introduced the car that they hoped would change that.

BMW had been scoring well with their cars running in rallies across Europe. But they wanted to make a statement as a maker of fine luxury cars, without sacrificing the sporting image. To accomplish this they wanted to build a car with a larger engine than the four cylinder machines they had been making. Based on their successful four, a new six cylinder engine was developed, the first being 2495 cubic centimeters and boasting 148 horse power. This became the power plant for the new 2500 BMW sport luxury sedan and coupe.

The 2500 was introduced in 1968 along with the slightly larger 2.8 liter 2800 (the car shown here is a 2800). Though these had the rallying qualities of their previous cars, they were designed to be smooth driver's cars.

Initial reaction, especially in the USA, was very good. The reviews tended to rave about the car and Road and Track even called it one of the world's best auto buys. Though both cars looked similar, the 2500 was the more basic model while the 2800 offered more luxury options such as a full leather interior and even a sun roof. With the 2500 selling at around $5600 it meant that a lot of people who longed for German prestige could now afford it.

The 2500 lasted until 1972. A newer "Bavaria" was introduced in 1971 and took its place and eventually that of the 2800. Most people agree that the Bavaria was the forerunner to current BMW luxury sedans. But it was the "new six" engine that brought about the 2500 and 2800 that set the ball in motion and introduced a large number of Americans to this high end marque.

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