There’s something incredibly special about concept cars from many moons ago. Firstly, the styling is often so futuristic that we still don’t have anything with comparable design lines. Secondly, the privilege of hindsight is a great examination tool for seeing what technology was deemed useful and what never made it to production.
One such concept car that never made it into production was the BMW E25 Turbo, built to celebrate the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Designed by Paul Bracq (he also did many Mercedes-Benzs, most notably the W113 SL range), it was based on the much-loved 2002 chassis, had gull-wing doors and a mid-mounted engine. Only two were ever produced. It looks like Officer K’s car from Blade Runner 2049.
Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine mated to a four-speed manual transmission it wasn’t shy on performance. Claimed numbers for the E25 Turbo were 206 kW and 0 – 100 km/h in 6.6 seconds. Back in the ’70s this was simply astounding, scratch that. 206 kW from a 2.0-litre is still astounding, it’s VW Golf R astounding. At full chat, we can just imagine the spine-tingling boost and wastegate chatter. The top speed you ask? 250 km/h.
This E25 Turbo wasn’t all just for celebratory Summer Olympic madness, it was a showcase of how BMW envisioned future automotive engineering. It was about incorporating safety features and aerodynamics into their vehicles. They were Volvo-ing before Volvo. The front and rear sections of the car were filled with foam, absorbing the impact in a collision with another car, presumably when all that boost kicked in. There were side impact beams to protect the occupants in the event of a collision. Another super futuristic safety feature the E25 Turbo showcased was a radar based braking distance monitor that also notified the driver of hazards on the road like low curbs and parking lot beacons. Genius.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and looking back at the E25 Turbo one can see how the proposed technology and styling cues came through in future production models. The 1978 M1 was a limited run sports car whose styling was heavily influenced by the E25 Turbo, even the later 8 Series pays homage to the Turbo in its design. As for the safety technology, we’ve seen bumpers become more pliable to absorb impacts, impact bars have become standard and radar technology has become de rigueur with park distance control sensors and the like. And they said that the ’70s was all about hippies and flower power. Not likely.