The Gruppe5 BMW 2002 Is An 800 Horsepower Blast From The Past with a $1 Million Price Tag
Remember the Group 5 version of BMW’s first mass-produced turbocharged car, the 2002? You don’t? Well, this build will refresh your memoryby Michael Fira, on
When you bring together one the best BMW engine builders and tuners with one of the best chassis and body designers of the last few decades, you’re bound to get an amazing product. Take it a step further, and task them with re-imagining BMW’s diminutive two-door hit of the late ’60s and early ’70s, the 2002, into a bona fide racer with a Group 5-inspired body kit and as much power as a McLaren 650S. You’ll end up with something like the Gruppe5 2002, a $1 million, flared pocket rocket that you didn’t know you wanted.
Actually; a carbon fiber body with boxy arches and an enormous rear wing that acts as a cage for a 744 horsepower V-10. That’s what you get, plus a lot more, if you wire $875,000 to Gruppe5’s account. Add $100,000 more, and you’ll get 803 horsepower from a bigger version of that same V-10. The catch is that Gruppe5 only plans to build 300 of these bonkers 2002s, 200 with the 744 horsepower engine and 100 with the 803 horsepower unit installed in front of the cabin. When will the renders you see turn into a running and driving car? Pretty soon since Bill and Bob Riley, two of the co-founders of the project as well as the driving power behind Riley Automotive will get cracking after Bob returns from the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Now, if the name Riley rings any bells, I bet you now understand why this thing will cost as much as two Ferrari 812 Superfasts brimming with options. Oh, and that engine guy is none other than Steve Dinan, the founder of Dinan Cars and reputable Daytona Prototype-era engine builder.
It’s too much money, right? You should just pick a Singer instead, right?
As I was browsing through web articles about this project, I stumbled upon dozens of people bashing this car. Be it the price tag, the looks, or the fact that we’re talking merely about a render at this time; people found plenty of off-putting things about this creation.
I mean, I know, the 2002 isn't the prettiest base for a restomod, and you could argue the end result isn't really a looker.
Especially if you were to park it next to a Singer Porsche of any kind.
Take, for instance, Singer’s Dynamics and Lightweighting Study project co-engineered with Willaims Advanced Engineering and with key input from former Porsche engineer and designer Norbert Singer (the man that inspired the name of the Singer company) as well as engine specialist Hans Mezger.
The car, built using titanium, magnesium, and many other exotic materials is part of a very limited run of just 75 units, each made to order at Singer's shop in the U.K.
The power comes from an air-cooled flat six that cranks out 550 horsepower, all sent to the back wheels through a six-speed manual. All good and nice but then you find out a DLS will set you back almost $2 million. Of course, there are other less insane Singer Porsches out there, the cheapest one costing about $400,000 although most Singer customers pay north of $600,000 for their neigh on unique rides. Is, then, the Gruppe5 2002 that expensive? Maybe not, if you put it in the right context and you look at its most insane peers.
The history of the 2002
Before we delve into the details of this creation, it’s worth highlighting the history of the 2002 to understand why it was picked as the base for this project. After all, Dinan and Riley could’ve just picked up an E21-generation model, the 2002’s replacement which also has genuine Group 5 pedigree since it was raced in that category in the late ’70s as a stop gap before the M1 finally arrived in 1981.
The BMW CS series could also be deemed suitable as the ’Batmobile’ was based on a 2800 CS and, as such, the turbocharged 3.0 CSL, the winged warrior of 1976 that proudly wore the evocative checkered pattern drawn by Frank Stella was also an offspring of the BMW CS, and you already know some people did build a throwback E9 inspired by the Group 5 monsters that raced in 1976 as well as their North-American counterparts that competed in the less extreme GTO category of the IMSA GT Championship.
So, let’s continue the story.
All the way back in 1962, BMW introduced the New Class platform that heralded a number of mid-size and full-size sedans, the first of which was the BMW 1500 that was powered by the (also new) M10 (at the time called M115) OHC four-pot engine.
The scope behind the New Class platform was to bring BMW back at the forefront of executive manufacturers that fitted their cars with smaller displacement engines - thus moving away from the antiquated V-8s.
Even before the 2000C and the 2000CS were introduced at once in 1965, BMW engineers started thinking about the necessity of a more compact model, a model that was absent from BMW’s lineup at the time. A smaller version of the 1500 would have to have only two doors and would also help reestablish BMW as a brand with genuine sporting aspirations that basically vanished immediately after World War II since BMW only offered bulky limousines that were as fast as smaller glaciers.
All the ideas that were brewing in the heads of Fritz Fiedler (the head of the New Class project), Wilhelm Hofmeister (who was in charge of the body and the design), and Alex von Frankenhausen (engine builder par excellence) soon found their way onto the drawing board where Hofmeister penned a two-door, three-box coupe with a shorter wheelbase (down from 100.4 inches to 98.4 inches in the end) and a slightly restyled roofline and front end. In 1966, the car was announced christened as the 1600-2 due to the presence of the same 1.6-liter engine under the hood as employed by the sedans.
The press immediately compared the 1600-2 and, especially, 1967’s 1600ti with Alfa Romeo’s Alfa Romeo 105/115 Series coupes like the GT 1300 Junior and the Giulia Veloce.
The 1600ti was equipped with a 105 horsepower unit and plans were being laid out for an even bigger engine to be installed in the car.
Unknowingly, both Alex von Falkenhausen and Helmut Werner Bönsch, BMW’s Head of Product Planning, had engineers mount a 2.0-liter unit in their personal 1600-2s that they used as daily drivers at the time. Upon realizing that both of them were driving about in cars featuring the same modification, they decided to come forth to the BMW board with the proposal that a bigger engine should be available in the 1600-2.
Their plea was backed by legendary U.S. BMW (among many others) importer Max Hoffman who noticed how popular the 1600-2 was with the American customers and urged Munich to up the ante and offer a bigger engine for a zippier ride. The 1600ti version, though, never made it Stateside due to the stricter U.S. emissions regulations and, as such, BMW decided to use the 2-liter engine in the 2000 Coupe. According to BMW2002.co.uk, "BMW Sales Director Paul Hahnemann was well aware of the requirements of the American market, and so he supported the proposal for a 2-liter version of the two-door car, despite opposition the sales argument won the day, and the 2002 was born."
At first, there were two versions of the 2002 out there: the single-carburetor model with 101 horsepower on tap and the dual-carburetor high compression 2002ti that put out 119 horsepower.
A third version with an automatic transmission and the engine of the base 2002 became available in ’69. In 1971, the Baur-built 1600 Cabriolet received the 2.0-liter engine too as did the hatchback and, that same year, the 2002ti was replaced by the 2002tii model that introduced a fuel-injected 130 horsepower engine straight from the 2000tii sedan. The 2002tii could reach 115 mph in its day which was rather impressive for a compact car and on par with what Alfa Romeo was offering with the GT Sprint Veloce with its 1.6-liter, twin-cam, inline-four engine.
Then, in 1973, Europe got its first production turbocharged car.
It wasn't a Porsche, and it wasn't even a sports car. It was the 2002 Turbo from BMW that predated the 930 by two years.
Launched at that year’s Frankfurt Auto Show, it was powered by the same engine as the 2002tii albeit fitted with a Borg Warner turbocharger. Power thus increased to 170 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 180 pound-feet of torque. The official top speed of this pocket rocket fitted with a limited-slip differential, screwed-on wider arches, and bigger brakes was 130 mph while the 0-60 mph time was quoted to be seven seconds dead - I heavily doubt it but eh. After only two years on the market, however, the 2002 was retired, and only 1,672 models were ever made. But it did spearhead a racing version, and this is where we get to the historical relative of the Gruppe5 2002.
Group 5 madness scaled down
The 2002 was never used as BMW's main assault weapon in the Group 5 days.
In fact, the factory first used the CSL and then switched right away to the newly introduced E21 coupe in 1977. The 2002, then, was merely a car used by some privateers although a top BMW tuner by the name of Schnitzer was at the forefront of the 2002 development in racing. The car had a rather successful career prior to 1976, racing extensively in the ETCC (European Touring Car Championships), mainly doing battle with Ford’s Escort at a time when the big boy league was a matchup between the 2800CS (and then the CSL) and Ford’s Cologne-developed racing Capri.
A number of tuners raced Group 2 2002s including Schnitzer, GS-Tuning, and Alpina but none of them could extract as much oomph from the naturally aspirated two-liter engines as Ford Cologne did from the Escort’s Cosworth BDA inline-four. The 1.8-liter DOHC unit put out 263 horsepower while BMW drivers racing in the same category had to work with something like 220 to 226 horsepower. Granted, things got even by 1974 when the already widebodied (but still Group 2-spec) 2002s raced around with 272-280 horsepower on tap, about as much as the Zakspeed-developed Escorts with the now 2.0-liter BDA engines.
However, the Ford was still the car to beat as Hans Heyer manage to win the ETCC title overall in 1974 ahead of all of the competitors in the top division because the rules favored the consistent class winners, and in the top class Ford battled with BMW intensively and almost shared the wins in an even way while Heyer took home most of the wins in his class. A similar system was up in the BSCC (British Saloon Car Championship) at the time which meant Bill McGovern with his Bevan Sunbeam Imp could rack up a few consecutive driver’s titles although he never drove anything with an engine big enough to compete in the top category usually filled by American "Muzzies" and "’Maros".
Then, in 1976, Joerg Denzel showed up at the 1,000-kilometer race at the Nordschleife, a round of that year's World Championship for Makes, with a tricked out 2002tii sporting a 935-esque rear wing, wider arches and a big air dam in the front.
The car was still urged on by the 2.0-liter GS-tuned naturally aspirated engine but was entered in the 2.0-liter division of the Group 5 due to the extensive modifications done to the body.
The 2.0-liter category (later allowing only cars with an engine capacity below 1.7-liters) was the baby category of the Group 5 class. Norbert Neumann and Joerg Denzel finished 13th overall and in the process were first in their class, not that big of a feat when you think that the only other finisher in the class was another 2002tii, only one that had lapped the ’Green Hell’ in practice some 40 seconds slower. Still, Schnitzer and Rodenstock, the main sponsor on this occasion, were intrigued by the opportunities and, for 1977, two Div. II (the baby category) 2002 were readied by Schnitzer.
They were entered in the DRM (German Racing Championship) and contested only the Div. II races although all cars entered were battling for one overall champion’s title, much like in the ETCC or BSCC where a consistent winner could become overall champion regardless of the class he’d competed in. Both of these 2002s received turbochargers, and they were driven by Albrecht Krebs and Harald Ertl. For the Norisring Trophy/DRM race, Schnitzer also prepared a 1.7-liter version that was to be driven by Walter Roehrl. The car finished a lowly 17th in the Trophy race and then did not even start in the DRM race.
That was the first and only start of a 2002 fitted with a Div. I engine. Besides the two Schnitzer cars, there were at least two other 2002s racing in Div. II that were turbocharged as well as a host of naturally aspirated examples. The Schnitzer-Rodenstock machines were oftentimes quick but far more unreliable than their E21 brethren.
Towards the end of the 1977 season, Klaus Ludwig recorded the best result of a 2002 Turbo in DRM: victory in the DRM Hockenheim super-sprint race. Ludwig was also on pole aboard the same car at the Kyalami 9 Hours but the car retired with electrical problems.
The Gruppe5 way
Riley and Dinan know all the history, have seen all the footage, all of the pictures and read all the data. Unreliability? Electrical gremlins? Blown head gaskets? Bad machining due to poor technology? Not anymore. Now, in 2019, they decided the time was right to give the 2002 on steroids a new lease of life with help from tech developed for the Daytona Prototypes, a class of cars that reigned supreme in the Grand-Am Road Racing series between 2003 and 2013 and, later, in the United SportsCar Championship (currently the Weathertech SportsCar Championship) in its first few seasons.
Riley Technologies will handle the construction of the tube-over-carbon-fiber chassis while the V-10 engines will be built at Steve Dinan's shop.
For the record, Riley cars have won the Daytona 24 Hours overall 13 times (dating back to the days when the company was called Riley & Scott, and the WSC-spec Mk. III prototypes did battle with Ferrari’s last sports prototype racer, the awesome 333SP) so you know they have a bit of experience to fall back on. Oh, and they also prep the factory-backed Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GTD category of the Weathertech SportsCar Championship. The lightweight tube frame will keep the weight of the car down and, as such, when complete with all the carbon body panels and the interior, the Gruppe5 2002 will only weigh 2,200 pounds while the aero package is said to offer 2,400 pounds of downforce at speed. To put it into perspective, a Chevy Spark is 70 pounds heavier, and a McLaren Senna produces just 1,764 pounds of downforce.
The body kit that will make the car stick to the ground as if it ran on adhesive tires features a sizeable air dame in the front, wide wheel arches that lead into equally wide rocker panel extensions.
The rear fenders feature forward-facing openings for some oil coolers perhaps. In the back, you’ll find a huge diffuser as well as big air vents incorporated in the fender flares, these vents being just above the twin exhaust pipes. On the trunk lid, there’s a small ducktail and also a fixed rear wing of biblical proportions.
The car rides on 19-inch BBW three-piece wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Cup 2 or Pirelli P-Zero Corsa rubber. Braking is by four race-spec Alcon mono-bloc calipers over ceramic rotors while suspension is pushrod-operated all-around.
The engine is a thoroughly modified version of BMW’s S85 V-10 that was available in the BMW M6 (E63/E64) and the BMW M5 (E60) between 2005 and 2010. In stock trim, the engine put out 500 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. The 5.0-liter behemoth revved all the way to 8,250 for everyone’s aural pleasure. In the Gruppe5 2002, though, the S85 has been bored out to 5.8-liters or even 5.9-liters. The 5.8-liter version produces 744 horsepower while the 5.9-liter one cranks out 803 horsepower - almost 50 more than a 2019 Corvette ZR1 which is also 1,360 pounds heavier.
Now, if you worry about the reliability of the engine in what should be a street-legal car, worry not. That’s because Steve Dinan, who founded the eponymous tuning company (that he left in 2015) three decades ago, is the factory race engine builder for BMW of North-America. Oh, and his company grew to become the biggest specialized BMW tuner Stateside.
Talking about safety, the Gruppe5 2002 will benefit from FIA-compliant safety features such as a full-blown roll-cage, bucket seats with racing harnesses, a fire suppression system, and a fuel cell in the back.
"We designed the Gruppe5 2002 to deliver unparalleled performance in all respects," said Bill Riley, quoted by Sportscar365.com. According to the same source, "the inspiration for the Gruppe5 2002 is the 1972 BMW 2002tii owned by Gruppe5 Motorsport Founder, Tom Zajac." Zajac raced his 2002tii in Showroom Stock-level racing for years and is now the backer of this ludicrous project.
In my view, the fact that such legendary names in the industry have come together, suggests that this is no vaporware.
This will happen and I’m sure that there will be clients for it, too. The BMW Owners Club of America is huge, and among all those owners there are some ultra-rich ones that would love to have a little track day bomb of a car that could probably outrun most supercars thanks to the impressive aero package. Also, the best part is that you don’t have to bring it in the back of a trailer like you would a Ferrari 458 Challenge or other non-road-worthy track day specials. Bring it on!
Read our full review on the 1972 - 1974 BMW 2002tii.
Read our full review on the 1970 BMW Alpina 2002ti.
Read our full review on the 2016 BMW 2002 Hommage
Source: Road & Track