The first car to emerge under the new leadership was the famous BMW '1500'. It was a veritable breath of fresh air for German motorists who loved compact cars with good performance, handling and some style. The 1500 very neatly filled the bill in every way.
Of compact dimensions and with a progressive technical specification nurtured by Eberhardt Wolff (body), Willy Black (semi-trailing arm IRS) and Alexander von Falkenhausen (engine) plus a body style from the drawing board of Giovanni Michelotti, the 1500 was the sensation of the 1961 Geneva Motor Show.
While the body might be regarded as conventional in most ways, it did feature the latest in monocoque techniques and interestingly had clam-shell type bonnet and boot lid. The suspension at the front was by the MacPherson strut and coil spring system, while at the rear was a development of the semi-trailing arm system originally designed for the oddball BMW 600.
However, it was under the bonnet where the BMW 1500 really stood out. Von Falkenhausen had developed a neat SOHC in-line four-cylinder engine of 1499cc (82 x 71mm) that developed 80 bhp at 5700rpm. The overhead camshaft was chain-driven and operated inclined valves in an almost hemispherical combustion chamber. It really was a (then) state-of-the-art engine and would go on to power millions of BMWs over the next 20 years in varying capacities. Indeed, a turbocharged version of it would power Nelson Piquet to the Formula One championship in 1983!
The interior was tastefully designed with superb front bucket seats and a comfortable rear bench upholstered in cloth, neat round dials on a plain but attractive dash.
The media clamoured to test drive the 1500 and inevitably wrote glowing reports.
Between 1962 and the release of the first 5 Series in 1972, BMW built 340,845 examples of the "Neue Klasse", as the cars were known, with variants including the BMW 1800 (very popular, particularly in the vital US market), BMW 2000 and 2000 Tilux. For the sporting motorists, there was the 1800 Ti, 1800 Ti/SA and the under-rated 2000 Tii that had a 130bhp fuel injected engine and was in many ways an early attempt at what became the M series of high performance BMWs.