Road test

A very good car
An Appraisal of the Frazer-Nash B.M.W. 2000 TI

Beforethe war the Bayerische Motoren Werke made some very effective motors cars, culminating in that new conception of softly-sprung, push-rod o.h.v. sports car, the 328, which is a coveted possession today. The Aldington brothers, who had taken over manufacture of the chain-driven Frazer-Nash cars from “Archie” Frazer-Nash, were quick to appreciate the excellence of these cars from Munich and imported them as Frazer-Nash B.M.W.s.

After the war the German company did-red between making bubble cars, small air-cooled utility cars and luxury V8s. When the market for these extreme types collapsed the future of a firm famous for its transverse-twin motorcycles and acro-engines looked bleak. But in 102 I was in Germany and was able to sample the newly introduced 1500, being one of the first motoring writers to drive this all-independently-sprung overhead-camshaft B.M.W. It left a profound impression, after some swift driving in the frost, wet and fog of a December afternoon on the outskirts of Munich. At the time, not only was it obvious that B.M.W. had a car which would give them new lease of life but the refined 1500 seemed akin to a small Mercedes-Benz. Since then I have driven subsequent models and the Managing Director of Motor Sport has become a B.M.W. owner. The admiration remains but later, larger-engined versions seem not quite so close to the Mercedes-Benz image, being less solidly-built, hut more lively, high-performance, semi-luxury cars.

The issue of February 1966 contained a full road-test report on the B.M.W. 1800 TI and last month a brief account of the 1600 was published. Since then the 2000 TI with embellishments by Fraze-rNash has come along for appraisal.

In specification this car is similar to the other B.M.W. models, but its single overhead-camshaft four-cylinder 1,990-c.c. engine develops 120 (DIN) b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. on a c.r. of 9.3 to 1, compared with 110 (net) b.h.p. at 5,800 r.p.m. on a 9.5-to-1 c.r. of the 1800-TI model. This engine is inclined at 33 deg. to the o/s at the front of the car and drives through a hydraulically-operated single-plate clutch to a 4-speed gearbox having Porsche synchromesh on all the forward gears. A divided propeller shaft takes the drive to the frame-mounted final-drive unit, and there is i.r.s. on the trailing-arm system, using coil-springs, supplemented by torsion-bars. Front suspension is by coil-spring telescopic struts,

The Frazer-Nash extras consist of a black vinyl-covered roof to remind you of the older Rileys, a rather horrid big r6-in. dished wood-rim steering wheel, a head-rest for the front-seat passenger, a wooden gear-lever knob, a deep pile foot-rug for the n/s of the front compartment, Cibie quartz-iodine fog and spot lamps with ugly and unnecessary dust-proof covers (which, according to a warning notice on the screen, are in dire danger of buckling, or catching fire or something, if the lamps are used before they are removed) and radial-ply tyres. And naturally the badges have been expanded to include the name “Frazer-Nash.” Of these, the wooden gear-lever knob is the only one I thought worthwhile. For some time the 2000 T1 has had torsion bars to supplement the coil springs front and back. As the Frazer-Nash version is the only 2000 TI sold in this country, apart from the 2000 TI Lux, which is a rather different proposition, with four head lamps, etc., these, also, can be regarded as special to the Frazer-Nash B.M.W.

In conception this B.M.W. follows conventional family-saloon form, with an extremely generous unimpeded luggage area in the boot (although luggage has to be lilted over the back panel), self-supporting bonnet panel and counter-balanced boot, lid, and plenty of room within for five occupants. The doors do not shut in a particularly manner, the back seat lacks a central arm-rest, and the unlockable spring-lidded cubby-hole in the leather-covered facia is not very commodious. The headlamps, sunk into the grille, look rather ugly, and only two are provided. But after driving this Frazer-Nash B.M.W, 2000 TI such details fade into comparative unimportance, for this is a car to drive, far and fast.

The engine is very smooth and willing, peaking at 6,200 r.p.m. on a tachometer which continues into the red to 8,000 r.p.m. There is typical lumpy carburation at low crankshaft speeds from the twin dual-choke Solex 40 PHH sidedraught carburetters and cold starting is not exactly instantaneous. But once in its stride, this B.M.W. proves to be an outstanding car.

The steering is very heavy with the German-made Dunlop radial-ply tyres at low speeds, but firm, accurate, free from lost motion and sensibly geared at 3½-turns, lock-to-lock. There is some shake at the wheel in the straight-ahead position, even on good roads, and ample castor return after taking corners. It gives the driver great confidence, in conjunction with understeer handling of a kind which does not change to unpredictable roll oversteer and which does not engineer embarrassments if a sudden change of direction has to be made after the car has been set up for a corner. The German Dunlop SP tyres with their impressive tread-area give excellent dry-road adhesion, at the expense of too much howl when cornering. Back wheel tramp is only felt on the rare Occasions when wheelspin is experienced in starting from rest with lots of throttle on a particularly slippery surface.

Another very likeable feature of this B.M.W. is the gearbox. It is quiet and has well chosen ratios, SO that acceleration is progressive through the gears, the driver going to 5,000 r.p.m. in normal motoring or to 6,00o and beyond when hurrying. The medium-length rigid central gear-lever functions smoothly, although in certain seat positions its knob comes close to the driver’s cushion. The movements are quite considerable and this is a pleasant, “non-mechanical” but not rapid gear-change, spring-loaded to the upper-gear positions. Reverse is easily obtained to the left of the bottom gear position and the synchromesh cannot be easily over-ridden. The clutch is light and takes up the drive positively.

Add to this very effective, light, quiet and progressive servo disc] drum brakes, which, however, fade under hard driving even on level English roads, and suspension which, in addition to the properties of good handling already referred to, is quiet in action, well-damped, and which gives a good ride Over bad surfaces, and it will he appreciated that the B.M.W. 2000 TI is a driver’s car, a family-type saloon which can give great pleasure to a discerning pilote and which is a fast, safe and thoroughly enjoyable B to C car, as a friend expresses it— by which he means a car well suited to devouring roads thus classified on cross-country journeys. The ride is, however, too lively, even over well-made roads.

Taking a more detailed look at this impressive 2-litre, although there is not much point in proclaiming its performance abilities while we have Mrs. Castle as Transport Minister, but at 70 m.p.h. the engine is doing less than 3,500 r.p.m. and this B.M.W. has a top speed of 112 m.p.h. and will go from a standstill to 50 m.p.h. in 7.3 sec., to 75 m.p.h. without quitting 3rd gear in 15½ sec., while a s.s. kilometre occupies a time of 32 sec. Continuous cruising at 110 m.p.h. is permissible in civilised Countries and maxima in the lower gears are 30, 56 and 85 m.p.h. The 5-bearing engine is commendably smooth, pulls away in top from 1,500 r.p.m., and this is a quiet car until the revs rise, the carburetters being well silenced, as the space made available by inclining the engine is used for a really big cylindrical silencer, connected by rubber hoses to the intakes.

The controls and instrumentation are quite conventional. On the Frazer-Nash version the full horn-ring has been replaced by a padded steering-wheel hub which sounds the horn but is not very convenient to use. A r.h. stalk-lever works the screen-washers, in conjunction with four wipes with the wiper blades, turn-indicators and parking lamps. The matching l.h. stalk flashes the lamps in daylight and controls headlamp dipping. Three unlabelled knobs spaced along the facia control the 2-speed wipers, the lamps and the cigar-lighter. Turning the knob of the lamps’ control operates rheostat instrument-lighting but the knob then tends to unscrew. There are three Vdo dials, comprising a small 2¾-in. tachometer, flanked by a 10-120-m.p.h. speedometer, possessing trip and total odometers which lack decimal readings, and an all-purpose dial. The last-named is difficult to read, because of reflected light on its glass. It consists of a fuel-contents gauge calibrated R, ½, 1, a water thermometer with red, white and blue sectors, a big Kienzle clock with hands the same colour as the face, and a number of warning lights—orange for oil pressure, red for ignition, blue for main beam, green for turn-indicators, and white for choke in use or low fuel level. The lettering is in German—Fendight, Temp., Ladurig, Oel, Blinker, Tank and Tank, the last being duplicated for fuel gauge and petrol low-level light.

An under-facia knob brings in the 2-speed fan and the heater controls are neatly arranged in the centre of the facia, as horizontal-quadrant levers. Small Vents at the facia extremities admit hot or cold air but there are no face-level ventilators as such, although extractor slots are provided around the back window. The gutterless front quarter-lights are controlled by low-geared turn-knobs; the rear quarter-lights do not open. The window winders need 4½ full turns to open the back-door window fully, 7 turns for the front windows. Under-facia flick-switches are used for the auxiliary lamps.

The separate front seats have lever-controlled reclining squabs and are of very generous size, and very comfortable if you do not mind rather hard cushions. A conventional pull-up central hand-brake is fitted and there is an anti-dazzle interior mirror, door-level exterior mirror, sill internal door-locks and excellent pulls-cum-arm-rests through which the hand is put to reach the pull-up interior door handles. The front passenger’s vizor incorporates a vanity mirror, there is a big open parcels’ bin on the console, the crash padding in front of the facia incorporates a neat grab handle, and the rear-seat roof-grabs possess coat-hooks. There are spring-loaded map pockets in the front doors and pockets in the backs of the front-seat squabs.

The spacious body provides plenty of passenger space and freedom for the driver’s elbows but the clutch and brake pedals are too far from the floor, except perhaps for large German feet. The treadle accelerator is close to the brake pedal but perhaps a little too far to the left, as there are no intruding wheel arches or big transmission tunnel to bias the pedals, which are thus more naturally located than is customary in many cars.

Two keys suffice, the ignition switch incorporating a steering lock. Two items which even Frazer-Nash have not corrected for r.h.d. cars are the release lever for the forward-hinged bonnet (which, however functions nicely) and the bug-deflector found on the arm only of the n/s screen-wiper.

There are Bosch electrics with Melia junction boxes and headlamps, a good handbook comes with the car, and the bumper overriders have rubber buffers. The unsecured bayonet fuel filler is concealed behind a flap on the off-side of the car.

To sum up, the Frazer-Nash B.M.W. 2000 TI is a quite outstanding car, combining the comfort and convenience of a medium-family saloon with the qualities of a sports car and having particularly commendable handling, steering, gearbox and performance. It should top any “short list” drawn up by a buyer with £1,830 to spend. In return, a car will be acquired which is distinctive, extremely enjoyable to drive fast, safe when being thus driven, yet a roomy saloon which is unobtrusive and even, maybe, somewhat lacking in character, but which has impeccable manners and more than adequate performance.

I certainly enjoyed the miles I covered in this B.M.W. 2000 TI. Driven rather harder than it might normally be in this country it gave 22.8 m.p.g. of 5-star petrol. The range from full-tank to warning light-on was 254 miles. With less use of the gears and throttle the consumption was closer to 25 m.p.g. or even better, and the alloyhead o.h.c. engine ran well on 4-star petrol. Consultation of the dipstick after more than 1,000 miles showed that no oil was required. W. B.