The Neue Klasse BMW 1500 made its official debut at the 1961 Frankfurt Auto Show, and it hit showrooms in October, 1962. U.S. list price, $3,350. Curb weight, 2,390 pounds.
Engineer and ex-race driver Alex von Falkenhausen was put in charge of engine development. He had to overcome corporate sentiment for an anemic 1.3-liter engine, and he had to fight hard for the "stretchable" 1.5-liter design based on a sturdy iron (not aluminum) engine block. The M10 featured a slightly over-square 82 mm X 71 mm bore and stroke, a single Solex carburetor and an 8.8:1 compression ratio. BMW reported 80 peak horsepower at 5,700 rpms and peak torque of 118Nm at 3,000. In its 1963 road test, Road & Track magazine clocked the 1500 running 0-60 in 15 seconds and knocking down a standing quarter mile in 19.6 seconds at 68.5 mph. Road & Track posted 90 bhp for the 1500, with top speed of 93 to 95 mph, hinting that BMW had underreported the engine's power.
The four-speed gearbox featured synchros for all forward gears, "Porsche-type," as R&T put it. The interior was spartan by modern standards, but allowed for seatbelts for all passengers. The dash included a speedometer/odometer and a combination instrument with fuel level and water temperature gauges and warning indicators for oil pressure, battery charging, and high beams. It had a 6-volt electrical system.
Wilhelm Hofmeister led the design team. The BMW design signature, the "Hofmeister kink," made its first appearance on the C pillar of the 1500. Eventually, another BMW interior element made its first appearance on the Neue Klasse, the hooded pod on the dashboard for instrumentation.
The steel monocoque chassis had a wheelbase of 2,550 mm, overall length of 4,500 mm, width of 1,710 mm, and height of 1450 mm. Curb weight was 1060 kg. While curb weight would vary somewhat by model, the basic dimensions were unchanged throughout the production run. Buyers could choose from six colors, including Florida (066), Manila (004), Turf (073), Chamonix (085), Guayana (584), and Macao (690). A BMW factory list of accompanying interior colors for 1962/63 has not been cataloged at BMW Archiv. According to BMW historian Andreas Harz, no information is officially available through BMW Archiv on NK interior color palettes prior to the 1969 model year.
BMW sold more 1500s in two years than a decade's worth of Baroque Angels and Isettas combined. The company literally could not meet demand for its new star. So the elegant but dated sedans and the bubble cars were retired and production line capacity dedicated to the Neue Klasse.