Of the all non-existent things I can think of at this moment — armored parsnips, a horse that speaks fluent Dutch, soap with a pretzel center, and so on — I think the one I most regret never existing is a BMW van.
I started thinking about this because of rumors of a BMW people-mover floating around. The more I think about it, the stranger it is that BMW never produced a van of any sort. In fact, I think they may be the only mainstream auto maker to never have produced a van. Sure, there's smaller specialty makes like Morgan or Lamborghini that have never had vans sold under their marque, but I think of the higher-volume companies, BMW is unique in avoiding building motorized boxes. All their German brothers — Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, DKW/Auto-Union/Audi, they all made some sort of van, at least from the post-war era on.
There was a lot of demand for small delivery/passenger vans in Germany and all over Europe in the post-war era, especially in the periods of large economic growth in the '50s and '60s. That would have been the ideal time for BMW to introduce a competing van into the market. So why didn't they?
BMW certainly was no stranger to multiple areas of the market. BMW of the '50s and '60s was making everything from exotic, high-end cars like the 507, to the Neue Klasse cars for the middle, to the Isettas and 600s for the broke and adventurous. Factor in their status as a motorcycle manufacturer to add to their broad scope, and it makes no sense why BMW wouldn't have given a try to making a little van.
But, as we all know, they didn't. But I'd thought through what it would have been like anyway, and drew a little picture of how I think it would have looked, in this strange, beautiful, and alternate universe of BMW van production.
Like most of their competitors, I think the BMW van would be based on one of their cars. I think the 1602/2002 makes the most sense, if they had done this around the early '60s, when everyone around them was building similar ones.
I'm thinking the basic wheelbase and chassis would be the same as a 2002, but with the front axle relocated forward and the steering column moved to accomodate the almost cab-over layout. The inline 4 would be right from the 2002, and would protrude a bit into the cabin, like many small American vans (Ford Econoline Dodge A100) did. As much trim and other hardware like grille, lights, door handles, etc. would be right from a 2002.
I even think the Neue Klasse's distinctive boxy look with the chrome beltline would have worked great on a van design — and they'd even have kept the Hofmeister kink in the side window.
Like the other vans of the era, I bet there would have been a pickup variant and a camper variant as well. Man, now I really want one of these. If someone has some free time and some resources, a really delightful project would be to make one of these from 2002 parts and some smallish van of the era, maybe a VW or DKW 1000 or even old Econoline or something. Just make sure to send me pictures if you do.