BMW. What do you think about when you hear those three letters? Do you think of the brand’s long history of motorsport success? Do you think of cutting edge technology? Maybe you just think of the base model 3-series that so many people lease in an attempt to show “they’ve made it”.
Whatever your current image of the brand is, things were a lot different back in 1975 when this BMW 2002 first rolled off the assembly line, fitted with its federally-mandated large bumpers and bound for a dealership in a place called America.
At the time BMWs weren’t purchased by people that wanted to fit in and show off the badge, they were usually purchased by people that wanted to stand out from the crowd, or by people who just loved driving.
And it was the 2002 that lead so many to become fans of the brand, with its great handling, responsive engine and styling that was both simple and immediately recognizable to anybody who saw one on the street (or at the race track).
Today, despite their increasing values, 2002s still make for great project cars and this Southern California-based example, built by Clarion, is a textbook demonstration of how to build one. It’s not a ratty track machine, nor is it radically transformed German hot rod.
In fact most people who see it would simply consider it a fine restoration - but there’s a little more to it than that. Indeed the car has been given a full resto, but along the way it also received some choice and period correct upgrades.
Under the hood sits a fully rebuilt and blueprinted BMW M10 engine that’s been mildly upgraded for better and power and for better acoustics. Changes include a more aggressive cam, higher compression pistons and a Weber carburetor. Underneath both the suspension and braking systems have been upgraded for improved handling and more fun on the twisty roads of SoCal.
On the outside everything is factory-spec, with slimmer Euro bumpers replacing their US market counterparts, Euro-spec turn signals and deleted side markers for a cleaner, simpler look. All of that is set off by a set of 14” Alpina wheels.
Last but not least is the fully redone cabin, which features Chocolate Napa Leather seats, German wool loop carpet, a Nardi steering wheel and Clarion audio equipment that delivers modern sound without looking out of place.
It may not be the fastest or the most heavily modified BMW 2002 around, but it’s beautiful, functional and will be every bit as enjoyable and rewarding 50 years from now as it is today. It will also instantly take you back to a time when BMW’s cars were much different but no less impressive brand than it is today.
VEHICLE: 1975 BMW 2002
ENGINE: BMW M10 Blueprinted and Rebuilt, Ireland Engineering 90mm piano 9.5 CR pistons, Billet 292-degree cam, Stainless Steel intake and exhaust valves, 3 angle valve job, Milled and Port Matched Head, Ireland Engineering Shorty Header, Weber 38/38 carburetor
DRIVETRAIN: Lightened factory flywheel, Getrag 245 Overdrive 5 speed manual, Custom, 5 speed shift bracket and billet CNC selector connector, BMW Z3 Short Shifter, 3.91 Differential
EXTERIOR: Euro bumper conversion, Euro turn signals, Factory BMW tail light housings, LED tail lights, Hella H4 upgrades, Trapezoid mirrors, Side marker delete
INTERIOR: Factory BMW horsehair seat pads, Chocolate Napa leather front and rear seats, Custom headliner, Wool German loop carpet, Complete fat-mat sound deadening interior, NOS factory dash, Nardi steering wheel and shift knob, Rebuilt speedometer and odometer gauges, Clarion M508 solid state digital source unit, Clarion speakers
SUSPENSION: Ireland engineering stage 1 Springs, Koni Adjustable shocks, Ireland engineering 22mm sway bars, Wilwood front brake kit with e21 hubs and floating x drilled and slotted rotors, Rear tii wheel cylinders, SS braided brake lines, Powder coated and zinc plated suspension components with urethane performance bushing
WHEELS & TIRES: Period correct 14” Alpina style Wheels, General Altima tires 195/60/14