BMW 2002 – the ideal introduction to classic car ownership by Lucy Wyndham

BMW 2002 – the ideal introduction to classic car ownership

Always liked the idea of a classic car but been put off by reliability issues, poor performance, parts availability and a difficult driving experience? Some classic owners will tell you these are all part and parcel of the experience. BMW 2002 owners know differently.

In its BMW 2002 Buyer’s Guide a couple of years ago, Classic Motorsport described the 2002 as a classic that feels modern. But that only tells half the story. Here are four good reasons why we think there’s no better classic for the first-time novice.


Better than all the rest

If you are choosing a brand new car, media reviews and rankings are essential reading. With a classic, these are less important. We all know that in the 1970s, British Leyland cars were shoddily built and Fiats left the factory with barely enough paint to cover the metal. But 50 years on, those cars that have survived have had these issues resolved, so the contemporary reviews have little relevance.

But still – the BMW 2002 and the subsequent 3-series won 23 awards. It was the car that put BMW on the map and if you drive one and then take a ride in, let’s say, a Triumph Dolomite and an Alfa Romeo Giulia, you will immediately understand why the BMW blew them out of the water all those years ago.


A genuinely practical classic

It’s one thing having a classic car parked in your garage to polish at the weekend. But cars need to be used, they need to be driven. A BMW 2002 is a classic you can genuinely use on the daily commute, the supermarket run or on longer motorway journeys all year round.

Compare that with the two alternatives we mentioned earlier. Even the biggest Alfa enthusiast would think twice about using it on salted British roads in winter. And as for the Triumph – however well maintained it might be, you just know you’ll be faced with a couple of roadside dramas every winter.


The ultimate driving experience

The BMW 2002 was instrumental in coining the phrase “the ultimate driving machine.” Keep in mind, when it was released in 1968, they were still churning out Morris Minors in Cowley. The 2002 feels more like a product of the late 1970s.

The classic feel is there, with the sort of feedback through the arms and seat that you just don’t get with a modern car. But you won’t need to learn old car driving tricks like double declutching. This is the perfect classic car for the modern driver.


Affordable by any standards

Classic car prices have been all over the place since soaring in 2020, when everyone seemed to want something interesting in the garage to keep them sane during the madness going on around them in the world. Generally speaking, however, 2002 prices have remained stable.

Show winners and special editions appear on the market with price tags in the £20-30,000 range, but usable saloons that are ready to roll but carry a few battle scars can still be bought for around £5-6,000. As for convertibles, three very tidy examples, including this one, have sold at Mathewson’s auction house in Yorkshire in the £8,500 to £9,000 range over recent months. Considering the crazy prices of anything from the same era with a blue oval on the grille, the BMW 2002 represents astonishing value.


What about the downsides?

You don’t need to be a BMW expert to know the biggest nemesis of the 2002. It’s a classic car made in the early 70s, so of course it rusts. It might not be as bad as the Vauxhalls and the Fiats of the time, which you can almost hear dissolving before you if you park them on grass, but you still need to be very careful about inspecting any potential purchase and looking for signs of poor-quality repairs and bodges, especially around window frames, inner wings and boot floor.

That’s really the most important thing. Don’t pay too much attention to mileage, with 5-digit odometers, most have been around the clock.  Beyond that, focus on originality and keep in mind that while mechanical parts and even panels are easy to source, trim is another matter, so think twice about anything with a very rough interior.

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