Writing and Photography by Riley Koidahl.
Some cars warrant a second look, even if you can’t put a finger on exactly why. This enigmatic beauty is no accident, however – it’s the result of a refined vision, years of parts hunting, and most importantly, patience, without succumbing to the instant gratification of riveted-on fender flares, giant wheels, cutting springs, or a straight-piped exhaust. Sorry, I don’t mean to the divide the 2002 community, really. I say this because I’ve been there. This 02 was my first car, before they were worth much of anything, and among the first “upgrades” I did were cutting the springs and chopping off the exhaust (low + loud = racecar, right?). As the old adage goes, “to be old and wise, you must first have to be young and stupid.”
Fast forward to present day and it looks fairly stock (especially to my non-US friends), but as you dig deeper, there are several modifications that subtly set it apart. During its restoration, the US reflectors were deleted, as was the lower “knee” trim. Original European bumpers replaced the giant US “park bench” units, while NOS (new old stock) Euro turn signals completed the clean exterior appearance. To bring it all together, I repainted it the original shade of Pastellblau.
The car has only a select few exterior modifications, aimed to accentuate the car’s simple, yet sporty nature. Under the mildly widened stock fenders sit authentic, staggered 15″ Alpina wheels (6″ in front, 7″ in rear). Stamped with a 1979 manufacture date, they are about as early as a 15″ Alpina gets; prior to this style, the company only made steel wheels. A NOS 2002 Turbo spoiler adorns the trunk, paying an homage to the ultimate iteration of the 2002.
Up front, the car rocks a set of yellow-tint Hella 160 fog lamps. The 160 is still made, but not in the elusive yellow tint. Fortunately, after 4 years of hunting, a fellow 2002 owner posted a set for sale, which just happened to be new in the box, from the 70’s, with German instructions. That, right there, is what (my) dreams are made of. To complete the French-inspired look, the headlights were converted to European H4 units, then I installed a set of glass bulb covers for a subtle yellow tint. A vintage BMWCCA grille badge and 70s rallye badge from Germany add some period-correct bling to the otherwise utilitarian front end.
Inside the cockpit sits a 380mm leather Alpina steering wheel, stamped 1979, just like the wheels. Sourcing period-correct parts is one of my nerdiest guilty pleasures. Will anyone else see the stamps on my wheels and steering wheel? Probably not, but it’s this attention to detail that I enjoy most. Besides the old school modifications, I’ve also installed some invisible, modern technology. The car has a modern alarm system, hidden stereo with a custom-moulded subwoofer box under the rear seat, and an LED oil temperature/pressure gauge in the factory “fasten seat belts” housing on the dash.
Under the hood sits a mildly modified, rebuilt M10 engine. Deleted US smog equipment, a larger Weber carburetor, and a full exhaust system let the car breath as BMW intended, while dual Weber carbs and an Alpina airbox patiently await next winter for installation. A new, ceramic-coated Ireland engineering header is paired with a NOS Ansa center section and muffler. While they haven’t been available for decades, the square taillight-specific muffler was sourced from Canada, and features longer tips (for US big bumpers) and different mounting points than Ansa’s current offering. The full exhaust package makes for a nice, refined burble without being obnoxious.
Power is put down through a custom short shift kit and 3.91 limited slip differential, encouraging a more spirited driving style. The car is lowered over Bilstein Sport struts paired with progressive H&R springs and a strut bar up front. New suspension bushings and larger, adjustable sway bars complete the package for a toss-able, yet pliable 2002.
All in all, the combination of light modifications make the car the perfect weekend driver, whether you’re carving the canyons, or just cruising to the beach to watch the sunset.
NK Feature here; http://thepaddock.xyz/blog/2017/2/6/paddock-finds-1964-bmw-1800
Also some previous So-Cal meetings.