The 2002 Project

When it comes to cars, small experiences can snowball into long adventures. A poster on the wall of your room as a child can have you hunting the world for the perfect Countach when you’re an adult. A brief conversation at Cars and Coffee on the virtues of the flat six with an air-cooled Porsche enthusiast can have you browsing classifieds that same day. Our hobby thrives off of shared stories, and these can influence our own perspective. For me, a small afternoon drive determined a dream car for me. This year I finally acquired the car, and started shaping it to the image I had in my head.

A few years back some friends and I were having a lazy afternoon in the garage. We were trading stories of bad car shows and breakdowns, when one of the guys jumped up and said he was going to buy a car. I didn’t ask any questions, I said I’d go with him. We scrambled to the bank, and 30 minutes later we were standing in front of a 1972 BMW 2002. It wasn’t his first 2002, in fact he had another at the same time, but this one stood out as being particularly cool. It was lower, it had Recaro seats, it had a 5 speed transmission, the bumpers didn’t stick out for miles, and most importantly, it had round tail lights.

He picked it up at a steal, and within the hour we were back at the garage with the new addition to his fleet. I started poking around and fell in love with the car. Sure, his other 2002 was cool, but something about this specific one had me captured. When he threw me the keys to take it around the block, it was game over. I knew I had to have it someday.

Unfortunately, he sold the car pretty quickly for a steep profit and my dreams of owning that ‘72 were over. With the prices rising, and my other projects taking priority, I tabled the idea for a few years. I kept an eye on the market, hoping to find the perfect project. I figured I’d have to start from the ground up, finding a rolling shell and building it from there. I found a few candidates during my search, but they were always tremendously rough, and I simply didn’t have the skill to bring them back to life. I had about given up on the idea, and was in the processing of engine swapping my E30, when the right car popped up.

This 1973 BMW 2002 captures what I loved so much about that afternoon drive. It isn’t a pristine example, much like the ’72, but the character of the car gave it a personality. The biggest selling point for me was the M20 shoved between the frame rails, a swap that I knew I wanted to do, but wasn’t sure if I’d ever have the time. It was running, driving and most importantly in budget. Almost overnight, I sold my E30 with the engine swap and cleared my garage of all my parts. I had to have this 2002, I had to recapture the feeling that brief experience with the ’72 gave me.

Next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Stockton, CA to finalize the purchase. The car was a little rusty, the interior was a mismatched circus tent, it was sitting on Pontiac wheels, but I loved it all the same. As I cruised around the streets of Stockton, I was taken back to the drive a couple years back. I felt at home in a 2002, I felt a connection to the car like I didn’t in anything else. It checked all the right boxes for my senses. The M20 swap gurgled and popped like my old E30, and the view out the greenhouse was uninterrupted. There wasn’t any hesitation for me, I happily handed over the money. I had found the dream car.

The car needs a mountain of work, and even today I am still tearing it down to fix areas I am unhappy with. But where I would be irritated with other cars, and possible even give up the project entirely, I’m happy to struggle along for this car. Nothing else I’ve driven gives me the same sense of satisfaction, no matter what the driving situation is. The Roundie will be in my fleet for a long time, and I’m looking forward to sharing its story as I go along. In the meantime, you’ll find me out on an afternoon cruise, with a smile on my face.

Visit the Speed Limitless store to find our latest 2002 products and more!