[Editor's Note: This article originally ran in the November 2018 issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Some information may be different today.]

Story by David S. Wallens • Photography as Credited

The BMW 2002 is the quintessential sport sedan. Fight us.


Read the rest of the story

Pushrod New Reader
3/7/19 5:57 p.m.

Good article, except that it ignores the fact that the 1600 was 200 lbs. lighter than the lightest 2002. The 1600 was plenty quick for the street and/or its time... so much for the "performance was a little light."statement ... :)

rattfink81 New Reader
3/7/19 6:24 p.m.

Still one of my favorite cars. Had a 1974 Tii about 10 years ago. It had a crappy 20 foot single stage paint job, e21 sport seats, LSD rear,  and the 5 speed and ran damn well with the original fuel injection setup. Like a dumb I had to many running cars and projects(I was buying wrecked/rotted e30’s and parting them) so I sold it for what I bought it for which was just over challenge money. Kid who bought was a flat brim wearing new age Vw dubbed who had it relisted  on Craigslist for triple the price before he was back in dirty jersey. I swear I’ll own another but at the current prices(and climbing) it’s doubtful

02Pilot SuperDork
3/7/19 6:45 p.m.

I've had mine for close to 25 years at this point, and I'm not selling it (I get an offer or two a year from random people I encounter while driving it). They are great fun. Prices on cars and parts are definitely going up, though - I just increased my agreed value with Hagerty to compensate.

conesare2seconds Dork
3/7/19 7:08 p.m.

Dad was a US Army junior officer stationed in Frankfurt from ‘66 to ‘70.  He and mom came back to the states with Danish modern furniture, a purchased-new ‘68 2002 and me. 

The 2002 lasted until 1984, when it was smacked by a drunk driver while parked in front of our house one Sunday. Parts availability in the 70s was iffy at best. By the 80s many were NLA - obsolete.

We never found replacements for the ignition switch cover panels the fire department busted to extinguish the fire that started when the switch shorted.  Miraculously, the car soldiered on for years afterward.  

I swore I’d own one someday but the timing wasn’t right or my wallet was too light.  On the lottery list for sure. 

Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
3/7/19 7:31 p.m.

In 1978 as a 16 year old I announced to my father I was going to buy a BMW 2002 and since he was in a Toyota / Beetle/ Datsun stage he forbid me to buy a German car as he challenged the reliability compared to his Corolla. 

Two years later he allowed me to purchase a Datsun 310GX.  

I stopped pricing out 2002’s a few years ago and attempted to live vicariously through that Harv guy in Cleveland who had the sweet flared orange 2002.  

M2Pilot Dork
3/7/19 8:19 p.m.

My first new car was a '71 2002.  I've owned 2 others since.  The most recent one had s14 M3 engine,5 speed, suspension mods etc.  After 14 years of ownership, I sold it last week, but to my son, so it's still in the family.

Another easy brake upgrade is to use Volvo 240 calipers & 320 discs up front.

If I may mention it here, a great source for information on these cars is bmw2002faq.com

Coupefan Reader
3/7/19 8:53 p.m.

Per the story's author, just replace everything with 320 components, which begs the question, why not start with a 320 to begin with???  Ironic, eh?

tlott01 New Reader
3/8/19 11:22 a.m.

My ex-wife and I went through a 2002 phase in the late 80s - at one point we had 4, one of which was strictly a parts car and another Sahara Beige 1600 that was bought for parts but ended up being a back-up daily driver because the parts weren't usable on any of our 02s. At the end of the 02 phase (and the marriage, shortly afterwards), I acquired an early 320i that needed mechanical work. The 320i was more refined, but never matched the sheer fun of my 73' 02. Granted, the 02 had all the contemporary fun mods (Bilsteins, sway bars, lowering springs, front camber plates, Stahl header, Ansa exhaust, 32/36 Weber carb, 320is Recaros, mahoghany steering wheel & shift knob, coco mats, gold center 13x6 Panasport wheels with Phoenix Stahlflex tires, etc), but it was just plain fun to drive. Literally a go-kart with a back seat. It was a Boston car and cancer eventually killed it - I traded it for 320i parts when the rear shock towers started to crumble. Great fun while it lasted!

aircooled MegaDork
3/8/19 11:38 a.m.
Coupefan said:

Per the story's author, just replace everything with 320 components, which begs the question, why not start with a 320 to begin with???  Ironic, eh?

- WAY lighter, like around 1000lbs!!!

- WAY more performance (see above)

- Better MPH (see above)

- Less strain on components (see above)

- Classic styling e.g. cooler

- No emissions testing

- Cheaper insurance (?)

- Q-ship effect

- Missing all those "modern features" that create reliability issues

- Will hold value MUCH better

- No need to worry about surviving big crashes indecision



Campbelljj New Reader
3/9/19 7:23 a.m.

Another rust killer is rear shock towers. They're fixable. My 3rd car was a 72 inka tii. Bought it for $2,400 with 70k on the clock in 1980-81. Was super reliable, practical and fun to drive. Probably should have kept it, but I have a late model e30 so all is well. 

Knurled. MegaDork
3/9/19 8:08 a.m.
Coupefan said:

Per the story's author, just replace everything with 320 components, which begs the question, why not start with a 320 to begin with???  Ironic, eh?

2002s have the clutch and brake pedal pivots at the correct end, that's why.


(disclaimer  I have never even seen an E21 in person, the closest I have got to them was buying a set of 320 wheels with a bag of change, but I assume that BMW switched to top-pivoting pedals with the E21 chassis given how similar it is to the E30.  But I did get to do a mechanical restoration on a '73 2002 and the thing I loved most about it was that the pedals pivoted at the floor where they SHOULD)

Richard Pople
Richard Pople
6/22/20 12:52 p.m.

Great article! Thanks Dave

I grew up learning to drive on a 1971 2002 (non tii).  What a great way to start!  I now have an original 2002 Turbo, which runs like a de-tuned 1602 under about 3k rpm (above 3k, things get interesting), but is such a joy to drive...  Given the choice between my E30 M3 and the Turbo, it's a hard decision (but one I'm truly grateful for.)

If you've never driven an 02, you owe it to yourself: engaging, rewarding, fun, and lively.  The upright seating position and huge greenhouse belies the chassis and suspension.  Truly a must-do drive!

2002maniac Dork
6/22/20 2:46 p.m.

My first car was a '74 2002. What a great car!  Last week, 21 years later, I bought another!  These things are getting hard to find in good shape.  This one has a few rusty spots but it has some nice mods done and the Golf Yellow is lovely.

Bilstein sports with H&R sports (cut for more lows), e21 5-speed, LSD, Recaros, and sport steering wheel. This thing is way more fun to drive than my Porsche (soon to be for sale on BAT)

Tom1200 Dork
6/22/20 3:31 p.m.

Great looking cars, granted I mostly see the back of them at vintage races.

6/22/20 4:44 p.m.

On my third 02.  First one was a rustbucket, second was a tii and the third is an "M2" - 2002 with an S14.  The common thread is a great driving experience and tons of smiles per mile.

djsilver (Forum Supporter)
djsilver (Forum Supporter) Reader
6/22/20 6:07 p.m.

I bought a '74 2002 in '78.  Drove from Jeff City, MO to Chicago after an ice storm in a Datsun 620 pickup with my brother  to pick it up.  It was a nice brown metallic color and drove like a dream after I fixed a few things.  I had it about a month before it got "bent".  I was driving past a construction area on the way to pick up a date and encountered a loaded dump truck pulling a loaded "pup" full of gravel taking his half of the road out of the middle.  My choices were getting squished or going "Joey Chitwood" off a bank into a field.  I stuck the landing but a rock left exposed from a pipeline installation took the right front suspension completely off the car.  When it got to the body shop the guy told me he saw evidence of 2 prior wrecks!   I kept it a couple more years until the transmission started jumping out of gear. The worst part of the whole experience was that I never got hooked up with the the date! 

spandak HalfDork
6/23/20 2:20 p.m.

I might have missed a boat price-wise but I always liked these. 
I knew the guy who built the maroon 1600 pickup conversion that circled the web a few years back. Ever since seeing that thing I've liked them and wanted one. 

ktobias New Reader
2/19/21 8:46 a.m.

Owned a 73tii for years.  Such a fun car with amazing balance.  I've moved on to a 70 2002 with a 2.5L S14 - it does everything my tii did but turned up to 11.  The days of 2002's being cheap are gone - they are plentiful for sure but pricing is eye-watering.  What I love beyond the looks and the drive is that they're easy to work on and parts are plentiful, both from BMW and in the aftermarket

Jim Pettengill
Jim Pettengill HalfDork
2/19/21 11:10 a.m.

Bought a 2002 in 1970 as my first new car, Colorado yellow/orange with black interior.  Back in the day its performance was startling, and back then no one knew what a BMW was, most people thought BMW stood for British Motor Works.  The only real competitors were Lotus Cortinas and Alfa GTVs (until BRE started selling 510 tuning parts).  A great car, wish I still had it, but I've had a bunch of other interesting ones since then, and objectively my Subaru forester would probably beat it  (if the '02 was stock), but not be near as fun.

jr02518 HalfDork
2/19/21 1:05 p.m.

I have a 1975 2002 that I need to finish.  But I am driving a 1982 320i that has lots of what people want to build into their '02, to make them "better".

The e21 comes with a 5 speed, room for 15x7 rims and electronic ignition. The LSD and Recaro seats are available.

Rust is still an issue.  The factory used as little paint as they could and the metallic painted cars are very hard to find. 

The body roll when you drive the cars is much like a 2002, they do move around.  But if you can live with it, both cars are very compliant.  Then there is the price, still  more than half of what it takes to park a "round tail light " car in your driveway.

Says the guy who likes square tail light cars.

Our Preferred Partners