Featured: A Childhood Spent In The Backseat Of Bimmers Led To This Malaga Red BMW 2002

A Childhood Spent In The Backseat Of Bimmers Led To This Malaga Red BMW 2002

Avatar By Sam Bendall
February 23, 2018
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Photography by Sam Bendall

I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with a sibling, but I hear the dynamic between brothers borders somewhere between insanity and unconditional love. In Steve Mummolo’s case, he was always the canary—the eldest, the first to do something and the first to bear the consequences. His younger brother Jonathan sat back and watched his older sibling hit every land mine on his way to success, then proceeded to do it better afterward, or so says Steve. 

Both brothers are now in their 40s, and they decided to jump into the world of classic cars within a few months of each other, both deciding it was the right time to make the purchase. We recently featured Jonathon’s 1974 Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV, but in keeping with family tradition Steve was the one to plunge in first when he bought this 1972 BMW 2002 in Walnut Creek, CA.     

When asked why he chose a 2002, he told us, “My first car was a 1980 e21 BMW 320i that I learned to work on and eventually prepared for autocross. I loved that car, but always knew it was the fatter, less sought-after sequel to the legendary 2002. Growing up, Euro cars and bikes were like a religion in our household, and as a result I’ve driven primarily BMWs.”

Steve had been looking for this exact car for about 25 years, off and on, and he finally discovered the right one listed locally by a new shop in northern California specializing in 2002 restorations. The proverbial gears began to turn, and he purchased it in September of 2016.

“This was [the shop’s] first restoration, and they did a pretty good job,” said Mummolo. “I’d say when I got it, it was about 75% of where I wanted it to be.” When he acquired it, the 72 ’02 had a few modifications including Hella fog lamps, Recaro seats, a double barrel weber carb, electronic ignition, and an e21 radiator. It was also recently stripped down and repainted in its original Malaga gloss color.

After getting it into his garage, Mummolo made a number of his own modifications to suit his aesthetic preferences. “Im not sure that I plan on doing any competitive driving with this car since I don’t want to mod it too much, so I prefer subtler things that retain a mostly stock appearance.” These improvements include a full stainless exhaust, Minilite-style wheels, Bilstein shocks, H&R springs, and a vintage Corsi leather-wrapped steering wheel.

This BMW is no show pony though. It was bought to be driven and that’s what Mummolo loves to do with his 2002—looking back at it in after the drive is just a bonus. “This car brings me so much joy when I’m behind the wheel because it feels, sounds, and smells like a truly mechanical car. It’s a rolling piece of BMW’s history as a sports sedan manufacturer, and I’ve taken on the responsibility of preserving this example of their pivotal car. I also find it remarkable how ahead of it’s time it was when it comes to engineering and the performance yielded by that work. This car still gets it done over 40 years later.” 

Out on the road the 2002 is a fine commuter, but where it shines is in the canyons of southern California. “It is really at home in the tight stuff than on the wide open road. I recently drove it down and back from SF to LA though, and it made the trip without breaking a sweat,” says Mummolo. “It’s most comfortable on the highway cruising around 85mph, and it still has enough top end left to pass without trouble.”

As Mummolo continues to enjoy his BMW, it is his son David who is the latest member of the family to be enamored by the boxy little BMW. When we ask Mummolo if he would pass his car along to his son one day he replied, “Absolutely. I look forward to the day when I can give this car to him and share that experience, I would like to have the same impact my father had on me regarding my love for these cars.”

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Peter J SmithRubens FlorentinoBill MeyerDoug Miller Recent comment authors
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Rubens Florentino

My humble opinion, the Alfa is way cooler than the BMW… I would like to see those two cars side by side on a track day.

Peter J Smith
Peter J Smith

The Bimmer would win, because, the Alfa would break half way through. That’s coming from a former Alfa owner, as well. I loved my Alfa, but, it was not reliable.

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

I’ve owned a couple of ’02 cars. They are supremely satisfying to drive. I envy the brothers Mummolo and their pair of wonderful automobiles.

Doug Miller
Doug Miller

They are both cars I have always loved, and their “mods” are restrained and tasteful…and reversible. Well-done! Happy motoring!