Leap Of Faith: Diving Into Classic Car Glory With A BMW 2002
Story and photography by Fouad El Alaoui
I’ve been passionate about classic cars since I was very young, and in the summer of 2015, I started looking for my very own. I considered all kinds of different machines, and many ideas of what to buy passed through my head, but it was by accident when I stumbled upon a beautiful white BMW 1602 that I made up my mind to search for a 2002. After much research, I came across an advertisement describing an early “roundie” 2002 that was sold new in Portugal and was described as being in excellent, rust-free condition. The only downside was that the car was located more than 1,000 kilometers from my home.
After contacting the seller by phone and listening to his praise about the car, he informed me there were several potential buyers already lined up to look at his ’02. I didn’t want to risk missing the chance to buy the car, so I took the first train available the following weekend in fear it’d sell and leave its listed home in Domancy, a small town in the South East of France just a few kilometers from Geneva, the capital of Switzerland. On July 10, 2015, I arrived in Domancy with a friend, and we nervously made our way to the seller’s home to discover this sublime BMW 2002: the car was entirely original, still painted in its Agave Green color.
The car belonged to a Portuguese doctor, who drove it for several years on missions back and forth to Africa. Being a doctor myself, it made the meeting with the seller all the more special and made me want to be the second owner of this particular car even more than I already did.
To make sure it was as genuinely nice as it looked, I test drove the car with the seller, which was the first time I had ever driven a 2002 (in fact, it was my first time driving any pre-1990 car). Of course, I loved it almost immediately. Despite my lack of classic car driving experience coupled with my (and my friend’s) lack of mechanical knowledge, I trusted the seller who assured me that the car could make the trip without issue. More importantly, I trusted my heart.
So we cut a deal, and after a handshake I took to the road in my newly acquired Bimmer headed towards my hometown of Rennes, France. We began our 1,000 kilometer trip at 9pm and because of the top-speed-limiting 4-speed transmission, we decided to take the small-axle roadways to cruise at a slow and steady 90kph. Domancy, Lyon, Bourges, Tour, Le Mans, Laval, and finally Rennes—we had our route sketched out. After some distance behind the wheel of my “new” 2002, we made it to country roads where we upped the speed to 110kph. At this pace, the engine was quite noisy, what with its revving at 4,500rpm in 4th gear. Still, I was smiling ear to ear.
The door and window seals were far from airtight, so the wind rushed into the cabin quite loudly, but we turned the radio up and kept on with the mixed smell of gas and oil fumes. Despite these classic car nuances, I was enjoying the drive too much to care. Eventually we arrived at Le Mans, where we were forced to drive the fast 2×2 lanes’ 130kph speed limit, which I committed to sustaining. Increasingly confident and accustomed to the sound of the engine, I decided to push the accelerator pedal until we hit 130kph. I felt the engine would explode, but it is a 2002—the rugged little 4-cylinder kept pulling, and the revered performance and robust nature of the 2002 kept me—mostly—fearless throughout the drive.
Then it started raining, but I managed to deal with the low visibility for a little while as the tired wipers struggled to keep the windscreen clear. We decided to take a break; it seemed like an opportune time to get a rest from the road. We pulled off to refuel the car and mentally recharge ourselves for the remaining leg of the trip, and a random bystander came up to us to ask us about the old BMW—the car’s first fan! Then, with a full tank of petrol and a complete check-up of the lighting equipment, we took to the road again.
After making just a few kilometers of progress, disaster struck. The car lost power and refused to accelerate, making less and less engine noise until we came to a complete stop. The car was still getting spark and power, so it wasn’t the battery, which was good given the dark and raining sky. Armed with flashlights and our total lack of experience, we took time to brainstorm what it could be. After several failed restart attempts, we noticed gasoline spraying the underside of the hood: BINGO! We discovered the fuel line feeding the carburetor had become disconnected.
I reconnected the line, turned the key, and the car started with no issue. I was overwhelmed with joy from managing to fix my first mechanical failure, solved without professional help. It was a wonderful moment. With the car repaired, we continued our journey until stopping off at a diner for a delicious croissant breakfast.
Shortly afterwards, we made it to our final destination: Rennes. Home at last. I presented the car to my family, the perfect ending to our first road trip together. This adventure was the first of many I hope to have in this special car. Now, after many years of dreaming of a classic to call my own, I’m the proud owner of a BMW 2002—a car I plan to keep and drive for the rest of my life.