This BMW 2002 Goes South of the Border With a Wrench and a Prayer
Photography by Michael Neumeyer
When buying a vintage car, there’s typically a courtship period where you learn and adapt to the car’s quirks and foibles; if you’re lucky there won’t be any major repairs, but for many there will be time spent wrenching under the hood before the old machine can stretch its mechanical legs.
Michael Neumeyer from San Francisco, Calif. skipped such formalities, and decided to trek down to Mexico in his newly acquired, 1975 BMW 2002.
“I always wanted to ride down the Baja Peninsula when I owned a motorcycle but never found the time,” said Neumeyer. “I had a week and a half for Christmas break and thought I would attempt the trip with a rented Volkswagen Westfalia. No one wanted to rent a vehicle for entering Mexico, so I thought, what could be more epic than doing the trip in my own classic.”
“I fell in love with classic cars over the last year. I had been slowly rebuilding a bright green 1976 Porsche 912E over the last six years and finally finished it. The joy of driving that car made me realize that I no longer needed a modern car. But I wanted a second car just in case. I knew I couldn’t resist when my friend came across a mint green BMW 2002 on Craigslist in good condition and at a great price.”
The purchase came with an immediate snag, however. “As luck would have it, the transmission failed two weeks after I bought it. I quickly found a 5-speed replacement and decided to completely refresh the suspension and brakes at the same time,” said Neumeyer.
“I drove the car for the first time after the transmission install and suspension rebuild, the night before the trip. The trip itself was the shake-down drive. Needless to say, I packed a lot of tools.”
With Neumeyer’s friend Maria visiting from Germany riding shotgun, the pair started the journey down south.
“On the drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the rebuilt differential started to get louder and louder. It was so concerning that we stopped at 2002 AD in L.A. to purchase a spare differential ‘just in case.’ With spare diff in hand (or rather trunk), we nervously crossed into Mexico with diminishing hope of reaching the souther tip of Baja. “
“But, as we continued the journey, the ‘DosMilDos’ was running well and we kept on going. With a loud diff and no other issues, we arrived in Cabo San Lucas one week after starting out.”
“On the return trip north we could not stand the whine of the diff any longer. We used concrete ramps at an abandoned Quaker State oil change shop to make quick work of the diff swap.”
“The next day we needed to cover distance to make up for lost time. That’s when we punctured a tire. We quickly mounted the old spare, only to have it start losing the tread after 20 miles. With a da-thunk, da-thunk, we hobbled to a fishing village, where an off-road shop just happened to have exactly two new tires in the correct 175/70R13 size. The shop had the new tires mounted in under 30 minutes and we were on our way home.”
In spite of the troubles, for Neumeyer the experience was worth it.
“To many, it sounds like a terrible idea to drive a 42-year-old car into Mexico over rough Baja roads. For us, the car was perfect for the trip. It made us vulnerable, which seemed to bring us closer to the people we encountered. People on the street smiled and waved, and even the soldiers at military checkpoints were friendly and asked about the car. Every mile we drove was enjoyable.”