1975 BMW 2002 ($29,900)
Photography by Andrew Golseth
Written by Andrew Golseth
- Location: San Diego, California
- Chassis: 2367210
- Engine: 2.0-Liter Inline-Four M10 Crate Engine From BMW
- Transmission: Five-Speed Manual
- Mileage: 60,000 Since Rebuild
- Color: Chamonix White | Black Vinyl
Bavarian Balance: The Gentleman’s Sports Sedan
In 1966, BMW added the 1600-2 model to its lineup. The latest two-door sports sedan was based on the New Class Sedan’s chassis, albeit significantly shortened by more than nine inches in overall length. Designed in-house by Manfred Rennen and Georg Bertram under Wilhelm Hofmeister, the 1600-2 was unveiled at the 1966 Geneva Auto Show where it was overwhelmingly well received.
U.S. importer Max Hoffman—the man largely responsible for bringing the BMW 507, Mercedes Benz 300SL, and Porsche Speedster into the US—insisted BMW build a sportier version of their entry-level sedan. Coincidentally, BMW Director of Product Planning Helmut Bönsch and BMW engineer Alex von Falkenhausen had already modified their personal 1600s with 2.0-liter M10 engines—the unofficial 2002 prototypes. The demand for a quicker car was evident, and a trio of trim levels were made available, with all of them sporting variations of the basic 2.0-liter M10 four-cylinder design: the standard 2002, the 2002 Ti, and the range-topping 2002 Tii that replaced the Ti later on.
The standard 2002 was the most well-rounded road car of the bunch though—its combination of stylish looks, space for four, nimble handling, and linear torque delivery made it a hot seller that helped bring BMW into the mainstream in terms of both desirability and affordability. Although a bit more expensive than its direct competitors, Car & Driver called it “The World’s Best $2,500 Automobile,” deeming it a top value for gentleman drivers.
With clever marketing, universal critical acclaim, and a price tag within the middle class’s reach, the 02 series of cars saw a successful production run of nearly 10 years, spanning 1966 to 1977. With nearly 150,000 units sold, the little sports sedan became one of BMW’s most successful models. More than 40 years since production halted, its variants are still held in high regard throughout the automotive community.
The BMW ’02 is a hallmark in BMW’s rich design history. From its raked shark nose, leaned-forward fascia with tall twin kidney grilles affixed at center, the front is distinguishably BMW. The unbroken high shoulder belt line is boldly defined with stainless trim. The slab sided flanks are devoid of excessive styling cues or scoops—just a subtle crease in the lower third connecting the wheel arches which helps create a subtle tumblehome effect, parallel with the aforementioned belt line.
Its all-around upright stature is further exaggerated by its tall greenhouse, which offers excellent and near-360-degree visibility thanks to its slender pillars, equating to adequate headroom for all four seating positions. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Neue Klasse Bimmer without the prominent Hofmeister kink at the base of the c-pillars.
And the interior is just as focused as the bodywork, with a simple dash layout, minimal stitch-work for the sake of style, and very well thought out placement of the driving and auxiliary controls. It’s as German a car as any; conservative but charismatic, purposeful but powerful. It’s perfectly balanced and light on its feet, and yet is a solid and secure ride down the road. This is a car that truly embodies what it means to be an Ultimate Driving Machine.
This 1975 BMW 2002 is in honest-to-God like-new condition. Sold brand new in San Diego, California, the car has remained in America’s Finest City for its entire life. Purchased secondhand by an obsessive BMW technician who restored it from the ground up in the early 1990s, this car still presents as new in every aspect, albeit with some slight mechanical and visual modifications.
Being a Southern California car, the chassis and bodywork are entirely rust-free, with the only notable corrosion being a superficial layer of surface rust on the exhaust piping. Otherwise, the car is complete, accident free, and wears incredibly straight panels, all of which are original to the car. The car was recently repainted in its original, nonmetallic, Chamonix White in January 2017.
After the complete glass-out respray, the car was reassembled with all new rubber seals, gaskets, and squeegees to ensure a watertight seal around the greenhouse and trunk. The stainless trim, emblems, grille, and lighting equipment are also in superb condition, all of which are either OEM BMW replacements or preserved originally-equipped pieces.
To suit the owner’s aesthetic preference, the front and rear bumpers were converted to the body-hugging, polished European units in place of the big factory-equipped U.S.-market “diving board” impact bumpers for a more flush and tidy look that’s true to the car’s intended look. Inside, the black vinyl cabin is very clean with most of materials replaced during the early-‘90s restoration with correct BMW pieces.
Body – The body retains all of its factory-original panels, which have never been damaged nor seen rust. The car is accident-free with very straight bodywork and even panel gaps throughout. To de-clutter the minimalist three-box shape, the lower trim moulding strips were removed from the sides.
Paint – The fresh Chamonix White paint is in near flawless condition with no sun damage, hazing, or major imperfections to note. The finish is stunning with a glass-like feel and shine.
Chrome & Glass – Every piece of glass is original to the car. All of the polished metalwork is free of hazing, pitting, or warpage.
Wheels – The 13-inch OEM steel wheels were repainted in silver. New 185/70-sized Kumho tires on all four corners have an estimated 150 miles of use.
Steering Wheel – During the 1990s restoration, an early E21 320i Sport model leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel was ordered directly from BMW and installed in place of the original wheel. The current wheel in the car remains in factory fresh condition and, although not original, looks right at home in this 2002.
Dashboard & Instrumentation – All the factory instruments and backlighting are in full working order. A new BMW dashboard was installed in the early ‘90s and covered with a custom carpet dash pad to prevent sun damage—underneath, the dash is perfect, with no cracks, bubbling, or scuffs. A later-model BMW radio was installed and paired with twin speakers hidden just below the rear parcel shelf.
Seats, Trim, & Carpet – The rear bench and front buckets received new factory-ordered vinyl seat covers in the early ‘90s and are still in very good condition, with only the driver seat having a small tear along a section of seam. The original off-white headliner is also in very good condition given its age, with no stains nor water damage incurred in its life. The carpets and floor mats are also from the early ‘90s overhaul and still present in excellent condition.
Engine – The 2.0-Liter M10 inline-four currently resting beneath the clamshell hood is the correct powertrain for this model, however it is not the original unit. During the overhaul, the BMW technician owner opted for a brand new M10 crate engine from BMW, along with a new water pump, coolant hoses, thermostat, two-barrel Weber carburetor, Tii distributor, ignition wires, battery, and battery tray. It’s also worth mentioning that this car received a genuine BMW 2002 Turbo model’s 18-gallon gas tank with new fuel lines, filter, and fuel pump.
- Original Motor: No.
- Engine Number: Available upon request.
- The Drive: This car fires from cold promptly, settling at a sewing-machine-steady and near-silent idle. Torque is readily available through the entire rev range in every gear, and acceleration is strong with zero hesitations along the way. It’s genuinely like driving a brand-new 1975 BMW 2002—a true time machine.
Transmission – The factory four-speed might have been fine for 1975 speeds, but when the new M10 was installed it was mated with a brand new five-speed overdrive unit from an E21 3-Series. The bell housing gained a new flywheel and 228mm clutch assembly. A factory “S package” limited slip differential was rebuilt and added to the car, along with a new driveshaft required for the five-speed conversion.
- Original Transmission: No.
- Gearbox Number: Available upon request.
- The Drive: The five-speed makes California highway driving a joy. The car is very steady in any situation, and the gearbox is a pleasure to use thanks to a seamlessly integrated Metric Mechanics short shift kit. There are no grinds or pop-out issues, and the clutch is firm with effortless engagement, making smooth shifts both incredibly easy and rewarding.
Handling – Like the rest of the car, the suspension was completely overhauled with only the very best components, including all new subframe and suspension bushings, Bilstein shocks, Suspension Technique springs, a 19mm front sway bar from the ’02 Turbo paired with Miller & Norburn 16mm sway in the rear, as well as new upper strut mounts, rear spring pads, and front spring base gaskets.
- The Drive: There is virtually zero play in the wheel at center. Steering inputs are met with instant directional changes from lock to lock. The grippy E21 Sport steering wheel is perfectly mated to the tight suspension, offering exceptional feedback. This is the absolute tightest handling 2002 you’re likely to find anywhere.
Brakes: In tandem with the suspension rebuild, the brake system benefitted from a new master cylinder and booster, drums, shoes, wheel cylinders, emergency brake cables, wheel bearings, brake rotors, calipers, pads, and brakes hoses.
- The Drive: There is no hesitation in the car’s response to brake pedal pressure. It stops very quickly with no shakes or noises, and the setup performs well over time too, with minimal fading during more spirited sessions.
Overall, this car remains almost entirely within its 1975 spec, with modifications made specifically to improve the overall driving experience. There are more “correct” ’02-series Bimmers available, but we’ve yet to come across one that’s been so meticulously maintained and rebuilt to such a high standard. This car underwent a no-cost-spared restoration, carried out by a certified BMW technician with access to the tools and the knowhow to properly rebuild an entire 2002—and this shines through in every detail—both in the way the car looks and how it drives. It is unquestionably the tidiest 2002 we’ve driven to date.
Accompanying the sale is a serious stack of invoices, fully-documented service history, official BMW parts-order receipts, toolkit, spare tire, and more. The cataloged documentation this car carries with it is genuinely impressive, further adding peace of mind to the mechanical soundness and care this 2002 has received.
WATCH: This BMW 2002 Is A Carved Pumpkin
See a young enthusiast build a square-tailed 2002 into his dream car.
At first glance, this appears to be a stock, well-cared-for 2002, but it’s not until you look at the details that you realize just how special this BMW really is. Nearly every component on the car has either been incredibly preserved or replaced with official BMW parts and upgraded where needed to bring this 40-plus-year-old sports sedan into the modern age. Daily driving a classic car like this one generally comes with some significant drawbacks in the reliability and comfort department, but after driving this particular 2002 we’re convinced this would make an incredibly handsome daily, with more than enough comfort and reliability to enjoy without worry, not to mention the priceless fun factor of a tight and tidy example of one of the most iconic vintage BMWs.
MEET THE SELLER
This car is for sale by Bryant Nguyen of San Diego, CA.