I recently spent a weekend with a very cherry 1970 BMW 2002 that some maniac/god decided to drop a racing engine into. After enjoying its many pleasures I just had to pen an homage to David E. Davis Jr.’s seminal review of the 2002 when it first arrived on our shores in 1968. Below is my update, and you can find the original here.
As I sit here, fresh from the elegant embrace of a 1970 BMW 2002, it occurs to me that something between thirty eight and thirty nine million Americans are going to make a terrible mistake this year. Like dutiful little robots they will march out of their identical McMansions and buy the wrong used car. Fools, fools! Terrible, terrible, I say. Why are you blowing your money on any number of tweaked and bodily-fluid enhanced yesteryear versions of the Civic / Focus / 3-series / 3-series Status Symbol / Eclipse / Sex Substitute / Camry / Accord / Crown Victoria / Overkill / Evo / A4 / CR-V / Malibu / GTO / GTA / GTB / GTS / GTX / Reality Blaster / Golf / Fusion / C-class / Mazda3 / XK-E / Dino / Dud car when you should be buying a classic BMW 2002 I ask.
Down at the discos, Jenni Applebottom and Chaz Power and all their twit friends buy blarting little Japanese coupes with raked windshields and large chrome wheels, unaware that somewhere, someday, some guy in a BMW 2002 is going to blow them off so bad they’ll henceforth leave every stoplight in second gear and never drive on a winding road again as long as they live.
In the suburbs, Biff Everykid and Kevin Acne and Marvin Sweatsock will press their fathers to buy IROC Camaros with hood vents mounted up near the horizon somewhere and enough power to light up the city of Seattle, totally indifferent to the fact they they could fit more friends into the BMW in greater comfort and stop better and go around corners better and get about 29 times better gas mileage.
Mr. and Mrs. America will paste a “Support the Troops” sticker on the back bumper of their used Sebring and run Old Glory up the radio antenna and never know that for about 2500 bucks less they could have gotten a car with more personality, more head room, more style, good visibility, decent brakes, independent rear suspension, an interior that tells you stories of past journeys and adventures every time you sit in it – not to mention a lot of other good stuff they didn’t even know they could get on an automobile, like responsive steering and seats that don’t make you tired when you sit in them.
So far as I’m concerned, to hell with all of ‘em. If they’re content to remain in the automotive dark, let them. I know about the BMW 2002’ Something between thirty eight and thirty nine million squares will miss out on this neat little 2-door sedan with all the cojones and moxy and cred of cars half its age and four times its price, but a few adventurous types will buy them this year, so the mainstream loses like always.
To my way of thinking, the 2002 was/is one of modern civilization’s all-time best ways to get somewhere sitting down. It grabs you. You sit in snug sport seats with great, tall windows all around you. You are comfortable and you can see in every direction. You start it. Willing and lumpy is how it feels. A rough idle, but no zappy noises to indicate the task you propose might be anything more than child’s play for all those twitchy Bavarian superhorses.
Depress the clutch. Easy. Like there was resistance there. Clunk. First gear. Remove weight of left foot from clutch as it travels it’s 3 feet back to rest. Place weight of right foot on accelerator then add a pound or two, on accelerator. The minute it starts moving, you know that Vin and Ludacris and Paul Walker and all those other big street racing studs retired only because they feared that someday you’d have one of these, and when that day came, you’d be indomitable. They were right. You are indomitable.
Nobody believes it, until I suck their headlights out. But nobody doubts it, once that nearly jet-loud little car has disappeared down the road and around the next bend, still accelerating without a sign of the brake lights. I learn not to tangle with the meth dealers in their big hot camaros with the 500 horsepower engines unless I can get them into a tight place demanding agility, brakes, and the raw courage that is built into the BMW’s ancient seat as a no-cost extra.
What you like to look for are teenage driven Civics and Cobalts and such. Them you can slaughter, no matter how hard they try. And they always try. They really believe all that hype about their VTEC and fuel injection, and the first couple of beatings at the hands of the 2002 make them think they’re tripping or something. But then they learn the awful truth, and they begin to hang back at traffic signals, pretending that they weren’t really racing at all. Ha! Try again, Honda. Slink home with your tail between your legs, Forte Koup. Hide in the garage when you see an ancient BMW coming. If you have to race with something, pick a kid on a Big Wheel.
But I don’t want you to get the notion that this is nothing more than a pocket street racer. The BMW 2002 may have been the first car in history to successfully bridge the gap between the diametrically-opposed automotive requirements of the wildly romantic car nut, on one hand, and the hyperpragmatic people at Consumer Reports, on the other. Enthusiasts’ cars invariably come off second-best in a CU evaluation, because such high-spirited steeds often tend to be all desire and no protein – more Megan Fox than Jennifer Aniston.
It’s interesting to see who owns a 2002. The twits don’t buy them, because it’s too non-sensible, too uncomfortable, and not easy enough to live with. The kids don’t buy them because it doesn’t look like something that will fit a bodykit and it doesn’t have an iPod player. BMW buyers – I suspect – have to be pretty maladjusted enthusiasts who want a unique car, a sense of humor to enjoy its foibles and the taste to appreciate its mechanical excellence.
The Germans had a word for it. Back in the day the German paper Auto Bild called the 2002 Flustern Bombe which means “Whispering Bomb,” and you should bear in mind that the German press spoke of bombs, whispering and otherwise, with unique authority.
Feel free to test-drive one, but please don’t tell any of those thirty nine million squares who are planning to buy something else. They deserve whatever they get. Now turn your hymnals to Number 2002 and we’ll sing two more choruses of Whispering Bomb…
This piece was orginally published at Euroberge