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Turn Your Hymnals to 2002 Verse 2

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Turn Your Hymnals to 2002 Verse 2

Posted on 30 April 2013 by Adam Kaslikowski

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


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2002: A Vintage Odyssey Pt. 2

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2002: A Vintage Odyssey Pt. 2

Posted on 18 September 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

This story is continued from Part 1 here.

The Alpine White BMW 1 Series I’m currently racing might be gaining distance on me, but I’m sweating and swearing more – and thus having a hell of a lot more fun. Up and down the mountain, the confident and agile line the newer bimmer cuts is followed by my little silver bullet screeching and sliding through lanes behind them. This is what my car was built to do. I hope it’s happy, because I sure am. Though our mini BMW race felt like it lasted an hour, I’m sure it was actually 20 minutes or less. Just as the 1 finally lost me around a set of stacked corners we both rocketed up to an ancient Rav4 and were stuck patiently waiting (read: chomping at the bit) to continue our pointless competition.

Thankfully the Toyota pulled off and we enjoyed another mile or so of me just trying to keep up when we again hurtled up behind two aging bikers on their massive be-chromed Harleys. They quickly pulled over to let us by but now I was loosing my taste for this. The 1 series rocketed through the most technical hairpin on the mountain while I chose to more deliberately make my way through. Let the young machine take this victory, I’m sure the owner needs to justify their chariot a lot more than I do.

By now they were lengths ahead of me and on to a section of straights and wide bends before the canyon ends by joining with a congested highway. I gave one more full-bore blast up to 5th gear to catch them up in a wide sweeper. Again we danced our dance with my heart only half in it (sounds like my prom) and I stayed with them without having to try too hard. As my adrenalin wore off a vicious smell hit me all at once. The brakes. My cardboard brakes were roasted and crying for relief. I applied some pressure on the next bend and they had indeed given up the ghost. The final intersection then came into view and I stood on the brake pedal and downshifted like mad from what seemed miles away just to stop in time. The intersection came, the 1 series went left, I went right, and not so much as a wave was exchanged between us. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

This is the first full stop I’ve come to all afternoon and I quickly realize how much effort this drive has taken. I am exhausted, the 2002 is exhausted, and I quickly realize I haven’t eaten all day. Thus is the appeal of this car. Driving it means merging with it to a point that your wants and needs become secondary to the team you have joined. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Forget the hunger and forget the brakes, I’m only halfway and I’ve got another canyon to conquer on the way down.

On to the highway, through a small town of old strip malls and new gas stations, then turn right into another mountain road. This half of the course isn’t nearly as technical, or free from traffic, so I get my thrills where I can when a passing lane appears. All these yuppies are shocked when a machine from the Pleistocene era rockets past them with a momentum they couldn’t hope to match. This is the more beautiful canyon, affording views of mountain’s and Justin Bieber’s 3rd home, but my eyes are still glued through the upright windshield and over the short hood of my time machine.

Dusk is here and I’m not relishing the thought of being in a canyon at night with 1970 headlights. I pile on some more speed for the final climb, then it’s all downhill and brake management. They’re still not very pleased with me, and the slow-moving traffic we’re stuck behind isn’t helping matters. Civilization slowly begins to pop back up as I reflect on how great this vehicle is. In a world of launch control, ABS, airbags and brakes that actually work, I wouldn’t have anything else. I love this 2002 and want it badly. Sadly, it must be returned to its lucky owner tomorrow.

As night falls I leave the canyon to the modern cars whose headlights and other safety equipment work normally. As I re-enter the civilized world there stands a lonely stoplight amongst the dried grasses and dive bars. This is the gateway back to real life, and with its suddenly yellow light I’m once more hard on the loud pedal. One last time for the frightening jolt of speed, then on in the darkness to the PCH and on to home.

– Adam Kaslikowski

UPDATE: This car is now for sale and a full description is available here.

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2002: A Vintage Odyssey Pt. 1

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2002: A Vintage Odyssey Pt. 1

Posted on 03 September 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

Seat belt. Choke. Clutch. Key. An age-old ritual that marks the beginning of a vintage automotive journey. And in old cars it is often this ritual, and the journey itself, that is the goal. Clutch. Key. Rumble. Gas. RUMBLE. The starting sequence filled with the fumes of old leather and new oil. In vintage cars driving is a full sensory experience. When you are lucky enough to have access to that kind of machine, whether for an hour or everyday, you must take it seriously. These cars demand your full attention, your full participation in the driving. This is the kind of machine that inevitably leads you to driving nirvana. A BMW 2002 is just such a machine.

This very cherry 1970 example with a racing motor was recently mine for a weekend, and I intended to wring the hell out of it in pursuit of automotive ecstasy. Did I find it, or was I left on the side of the road with a broken heap? Keep reading to find out…


The BMW 2002’s soundtrack: The Rolling Stones –  Sympathy for the Devil

This 2002 is everything I want in a car and nothing I don’t. Aggressive stance, side-draft Weber carbs, 5 speed manual transmission, and a racing engine with an vicious cam. Traction control and airbags are for rookies, or at least people with a better grasp on self-preservation. To further prove this point, I’m going to take this machine that’s older than I am on a spirited canyon drive to get to know it. No warm up, no getting to know you session, I’ll have none of it. This car and I are going to bond through a trial by fire. That is my plan anyway.

I merge on to the Pacific Coast Highway and I’m onward to my destination. While parts of the PCH are supposed to be great drives, this section isn’t one of them. Constantly gridlocked from Santa Monica north to Malibu, it at least affords me plenty of time to take in the scenery. On my right side is a scraggly cliff abutting what can only be a beginner’s attempt at a sidewalk. Mad cyclist forgo that failed strip of concrete and ride amongst and through the aggro soccer-mom tanks. To my left are dilapidated brightly painted 2 story condos with Bentley Continentals, Ferrari Scagliettis, and a plethora of Passats, and beyond is the restless Pacific Ocean. Despite being in stop and go traffic in the middle of summer, the bimmers temperature gauge is vibrating just below the mid-point. Even 1970’s German engineering was rock solid. Several miles of this traffic and great ocean vistas, and past some very promising looking canyons, I leave the PCH and roar up Topanga Canyon.

With the ocean rapidly disappearing behind me I’m in 2nd gear and approaching the redline within moments. So far this car loves to go. It’s happy above 3000 rpm and ecstatic above 5000. Acceleration is a sudden jolt backed up by a surging torrent of thrust until you’re on to the next gear to repeat the cycle. Best to vent my frustrations now while the shoulders are still wide and the rising canyon walls prevent me from getting into too much trouble. The route I’m taking is a loop formed by two canyon roads (see our description and review of the route), with plenty of mixed curved and straights along its 15 mile length.

The first time I drive the loop is a sighting lap and a chance to get the pictures your eyeballs are hopefully enjoying It’s an easy-going lap to familiarize myself with the raspy engine. I take it slow through the last vestiges of a neighborhood and work the 2002’s inset accelerator and its definately-from-the-past brakes. The owner told me that the brakes are new, but factory. He must have meant a cardboard factory because the only thing these brakes are stopping is my heart. the first 3-4 inches of travel do nothing to the velocity of the car, then the pedal moves into what feels like wet concrete and SOME speed is shed off my forward momentum. Fine, no brakes. I can drive with no brakes…

The sighting lap is done and the requisite pretty pictures have been taken. I’ve gone up one canyon and down another to the intersection where they first collided. Once more unto the breach, and this time at 10/10ths. Slowly at first, past the pair of posing cougars in their bright yellow Ferrari 360 Spider, past the cocktail party with its own private valet, until I’m finally past the old creaky mountain homes and am alone with this sonic masterpiece and it’s engine which I can only assume contains nothing but angry bees. God these roads are narrow, but then so is the 2002. The speed of my silver rocket builds up and I begin to lose all confidence that I will see another day. The curves have begun coming at me faster now, more tightly packed together; I press on.

I’m finding this car’s rhythm, although I’m not even close to being able to stay with it. As we get to know each other, it’s all full throttle to full brake and no finesse. That would be my fault, however, not the cars. For being from the Nixon administration, the little 2002 is remarkably capable within its limits. But those limits are not for the faint of heart to find. This car drives on a knife’s edge, and if you are lacking in either skill or luck you are going to wind up in trouble if you overextend yourself.

Throwing the BMW into corners and standing on the accelerator while the tires search fruitlessly for grip, I catch up to a modern BMW 1 series ambling peacefully up this now-violated mountain. I think it, and moments later I can tell they think it too – these cars are related, kindred spirits if you will. The other driver has seen the way I’ve rocketed up behind them, felt me egging them on by alternately riding their bumper or dropping back so I can feel that unstoppable acceleration once more. They see I want some action, and by god they give it to me. He or she confidently pulls away from me and I know (I hope) it’s on. I drop into 2nd, punish the accelerator and give chase. Through four corners and the straights connecting them I’m right with them. It is indeed on. Of course they are losing me. Of course they are. They have modern brakes, power steering, and the confidence that nothing integral will fall off at this precise moment. I have ancient bucket seats and side draft carbs. But damn the torpedoes, because I’m not letting that 1 series get away. I won’t ride their bumper now, or even allow myself in too close – I don’t know my machine well enough yet for that – but that doesn’t mean I’m letting this white 135 out of my sights.

Cliffhanger? You know it! Look for part 2 of this review coming soon!

– Adam Kaslikowski

UPDATE: This car is now for sale and a full description is available here.


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