Stalls – April ’89
Stalking The 2002
After three articles on how great t he 2002 is, you should be lusting after one by now. Assuming you d on’t already have one, t here are a n u mber of ways to get a 2002: You can i n herit one, you ca n steal one, or you can buy one.
Of the t hree choices, the first is u nl i kely u nless you have that sort of family ; t he second is a good one, except you probably won’t get to d rive the car very long; and the third choice, t hough u nimagi native, is the soundest. ( I am not unbiased -it is one I have made at least five times.)
The ed itors have asked me to ex pou nd on buyi ng a used 2002, which I will do. But necessarily I will touch on restoration issues, which overlap and complement t he same considerations wh ich go i nto pu rchasing a car. The logic ru ns li ke this: All used cars have defects. It is you r task to find t hose defects he/ore buying t he car. You may then (a) not buy the car, ( b) decide to buy the car and ignore t he defects, or (c) buy t he car and fix some or all of t he defects. Fixi ng defects comes under t he general ru bric of restoration, and fixing defects must inexorably be faced when b uying used. A restored car is simply one in which all defects have been repai red .
A 2002 at tod ay’s prices can make an att ractive second car ( may be even earn i ng its way into first car position ). Be warned , however, that the 2002 d oes not take well to d isuse. It is a car which req ui res regular exercise to stay i n good shape.
An earlier series of articles add ressed used BM W purchasing in general, and wil l not be und uly repeated here. I will emphasize that it is essential to HAVE A 2002 SPECIALIST INSPECT THE CAR, before the purchase. The 2002 probably has more eccentricities t han any BM W t his side of t he Isctta. You can lose big time if they aren’t spotted. It happens every day.
Ninety percent of the 2002s on t he road have been in an accident, I would guess. Eighty percent have been re painted (most of t hem badly) (same authoritative source), and the other 20% should be. Again, find out what you are getting before parting with you r money -what’s u nderneath the bondo and lacquer? Not all these cars need to be ruled out, but a lot of them should be. Why is the car for sale? Not so you can have t he best 2002 in town for the lowest price’ It’s usually for sale because somet hing is wrong with it which the owner can no longer tolerate .
Do not spend your entire budget on t he car. 1n calculating the cost of the car, include all items the inspection reveals m ust be repaired (i.e. safety related problems) plus at least $500. If you don’t spend it, great, but the odds are something will wear out or u nfore seeably crap out t he first year. Better to plan on it than park the car for lack of funds.
A growing problem is parts availa bility. Basic mechanical and bod y parts are read ily available and should remain so for the foreseeable future, but inte rior and trim parts are, i n some cases, getting scarce. European and optional parts (such as the nice-looking bumper horns and steering wheels) are nearly impossible to get now. Basic suspen sion components are available but rac ing stuff ( Bilstein racing struts, Alpina rear disc brake kits, hei m-jointed radius rods) are unobtainable. If you want to build a racer, stick with newer models .
Where d o you find a used 2002? Club members, classified ads, special ized magazines such as Hemmings M otoring News, are the obvious places to start. You can check with BM W dealers, but t hey usually want top dol lar. Beware the used car lot with “de tailed” and freshly repainted cars, for (a) you are going to pay way too much for this “work”, which is usually sub standard, and (b) this “work” is mask ing t he true condition of the car. N EVER BE IN A H U RR Y. lt is better to let a good car get by than to buy a poor one. It is cheaper to pay $6000 for a cream puff than $2000 for a car which needs a new interior, derusting and an engine overhaul. Make arrange ments in adva nce so that a likely pros pect can be promptl y examined by you r pro. If the seller won’t permit this, forget t he car.
OK, let ‘s go look at cars. Make a list of what’s wrong with the prospect, and what it will cost to repair. Here are some of the things you will look for.
Waikaround. Inspect for tire condi tion, wheel condition, whether it has alloy wheels, paint, brightwork and grille condition, windshield pitting, cracks and fogging, rubber gaskets (windshields, windows and doors), wi pers, fitment of panels (do the doors, hood and trun k lids line up straight?), and quality of paint. The two biggest questions are, (a) was this car in a serious accident, and (b) how m uch rust d oes this car have? Don’t ask the owner these q uestions u ntil you or your pro have the answer on you r own. Then , if the owner prevaricates, walk . You can learn more t han half of what you need to know on the walkaround. Rust. A recent repaint is a clue that rust is hidden. If the front or rear seams are inissing, be cautious (whe ther rust was growing there or not
bondo specialists plaster them over during “derusting”.Also, these special ists use 80 grit grinding wheels, so look for sanding scratches under the paint). Look for blistering under the paint, of course. Special attention should be paid to: the front lower lip, the afore mentioned front seams, under the front turn signals, the front fenders about 50 mm ahead of the doors, the lower edges of t he doors, the rocker panels, the inside edges of the hood and trunk lids. R ust is entirely a prod uct of environment and owner maintenance; a 1968 car can be rust-free, and a 1976 car can be hopeless. A 2002 with much rust is not a sensible purchase, but with only some rust can provide practical t ransportation for a good while. If you are t hinking restoration, hold out for very little or no rust.
Interior. Inspect for cracked dash boards, split / sagging seats, frayed carpet, stained / cracking headliner, damaged center console, ruined door panels, and seat belt condition . None of this is cheap. XKSS sells the best carpeting (very expensive) and seat recovering items. Headliners are still available, and after a period of absence, so are consoles. The wood in the trunk floor can be recovered at modest cost if you don’t mind doing the work yourself.
The door panels are destroyed by an unfort unate set of coincidences. Both the door brakes and window regula tors break early and often, and to change them the plastic door liner (between t he sheet metal and the panel) is removed. When not replaced (and it usually – isn’t), rainwater saturates t he d oor panel, ruining it. Even if this h asn ‘t hap pened , t he sprayed -on chrome peels from t he plastic panel trim. At $120 or so per panel, one would hope for better. 1 have seen the door panel skins reattached onto t hin wood sheets, with mixed results. The intert ia reel seat belts also have a limited service life, and cost over a C-note apiece. By the way, they can be easily ret rofitted to cars built after 1971 (use 1976 model belts), which is a very attractive update if you happen to use seat belts.
Engine. Engine rebuilding has be come rather expensive, with pistons now over $100 per and other parts goose-stepping right behind. Listen to the engine, concent rati ng on valve clatter and chain slapping. Have your pro check rocker arms and shafts and distributor condition . Wiggle the water pump impeller. Check for overheating at idle and during fast driving ( usually a radiator t hat needs replacing, $160). Excessive oil consumption can often be add ressed with a cylinder head overhaul and new rings ($800 – 1000 under a shade tree), but not if the pis tons are too worn. Of course, check the compression and spark plug resid ue, and assu re yourself t hat the head is not cracked. Visual inspection includes water and fuel hoses, water and oil leaks (yes, all front covers leak), dam age to t he front pulley, alternator bushings, fan belt, spark pl ug wires, etc.
Be sure to check engine mount rub ber. The left side breaks, t he right gets soft from leaked oil. The left mount attaches to an ear which is part of the front subframe; t his ear occasionally cracks, especially if the car has been in an accident. On the right side, the bracket which attaches the ru bber to t he engine may be unreinforced (older 2002s); if of this type it should be replaced, as it will event ually collapse. A nd check t he center of the front sub frame from underneath, as these occa sionally crack (especially raced or auto crossed cars).
Fuel system. Single barrel down draft Solex carbs are rebuildable, and are pretty good carbs. The d ouble bar rel downd raft Solexes (mid ’71 on) are junk, and if you see one figure $250 for a Weber 32/ 36 DG V (good opportun ity to convert to a manual choke, too). The 2002 fuel tank seems to have a 17 year life (don’t ask me why), any tank approaching or over this age can be expected to leak, and must be replaced ($150).
Electrical, heating and lighting sys tems. I nspect for battery , alternator, regulator and starter cond1t10n. Many electrical gremlins start in the fuse box, which corrodes. When corroded, it may pass low currents but resist high currents. It is best just to install a new box if the old one is tatty. Wiper motors should also be checked, as these are becoming unreliable on some cars. The heater blower motor is also a tender point, is expensive, and is a major chore to replace. Exercise the heater valve too. These freeze up ($40), then the owner breaks the control cable, which is a major chore to replace. Check under the front turn signals for corrosion of the reflector and sheet metal -the latter may cause an inter mittent ground to those lamps. And check the rear reflectors for corrosion (the chrome plating on the cast aluminum housing discolors and peels off). Smart owners install fuses on the headlight circuits, and some won’t drive without H-4 lights, which I recom mend. The high beam and turn signal stalks take quite a beating, so check them. Also check the pushbutton-type 4-way flasher switch, which is prone to mechanical failure (disrupting the turn signal system).
Clutch. An 80,000 mile item, if babied. Figure $350+ to replace. Clutch hyd raulics are more prone to failure t han the brakes, so check for leaks. The throwout bearing guide sleeve (you can’t see it without pulling the transmission) may wear eccentrically, causing notchy clutch action.
Transmission and shifter. Until mid ’71, 2002s used Porsche-type synchro mesh rings. These trannys req uire reg ular rebuilding, at about $600 – 700 (shade t ree) t o $1200 (factory ex change). Thereafter, Borg-Warner syn chros were used, which are far more durable but don’t last forever. The Borg-type synchromesh rings have been updated and improved, so a rebuild of these gearboxes may be something to look forward to. Bearing failure occasionally happens (rebuild ). A chipped reverse gear (caused by shifting into reverse while on the move) is another thing to listen for. Any trans with the old , untapered output shaft is a cand i d ate for a rebuild d ue to failed or fail ing splines (most of these should have been caught by now -all pre ’75 cars are affected). A weeping output seal is ok, but a leaking one must be replaced (BMW actually issued a service bul letin defining these words). The Met ric Mechanic of Kansas City rebuilds gear boxes for $800 to $1400 – the more expensive versions entail mod ification of the synchros and bearings, and should last a lifetime. This route has a lot to recommend itself.
There are three rubber parts on which the shift tower mou nts; as these deteriorate (usually caused by leaked transmission oil attacking them), shift ing will get sloppy. A buzzing shifter is caused by wear to rubber bushings inside the shifter. (All these parts are inexpensive to buy.) A foam ru bber ring around the shifter base keeps noise, d irt and cold air out of the car, if it is present, which it often is not. While underneath, check the rear drive train (tranny) mou nt, which fails d ue to oil attack.
Driveline. Guibo (rubber doughnut behind the transmission), center bearing and U-joints all need examination. Differential and half shafts. If oil has been kept in the d iff, broken spider gears are about the only thing to go wrong. Spider gears seem to be able to self destruct any time, and place, and are expensive enough to replace t hat you ‘II be looking for a used d iff. If oil hasn’t been kept in the d iff, t he bear ings and gears will cook – liste n for it howling or whining. Again, repair is by replaceme nt (figure $350 for a used one).
The earliest 2002’s had U-joints in the half shafts, and parts should still be available. Constant velocity joints are found on most of t he half shafts, and they very rarely fail. However, the dust boots around them d o sometimes split, and if not promptly replaced the result ing contamination can destroy the CV joint. Check for boot condition, slop and noise.
Suspension. Look for Bilstein shocks, you can’t d o better. They’re over $300 a set to buy. Front lower control arms (a curious term – there are no u pper control arms) should be straight and have good rubber in them. Check the radius rod rubber. Some aftermarket springs are good , some are not; d itto sway bars. I n t he back, pay particular mind to the rear subframe carrier bushings, which are probably shot if they haven’t been replaced by now (figure a bit u nder $150 with labor). Y ou may wish to change t he d iff hanger (the ru bber in it helps locate the subframe) and rubber t railing arm b ushes (a chore indeed to replace).
Exhaust. A Stahl header is nice, beware of others. Most aftermarket exhaust systems are to be avoided , especially Mid as, et al. Avoid systems which wake u p your neighbors. The Prima Flow system is an improvement over stock, b ut not many ot hers are. Stainless steel is the best, but I have yet to see a 2002 wit h a stainless system ( they are available, however). If the ru bber hangers and t he su pport bracket at t he t ra nsmission aren’t properly in place, t he system will boom, rattle, leak and may event ually crack.
Brakes. Check for leaking master cylinders (esp. into t he vacuu m boos ter), bad booster, t rozen caliper pis tons, frozen or leaki ng wheel cylinders, warped discs, worn or out-of-ro und d ru ms, frozen or rou nd ed-off rear ad justers. Basically 2002 brakes are a good, reliable system except that the rear brakes will not stay i n adjust ment. Rounded-off rear adjusters imply re placing the backi ng plate (parts reaso na ble, labor dear). Pads and shoes are so cheap that I would change them on a newly-p urchased used car as a matter of course.
Steering. The steering gear seldom wears out. Most steering problems are caused by bad wheels / tires, a bad d rag link ($40) or bad tower bearings ($35 ea. for parts). Less common are bad ball joints (suspension or tie rods) and bad bushes in the id ler arm (very rare indeed). The steering box is adjustable, and may have been misadjusted by some ham-fisted ty pe. The 2002 steers very nicely, so if the example you are thinking of buying d oesn’t but other wise checks out, buy it, secure that the problem can be fixed reasonably.
Last spring I was contacted about restoring a 1968 1600, a one-owner car with about 150,000 miles on it. There was some old front end d amage and some rust, but it has very strong engine (burned some oil, though) and a d e lightful suspension. Wit h upd ates (e.g. rear defogger wind ow, inertia reel belts, larger heater wit h three-speed blower) the cost ofrestoration exceeded $8000. It would have been one hell of a car, but it was impossi ble to rationalize economically. The owner bought a used 1981 240D, and sold the 1600 as is. I would dearly love to see more fully restored 2002s running around , but the economics make it u natt ractive for all but a dedicated few.Yes, there is a lot that can go wrong with a 2002, but with a few exceptions, not much more than with any other car. The age of the fleet and the spirit wit h which they are d riven has brought the problem areas into clearer focus than with other cars.
Still, it is not hard to keep a 2002 reliable and road worthy for a reasonable su m. Regular d riving hel ps, hav ing a garage helps more, and doing as much of you r own work as yo u competently can keeps it cheape r. The reward is having one of the simplest, most tossable, and most afford able of BMWs. The 2002, more than any other BM W, is a machine you can become at one with, a machine which can become an extension of yourself. ls it worth it? Don’t ask me – I’ve owned them for 18 years, and have one in my garage today.
This article was originally published in the April 1989 edition of Zundfolge