Stalls – April ’89

Stalls – April ’89

by | Apr 17, 1989

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