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Rusty Roundie: 1970 BMW 2002

1970 BMW 2002

The BMW 2002 is on the tips of tongues everywhere as an excellent entry point into classic motoring. As one the most popular sports sedans ever sold in the U.S., the 2002 raised the bar for domestic and import cars alike, revealing how excellent handling was a great equalizer in an era better known for its horsepower wars. Coupled with its reliability and affordable price tag, it’s not surprising why the 2002 became wildly popular and put BMW officially on the map as a producer of fun, driver-focused cars. This 1970 2002 “roundie” project is listed here on Craigslist in Iowa with an asking price of $2,550.

1970 BMW 2002 Engine

Of course, in the name of improvement, BMW’s sports sedans continued to evolve and become faster, more luxurious and loaded with features that began to increase the price of entry along with the complexity of the platform. Many enthusiasts consider the E30 to be the last 3-Series that combined simplicity with BMW’s excellent driving dynamics, effectively making no compromises between the two. That’s one of the main reasons why the 2002 remains so popular to this day, especially in early production form like this ’70 round tail light model, the smaller bumpers and less restrictive emissions equipment are both major pluses when choosing a 2002.

BMW 2002 Dash

This particular car has a few challenges ahead of it before it is putting that extra performance to the pavement, however. While it turns over, the seller has not gotten the car running, and you can bet there will be plenty of deferred maintenance to address. Then there’s the rust, lurking in the spots that many 2002s suffer from, the floors and rear shock towers. This isn’t a huge strike against the car as many specialist shops fix this issue on 2002s every day, but it is one more aspect of restoring a barn find like this to driver-level condition. Oh, and finding replacement interior parts like a crack-free dashboard will also be on the list.

BMW 2002 Roundie

On a personal note, my brother is a 2002 fanatic: he’s on his third one. Over the holidays, I mentioned how a relative of ours at one time had a 2002 rotting in his driveway. It was then that my brother ran to the family photo album and saw himself standing in front of that very car when it was much newer (and less rusty) at my aunt’s wedding, and we both smiled knowing how possible it is to be connected to a certain car or brand in mysterious ways. I hope that this roundie finds its way to a new owner, and maybe even sees the road again. At the very least, it should offer a few useful parts to keep another ’02 on the road. Do any of you have any memories driving or owning one a 2002? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. Doug M. (West Coast) Member

    I spent a lot of my early years tinkering with early British sports cars, but about 6 years ago got into BMW 2002’s. They are such great cars. I am just completing my 2nd one, and my third one is already in line waiting for the year or two that it seems to take me to do all the work I like to do to put these oldies back on the road. This one looks like a great project…but the rusty shock towers worry me a bit… not sure if there is a good fix for those?

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  2. z1rider

    I’m not an expert, but isn’t the rust showing around the rear shock towers (from a pic in the CL ad) the death-knell for these? It suggests much more extensive rust elsewhere in the body than pictures can show.

    Now in edit mode I see Doug M has the same concerns.

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  3. Tirefriar

    I’m afraid the rust around the rear shock tower is just a tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of other areas these like to rust at including rockets and fenders/header panel area. The right rear impact will require a structural pull, provided the floor/rear rail is not sagged. This is not a project for the faint hearted. I think the sales price is optimistic as anything over $1k is a liability considering that a rotisserie resto is pretty much a requirement in this particular case.

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  4. Rick

    Have owed 9 2002s over the past 25 yrs or so including a ’74 tii (check my last divorce decree to see the 5 2002s awarded to me in the property settlement). And the 2002 hobby is one in which you are almost always upside down. But if there’s one thing I learned, stay away from rusty ones especially the ones w/ shock tower rust, better to spend the extra $$ at the front end for rust free or manageable rust than incalculable amounts later.

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  5. Dolphin Member

    Those rear shock towers are definitely rusted beyond safe use. You can see a horizontal line of rust perforation on each tower that means that they will need to be replaced on both sides. This is to be expected in these cars in the rust belt or the Midwest where this car is. This repair has pretty much become routine on most 2002s that were used in the North in the winter. I know there have been replacement towers available for welding in but I couldn’t find a source in a quick web search. BMW Tradition makes obsolete parts available now so I would check with them.

    There are sources on the web for the kinds of things you are likely to have to deal with in a 2002 resto and some of them are labor intensive and require skill, like what’s shown in this video:

    I’d go with Rick’s advice unless you like serious metal work and have the skills and shop for it.

    The good news is that 2002s are appreciating strongly now, especially the early round taillight cars like this one. But unless this car is better underneath than it appears, the asking price is probably too high because of all the metal and other work required. Be very careful with this one.

    The rear shock towers can suffer even on modern BMWs like the E36 and E46. I had an E36 M3 rear shock pull out of the tower from driving the car (below the speed limit !) on a crappy rust belt road that wasn’t maintained. Fortunately my friendly BMW dealer was used to this and fixed it relatively cheaply with a replacement factory tower made for this problem. It’s just a fact that the roads in No America aren’t maintained as well as the roads in Germany, so the problem crops up a lot more often here than there.

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  6. Rich

    Here’s my ’76 I’ve been resurrecting for the past few months. Straight for the most part but pretty neglected none the less. Ready for paint in a few weeks if all goes well! aaaand the pic is upside down, grrrrr.

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    • DT

      They must all have rockets

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    • Horse Radish

      Are you making a statement with this upside down (like in financial) ?
      Or are you trying to find out how many of us will dislocate their necks trying to look at this ?

      Or was it not worth the extra 30 seconds to spin this around ?
      Especially since you knew it was ?

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      • Chris

        For the ‘down under’ market perhaps?

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  7. jim s

    i think i see more then the asking price in parts. i also see a lot of rust. but since a lot of these end up being racecars a full rollcage might help or body cut for clips to repair race damaged cars. nice find

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    • Tirefriar

      Jim, I tried looking at it from that approach as well but there’s very little precious that is left over. Interior is shot, even the gauge bezels are corroded. Nothing much you can use from exterior – the rear bumper is tweaked, even the grilles need restoring. The biggest issue is rust, as aleady mentioned. but the beauty is always in the eye of the beholder…

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  8. Vince Habel

    I would be more interested in the Ford and Chevy.

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    • Brian

      X2 on that ’59 Ford! Nothing against the old Bimmer – but my eyes tend to drift toward American tail fins!

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    • RickyM

      I’m with you as well on this, Vince and Brian! Great pair.

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  9. Jeff Lavery Staff

    I’ll admit – I follow the shop Sports Car Restoration on Facebook, and they make all kinds of “impossible” restorations seem feasible. So while yes, the rust in the towers is quite advanced, there’s no limit to what you can do if money is no object – and believe me, there are a stunning number of people for whom that is a non-issue (or who laugh in the face of credit card debt).

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    • Brian

      Laughing in the face of credit card debt is an important quality for the non-mechanically inclined BMW owner! Having owned a bunch of 80s BMWs back in the 90s, I began to notice that none of the owners of the independent BMW and Benz shops I frequented ever owned any of these cars – they knew better!

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  10. jimbosidecar

    I took my driving test in a 1969 BMW 1600 and my first year or two driving was with it. I’m kinda looking for an M2 now, but in my price range which is near impossible. But I do have a back yard full of BMW motorcycles to keep my mind off the M2 of my dreams.

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  11. Boris

    bought a ’70 new in Texas on my way from OTS to USAF flight school, $3100 as I recall. On graduation drove from Del Rio Texas to Tucson AZ with Mom and baby sister in the car, 810 miles in 10 hours including gas and lunch stops. Mom had no idea how fast we were going in the wide open spaces. Great road car.

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  12. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    I’m now in the seventh month of sorting a 2002 that virtually had no rust. But like this car it was long-dormant, so the brakes and suspension had to be freshened, engine re-built, seats re-stuffed, tires, fuel system etc. etc. Again, all that for a very nice car to start with.

    This poor car would break your back. Even parting it out would be a lot of work, and frankly the “money” parts on this car are probably too far gone to get anybody interested.

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  13. Gary

    I am actually with Vince and Brian on this one and like the looks of the ’59 Ford also the ’56 four door, Nothing against the BMW’s but make mine an older American land yacht any day.

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  14. Jason

    Too rusty and too not-running for that much money.

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  15. Woodie Man

    I owned a CHERRY 1972 long bumper Baikal Blue Cali sunroof auto with factory air. Replaced the slushbox with a getrag 5 speed. Of course this was in the late eighties early nineties when I was a serial car owner and buyer.

    I can close my eyes and see and smell the interior. It was pristine. Sold it for Six thousand dollars back when there was no internet (at least for me) and no one was looking to own them except 02 nuts like myself.

    Important to have friends who own a BMW service garage and who know waaaaay more than you. I was always lucky to find and befriend those folks and they have been undyingly helpful over the decades.

    I.’m thinking unfortunately this example is going the parts route. Once the tinworm gets in there….fugheddaboutit. You can find solid examples elsewhere.

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  16. Brian

    Would mind to pull and stash that little 4 banger M10 under the stairs of my shop – justin case a future project should present itself!

    In my misguided youth, I tended to snub my nose at the little M10s, prefering the M20 and 30 sixes, thinking that the four was just sacrificing both power and longevity. It wasn’t until years later that I came to understand that the M10 was just an M30, with a couple of cylinders lopped off! A well cared for 4 can also last a VERY long time, and without that pesky M20 timing belt to change!

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