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Upgraded Engine: 1970 BMW 2002

When it comes to BMW 2002s these days, getting a good deal requires getting to the house with the car in the garage before the other guy does. You’d also be wise to have a trailer in tow and cash in hand, as that time spent going to the bank will likely result in someone else swooping in during your unfortunate absence. Outside of that, finding cars with mostly solid bodies and some mechanical work done is probably the next best thing when bargain hunting doesn’t bear fruit. This 1970 BMW 2002 is a desirable round taillight model with a freshly built engine and minimal rust. Find it here on eBay with no reserve and bidding at just over $7,000 – a fair number for a car in this sort of shape.

I probably broke a few hearts when I said that, as most longtime BMW 2002 fanatics can remember when a car like this was available for peanuts. Those days are gone, and now the threshold had recalibrated as such that no paint isn’t a problem, so long as there’s no significant rust to worry about. Rust is quite minimal, with the seller noting it as being contained to the rocker panels, rear wheel arches, and what looks like some very minor corrosion on the trunk lid. The earlier models like this had the prettier, slimmer chrome bumpers in addition to the sought-after roundie taillights. The lenses appear to be crack-free and the bumpers themselves straight and true.

The seller notes the 2002 was parked in the sun for many years, and you can see that this exposure has left its mark on the interior. The driver’s seat is pretty much destroyed at this point, and will need recovering or a thick sheepskin seat cover. The dashboard has also perished, but the door panels appear sound. If it’s sun-damaged here, it’s almost certainly been baked on the rear parcel tray beneath the back glass. The seller doesn’t report any other cosmetic issues, but anyone chasing perfection will likely need to swap out the dash for uncracked one and find new seat covers for a date with a competent upholstery shop.

The good news is the drivetrain has been significantly updated and fortified. The seller notes the engine was rebuilt with 89mm Mahle pistons and an Elgin Semi-Race cam. The cylinder head was taken from a later 1978 320i for the bigger valves and ports and then treated to a fresh valve job. The carburetor is a new Weber 38 DGES, while an electric fuel pump was added along with a new fuel line from the tank to the carb. Finally, cooling was enhanced with a new Champion dual-row Aluminum radiator, supported by an electric fan and adjustable controls. With the engine sorted out, the next owner can focus on the cosmetics and suspension, and enjoy knowing the investment in parts and labor is well worth it.


  1. alphasud Member

    I have worked on and driven a couple over the years and they are the essence of German Teutonic. Not very quick but it’s one of those cars that just came together to really make a dynamic package. Too bad they have become out of reach for a lot of us.

    Like 3
  2. JMB#7

    With a 2002 the sky is the limit. There is plenty that can be done to them to improve handling and improve power. From the pictures and the write-up, it appears to be a good solid body. I would want to know more about the engine build, and who built it. If anyone needs a good BMW shop, I know of two that I would recommend, and they are in N.C.

    Like 1
  3. Lance

    I had a friend of mine who used to drive one of these in about the same condition. He weighed about 350 and to see him get in this thing was a hoot. He could never understand why the front driver and rear driver shocks used to wear out so often ………. LOL

    Like 1
    • JMB#7

      I had two friends, both who built up one of these each. Stripped interior except for racing seat. Close to 200 HP engine with two dual throat side draft Webers. Full road race suspension. Fiberglass hood & trunk on pins. Together, both of those guys weighed less than your old friend. Did someone make a comment about them not being very quick? These two were very quick! The orange one went to NY a long time ago. The green one is still in NC. If either of them read this, they know who they are.

      Like 1
  4. PairsNPaint

    I had a ’74 with the big bumpers and square taillights. The earlier models like this are much better looking. Mine was also equipped with Fred Flintstone floors. Be sure to check shock towers for structural integrity, they are a weak point of these early Bimmers.

    Mostly very reliable, but mine broke down inside the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. Twice. In the same week. I still get Christmas cards from the tow truck driver.

    Like 0
  5. bone

    Its good that they show pictures of the rear shock towers ; those were notorious for severe rust out in those areas . These were serious rusters at least here on the East coast , and I know a lot of these ended up junked when the rear shock came up through the tower.

    Like 0
  6. Paul Jackson Member

    My grandmother bought a 1970 2002 automatic new. I purchased it when it was my turn, great riding/handling car. The auto transmission sucked. By 1980 it had rusted bad enough to take it off the road

    Like 0
  7. Super Glide

    Definite Buy Alert!!! Great Car!

    Like 0
  8. clive roberts

    I had one of these and I enjoyed it even though it wasn’t the more desirable fuel injection version. It died because of rust in the rear shock towers, and I live on the west coast. A prospective owner might want the check the bottom of the doors which tend to rust badly from the inside. Seems to be a good example of a great little car, and still relatively affordable.

    Like 0
  9. Mountainwoodie

    Well, the engine is a plus.

    Like 0
  10. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    I worked for a Datsun — BMW dealer in the mid 1970s located in an upscale area just north of Washington DC. There were 2002 cars all over the area, and were rarely towed in unless it involved major accident damage. They were very reliable cars and easy to repair. In 1975 I had the chance to buy a 1973 2002 that when new was the dealership owner’s personal car, and it was loaded with most options including Behr A/C, sunroof, and the rare 5 speed gearbox.

    The only major problem was the paint. It had the metallic “Turkis” [turquoise] color and by 1975 it was peeling off all over, so BMW repainted it, and 3 years later they did it again. When the paint failed a third time in 1980 BMW said no free paint again! They did paint it for me free the second time because I worked for one of the biggest BMW dealers in America, and I knew about that specific color’s problem

    It was a pleasure to drive, short trips or long road trips, it never gave me problems or left me stranded. Finally let it go in 2000 due to severe rust problems. Only updates were the Weber carb conversion and a Borla exhaust.

    Like 0

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