Monday, March 18, 2019

When 2002 was 40 years ago

If you say “BMW 2002,” most teeny boppers are going to ask why you’re talking about their Dad’s fourteen year old car they carelessly park in the high school parking lot. Say the same phrase to Gary McClenahan and his son Wes, and they’ll know you’re talking about the car Gary bought brand new off the lot in 1976.

When Gary got into an accident that totaled his first Fjord Blue 2002, he needed a contemporary set of replacement wheels. Naturally he bought another BMW 2002. This time the car was Anthrazitgrau. With an April of 1976 build date, it was one of the absolute last examples of the famed Neue Klasse sedan before being replaced by the e21 320i. Gary drove this car every day until retiring it from daily duties within the last 15 years. That’s when the car was disassembled, given a fresh coat of paint, and left to be pieced back together.

Reigniting the Spark

Enter Gary’s son Wesley: by the time he was of driving age, he and his dad were ready to reinstall the interior and get the car back on the road. The car was finished and simply driven as an occasional weekend toy, but there were a few ideas brewing in Wes’s head for the old Square-Tail.

Fast forward to last year, and Wes got extra busy making the ’02 roadworthy for more than the occasional trip to the grocery store. The stock Solex carb was in dire need of a rebuild, but Wes felt the car could use a bit more grunt. The Solex was relocated to a cardboard box in the garage, and a new Weber 32/36 downdraft carburetor was adorned on top of the famed m10 workhorse. With the new carb, the exhaust system was looking pretty tatty, and rattling around at idle. Out came the old rusted unit with a hacksaw, and on went a shiny new stainless unit from Ireland Engineering. Once the revs get into the power band, the Bimmer now makes a sweet melody out of its center cutout stinger exhaust.

With the motor dialed in, there were still a few bits Wes wanted to address to make sure the car was up to snuff for the demands of modern driving. The shift linkage had seen better days, so all the components were replaced with new items. While he was at it, the shift lever was replaced in favor of a z3 unit for some short throw action. A set of Bilstein HD shocks were added to round out the handling in case any corners decide to get in the face of those iconic kidney grills.

As with any old car, there’s always projects to be done. Wes and Gary have decided to try and keep the car original as it can be, but make a few updates along the way. Otherwise the diving board bumpers and period-correct gold Enkei wheels are here to stay. It’s a great deal of fun for the G-Mac and the Westermeister to cruise around in the 2002, but it’s a new level of joy when the car has been in the family so long that it becomes a member in itself.



1976 BMW 2002 SPECS

  • 2.0 M10 SOHC 4 cylinder
  • Weber 32/36 Downdraft Carburetor with Electric Choke
  • Ireland Engineering Sport Exhaust
  • AllStar Performance Oil Catch Can
  • Rebuilt Shift Linkage with z3 Short Shifter


  • Bilstein HD Shocks & Struts
  • Front Spring Spacer Delete (12mm drop in front ride height)
  • 13×6 Enkei 92 Wheels with 185/70/13 Pirelli Tires
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