Beauty in Simplicity: 1976 BMW 2002 Restomod

Writing and Photography by Riley Koidahl.

A loud, slammed, fender-flared BMW 2002 is badass, don't get me wrong, but we've all seen it, and there is something to be said for a more understated build. Some cars warrant a second look, even if you can't put a finger on why exactly. This enigmatic beauty is no accident; it's the result of a refined vision, years of parts hunting, and most importantly, patience, without succumbing to the instant gratification of riveted-on fender flares, giant wheels, cutting springs, or a straight-piped exhaust. 

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At first glance, it looks like a relatively stock 2002, but as you dig deeper, there are several modifications that subtly set it apart. During restoration, the US reflectors were deleted, as was the lower trim. Original European bumpers replaced the giant US "park bench" units, while NOS Euro turn signals completed the clean exterior appearance. To bring it all together, I repainted it in the original shade of Pastellblau.

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The 2002 has only a select few exterior modifications, aimed to accentuate the car's sporty, yet simplistic nature. Under the mildly widened stock fenders sit authentic, staggered 15" Alpina wheels (6" in front, 7" in rear). Stamped with a 1979 manufacture date, they are about as early as a 15" Alpina gets; prior to this style, the company only made steel wheels. A NOS 2002 Turbo spoiler adorns the trunk, paying an hommage to the ultimate iteration of the 2002.

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Up front, the car rocks a set of yellow-tint Hella 160 fog lamps. The 160 is still made, but not in the elusive yellow tint. Fortunately, after 4 years of hunting, a fellow 2002 owner posted a set for sale, which just happened to be new in the box, from the 70's, with German instructions. That, right there, is what dreams are made of. To complete the French-inspired look, the headlights were converted to Euro H4 units, then I installed a set of glass bulb covers for a subtle yellow tint. A vintage BMWCCA grille badge and period-correct rallye badge from Germany add some bling to the otherwise utilitarian front end.

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Inside the cockpit sits an immaculate Alpina leather steering wheel, stamped 1979, just like the wheels. Sourcing period-correct parts is often quite challenging, but oh-so gratifying when your vision finally comes together. Besides the old school modifications, I've also installed some invisible, modern technology. The car has a full alarm, hidden stereo with a custom-moulded subwoofer box under the rear seat, and an LED oil temperature/pressure gauge in the factory "fasten seat belts" housing on the dash. 

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Under the hood sits a mildly modified, rebuilt M10 engine. Deleted smog equipment, a larger Weber carburetor, and a full exhaust system let the car breath as BMW intended. A new, ceramic-coated Ireland engineering header is paired with a NOS Ansa center section and muffler. While they haven't been available for decades, the NOS square taillight-specific muffler was sourced from Canada, which features longer tips and different mounting points than Ansa's current offering. The full exhaust package makes for a nice, refined burble without being obnoxious.

Power is put down through a custom short shift kit and 3.91 limited slip differential, encouraging a more spirited driving style. The car is lowered over Bilstein Sport struts paired with progressive H&R springs and a strut bar up front. New suspension bushings and larger ST sway bars complete the package for a tossable, yet pliable 2002.

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All in all, the combination of light modifications make the car the perfect weekend driver, whether you're carving the canyons, or just cruising to the beach to watch the sunset.

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