The story goes that two senior BMW executives had the two-litre engine separately fitted to their company-issue 1602s and were so impressed by the extra pace given by the 100bhp M10 unit that they approached the board to approve the idea for production.
The 2002 got the green light and the rest is history, with the car rapidly gaining a cult following despite the price its depth of engineering commanded: It retailed for half as much again as a similar-sized British car.
The 2002 shone on the race tracks too, as One2One Motorsport’s Mike Norman-Smith can attest. Having been bitten by the 2002 bug back in the ’Seventies he ended up campaigning successful racers and subsequently fielded winning BMW teams for many years, notching up victories across Europe with some well-known drivers.
It’s the 2002s that remain Mike’s personal favourite though and the tally of ’02s resident at One2One numbers some 14 in various stages of restoration or race preparation. With a network of specialists to draw on from his racing days, Mike has developed a specialism in preparing these cars properly to win in modern classic saloon racing. And we’re not talking half-hearted stripped out ‘track day’ stuff either, but proper acid-dipped, reinforced shells with all the right bits to pulverise opposition like Lotus-Cortinas.
Alongside this, One2One can also restore cars for the road and having seen the extensive work it has carried out on previous projects it’s clear it knows its way around the cars.
This 1976 example started life as a 2002 Tii – the model that sat below the fabled Turbo in the model line-up and ran the mechanical Kügelfischer injection system, which made it good for 130bhp.
The example you see here was acquired by One2One pretty much as-is but has been tweaked and sorted. Built up as a replica of the Alpina-tuned cars built back in the ’Seventies, the car is essentially built to ‘Group 2’ racing spec, including an engine build running a gas-flowed head and twin Weber 45s in place of the Kügelfischer injection, complete with a dyno chart showing 140bhp.
In the striking Golf Yellow with Alpina side-stripes and the correct flat-top wide ‘arches used on these later square rear-light cars, the Tii sits on the correct Alpina-style wheels and looks superb with its deep front spoiler and Zender rear boot spoiler.
It has been built with attention to detail too: The exterior brightwork has been dechromed and the black cloth interior has been matched with a black headlining neatly fitted around the aftermarket sunroof.
ON THE ROAD
Despite years messing about with BMWs it’s been a while since I tried a 2002, but it all feels very familiar, proving just how ‘right’ BMW got it back in the ’Seventies. The twin Webers run without chokes, so a couple of squirts on the pedal and a twist of the key sees it crackle into life and a few minutes later we’re off up the road to view another standard and original Tii, more about that in a later TM Test Drive.
The engine has clearly been built well and it feels strong, revving cleanly when asked but also torquey enough to burble along at 40mph in fourth gear – the 2002 never received a factory-issue five-speed, although enthusiasts often fit the unit from the later ‘E21’ 3-Series.
A quick dual-carriageway squirt shows the car to have more than enough pace to keep up with modern traffic thanks to the lightweight of the ’02 – that 140bhp is pushing along just 980kg.
High-speed cruising isn’t what a car like this is about though and as we come off on to Worcestershire country roads, the magic of the 2002 can be felt, with the responsive handling and crisp response from the Webers making it real fun to pilot.
Unlike a lot of British cars of the period, the BMW offers a combination of very modern driving dynamics with a superb ’Seventies style and as Mike points out, to build an Alpina-style car like this with all the right bits and a similar engine spec would cost more than £30,000 – especially if you factor in the bodywork repairs that the ’02s so often need.