So, there’s a reason why I drove the Morgan yesterday, and it’s not just because it was a beautiful day to driving around top down in the depths of winter. There was a local Craigslist ad listing a 1971 BMW 2002 for sale with as asking price of $12,500, a low enough price for a roundie that I was seriously tempted to grab some cash out of my savings account and go buy the thing just to check “own a roundie BMW” off my automotive check list.
Doing so would require replacing a car in the fleet. The only car in the fleet I can replace right now is the Morgan. So I drove the Morgan in the cold, through rush hour traffic, one hour to Rochester Hills to check out the car, and then drove it back. Nothing like a drive in the car to be replaced to make you really consider if you’re willing to sway it for a different car…
Driving the Morgan about town
With the recent spate of warm weather, most of the snow cover has melted away. The roads were therefore clear of snow, ice, and slush, though they were most certainly still coated in a fine layer of dust. My philosophy has always been “as long as there is no water around to make a salty brine, I’ll be okay taking my classic cars during winter on very occasional drives.” Decision made, I decided to move the three modern cars blocking in my driveway and spend 20 minutes warming up the Morgan’s engine.
Good thing it’s the week before Christmas and, as a result, it’s a really slow week at work.
At 4pm — slow week at the office, remember — I departed from work and took the Morgan on a one hour fifteen minute drive up north to Rochester Hills. I drove into a nondescript industrial park to find the garage in which the BMW was hiding.
Viewing the BMW
The BMW 2002 was already listed online on eBay, having been listed online since the ad first appeared on Craigslist. With an opening bid of $10k and no bids, I was hopeful that I could grab the car for even less than the Craigslist ask of $12,500.
Alas, there was a reason why the car was so cheap. In the pictures, the car looked alright, but there were lots of little things that would bug me enough that I’d want to sink a lot more work into it for me to be happy.
Let’s start with the body, the first thing anyone checks when considering buying a BMW of this vintage. Despite having arrived here from Arizona, the car sure as hell didn’t begin its life there. The shell was extremely solid, with very minor rust in mostly unimportant spots — the all important rear shock towers were solid, and the rockers had been previously repaired and patched — but there was enough pitting and minor holes here and there to make me reconsider. The most damning rust issue was a small split in the driver side floor pan, a rusty gash about two inches long that I could stick my finger through.
For most people, this wouldn’t be a problem. You could weld a 3×2″ flat sheetmetal patch into the floor and the problem would be fixed. This car is “Michigan-clean.” But it’s not “John Li-clean.”
I was also dismayed that there was fiberglass in the trunk. Previous owners had treated the metal as to stop the minor pinholes from getting bigger, and then laid down fiberglass on top. Not an uncommon thing to do, and perhaps justifiable in many instances, but I don’t want my cars to have fiberglass unless it’s a kit car or a Corvette.
The interior was pretty decent, though the headliner was pretty dingy and rough. The big surprise for me was the shifter; I wasn’t expecting much from the shifter feel from the last time I test drove a 2002, but this particular shifter felt rubbery to an alarming degree. I don’t mean that the shifter felt vague, though it did. I mean that it literally felt like stirring a vat of rubber bushings around in a thick slurry of cold porridge. It was hard to find shift gates and even determine where the end of the shift gate was when rowing through the gears. This might have to do with the fact that the driveshaft was just serviced, with new rubber guibos installed, and the car not driven much at all since the servicing.
The engine ran fine. I didn’t bother asking the seller for a test drive, as that would involve moving all these cool cars out of the way for a car that I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to buy.
The other cars in the garage
Seriously, I want to have a garage like this someday.
The seller is in the process of closing down one of his operations which took place in this industrial park, a company in which he retro-fied contemporary Corvettes. His family is also the one who owns the Pasteiners store on Woodward Avenue, a place where car enthusiasts gather almost every Saturday morning during the warmer months to talk and show off their cars.
As such, he’s got an awesome collection of cars. The BMW is just but one of a couple of things that is being purged from the shop to make some room for the other projects that have some breathing room now that there are no longer customer demands vying for attention.
I was immediately drawn to the four-door Iso directly in the middle of the shop. The car is an Iso Frida, an Italian-designed sedan with the heart of a Chevy V8. This particular car is equipped with a four-speed transmission. The seller remembered seeing this very car when he worked at GM many years ago, finding the car in a scrapyard after it had finished its duties at GM, bringing it home and rebuilding it. He’s had the car for 40+ years.
Right next to the Iso is probably the most recognizable car in the fleet here in the metro Detroit area, a race-prepped genuine Fiat 500 Abarth race car. I had seen the car around in shows and I’d see it in pictures friends would post when they went to the Saturday meets at Pasteiners. This particular car had suicide doors, something I didn’t think these cars came with. The seller told me that the early cars came suicide doors and later cars came with conventional front-hinged doors.
In fact, he had such an example sitting in the back corner. Yes, there were two genuine Fiat 500 Abarths in the garage! The one in the back corner is mostly a shell coated in primer, but all the parts to put it back together are there in the shop. Just one of many, many projects that are on the long list of “projects we’ll get to when it’s time.”
We spent a long time talking about the Bitter CD in the garage. This was the first time in my life that I’ve ever seen a Bitter with my own eyes. The seller had worked with Opel back in the day, and this car was originally revealed to the world at a car show as an Opel, before Bitter came along and actually made the effort to put the car into production. This car is one of a handful CDs to exist in the entire United States.
There were a bunch of projects laying around that were super interesting. Tucked away halfway under a shelf is the rolling chassis of a Tatra. (I saw this car in the background of one of the BMW ad pictures and knew I had to come see this garage.) Against the back wall of the shop is a C2 split window Corvette that is (very slowly) being rebuilt. Right next to the Corvette is a VW Ghia body sitting on top of a Porsche 914 chassis; the seller, having had the pleasure of experiencing a friend’s Renault A110 Alpine, decided that he’d build his own beautiful mid-engined sports car by mating a beautiful VW Ghia body to the chassis of a Porsche 914 and stuffing a V8 where the flat four would originally go.
Beneath the lift is a Subaru Impreza that had received a JDM turbocharged Subaru motor. The seller also worked for Subaru, and his daily driver was a Subaru bugeye wagon. His wagon, parked outside, is special in that it has the fender flares from an STi, making it a widebody wagon.
There was another C2 Corvette and a customer C5 Corvette at the head of the shop.
So yeah, a lot of really cool and extremely rare cars, all in one place.
BMW 2002 fate
If you clicked through the link at the top of the page to the eBay ad, you’ll notice that the car sold with a single bid at $10,000.
Who knows if the eBay buyer is going to follow through on that bid. Both the seller and I know the game — a lot of “eBay” selling takes place after the auction ends, so I and a whole lot of other interested parties might still be in the running for this car.
Still, I’ve decided that the car is not for me. If you’re looking for a cheap roundie, this is a good example. It’s got rust, yes, but the floor is easy to fix and the rest of the rust doesn’t really matter, unless you’re insane like me and demand a completely rust-free car, in which case, good luck trying to find a 70’s BMW without it.
So despite the evening not resulting in me adding a car to my fleet like I had hoped, it was still a wonderful time talking with another serious car guy and looking at some pretty serious vintage cars. Evening well spent, I’d say.