Nick explains: “To be honest, I never really had an interest in old BMWs as such, but more in old cars and like most people, the Muscle Cars. Every month I would scour the free ads in Car Magazine looking for that elusive Mustang. In April 2002 ironically, the very last ad was for a 2002tii. I had a vague idea of what the car was and as it was advertised for relatively little, it sparked my interest. I had a friend in Johannesburg who sent his mechanic to look at the car. His feedback was positive and he told me that if I didn’t buy the car, he would. That was enough of an incentive for me, so I transferred the cash into the seller’s account and had the guys pick the car up. A week later, the car arrived in Uitenhage 30 km outside Port Elizabeth. I still hadn’t even seen a picture of the car, so was eager to see what it looked like when it arrived; it was a one owner car with the original invoice which shows that it was sold by BMW Concessionaires in Park Lane, London in 1974 and shipped to South Africa in 1975.”
Since then Nick has bought, owned and sold five 2002s including a Targa, three E9s – two 2800CSs, a 3.0CS, an E12 M535i and an E12 530MLE. He eagerly points out: “That’s not to mention a ’68 Mustang, two Capri Peranas, a 1970 Ford Ranchero V8 and a classic 1966 Mini panel van. “I’ve been busy! This is also part of the reason why my restoration took so long, as I got side-tracked quite a bit.”
As Nick opens his garage I am greeted by a spectacular sight, an immaculate Chamonix white MY ‘73 2002tii which has been painstakingly restored and converted to an Alpina A4, with 5.5×13-inch Alpina alloys, the Chamonix white nicely set off with green and blue Alpina stripes. The memories immediately start flooding back. A friend owned a ‘73 tii, Fjord metallic light blue in colour with Scheel sports seats and three spoke sports steering with the dog-leg close-ratio box. I’d driven it on a few occasions and still have such fond memories of it today.
When the tii was facelifted in 1973, the most notable changes were the three-piece black plastic radiator grille, with new square taillights (they are actually rectangular) and the moving of the BMW roundel from the rear panel to the centre of the bootlid edge giving the car a more modern look. Between ’73 and ’75 only 1233 RHD 2002tiis were produced making Nick’s car very rare, number 749 of 1233 according to the chassis number, I have only seen five of these cars in South Africa including the one I had driven, Nick’s and his brother in-law’s.
So why did you decide to restore the car? “After I got the car I drove it for a few weeks and even entered it in a track day at Scribante. It didn’t do too well as there was no limited-slip differential and the retread tyres that were on, collapsed with the hard cornering. The motor was smoking on the overrun as well, so I decided that I would tackle a restoration of the car. I mean, how hard could it really be? I stripped the car with gusto and only once my garage was littered with parts did I realise the enormity of the task.”
It seems that you had your work cut out for you. Did you have any help? “Well I thought it would be a nice project for my son, Devon and I to do together. He was eleven at the time and we could probably race it when it was done and the original thought was that it would be his first car when he turned 18. He helped a lot in the beginning and originally we were just going to rebuild it as a tii.”
But this is more than just a restored tii now, isn’t it. “In researching the car, I was always aware of Alpina, but didn’t realise that they did work on the older BMWs. The more I started researching, the more the Alpina name came up, I wanted to modify it as I still had racing in mind, but not to the extent that it was non-original BMW anymore. The Alpina conversion would ensure better performance; I’ve always been a bit of a speed freak. I raced karts for eleven years, so I thought I would take it to track days and have some fun with it. Alpina conversions cover everything, suspension, brakes, performance, looks, I settled on the A4 conversion as the tii is fuel injected, I would love to go A4S but Alpina throttle bodies are very rare and expensive, maybe one day I will take it to that spec.”
Nick opens the bonnet, inside is one of the cleanest engines I have ever seen for a car of this age, it looks factory fresh, in fact everything on this car has either been replaced or refurbished. Nick keenly points the difference between a standard 2002 and an Alpina conversion: “The Alpina conversion improved on the standard car, in all aspects, from a performance basis, it takes the power up from 130 hp to 160 hp, it has a 300 degree cam, the engine has been re-bored by 0.5 mm with new pistons and rings, an Alpina A4 Kugelfischer Injection pump, 39 mm stainless steel exhaust valves, PerTronix Ignitor with 40 000V Flame-Thrower Coil; electronic ignition module – does away with the points and condenser which gives a better more consistent spark but fits inside the distributor. Also fitted, are stronger coil leads with 8 mm Silicone High Tension plug leads, the flywheel was skimmed to make it lighter, with a ceramic coated exhaust manifold and downpipe, better for heat transmission, gives it a nice finish – there is not much you can do with headers on a RHD car because of the steering box. The changes make the engine a lot more peaky which suits the Getrag 235/5 close-ratio dog-leg five speed gearbox, coupled with the limited-slip differential, with an uprated handling package consisting of Bilstein shocks all round, Poly bushes with shorter, stiffer Eibach springs which lowers the car by an inch, 25 mm. It has E21 ventilated discs and hubs with spaced out tii 4-pot callipers in front and has the 2002 Turbo’s brakes at the rear with the bigger drums and slave cylinder.
The close-ratio box and the LSD were sourced from the second 2002 I bought. It was also a one owner car from Durban, so I swapped out the gearbox and diff and sold the car. I bought some of the cars with the sole purpose of getting the parts I needed. I bought an Inka Orange ti and swapped out the Recaro seats, the LSD, dog-leg box and steering went into my brother in-law’s Polaris silver tii, and his gearbox and diff went into the car before it was sold.”
All of this amounts to a very comprehensive restoration and Alpina conversion which also includes a complete re-spray, replacement of all the rubbers, hoses and chrome trim; all suspension components were sand blasted and powder coated, every nut and bolt has been zinc plated. Open the door and you are transported back in time to a spartan, yet well laid out functional cockpit with a non Alpina, (Momo) wood rim steering wheel that matches the Alpina gear knob and the wooden panel surround on the instrument cluster and brightens the rather sombre interior. These ‘02 Recaro seats are as scarce as hens’ teeth and it’s hard to believe that they are still in the original vinyl and have not been recovered. To match the colour the door cards have been re-sprayed black and look as good as new, a new roof lining fitted with the original material, the dash has been refurbished and looks great and there are new carpets.
It’s been raining for days on end in Port Elizabeth and the ground is saturated, leaving trees to fall over at will everywhere. Although the rain has stopped there are ominous clouds hanging around Aldo Scribante Raceway where we need to be heading to. At two o’clock we make a call to head from the racetrack but first the Alpina decal needs to be applied to the front spoiler. I can’t wait for us to get going, Nick fires the ‘02 into life and the exhaust note is a bit more rasp than the ‘02 I had driven, the odometer only shows 200 km, Nick has a new found respect for his Bosch drill which literally turned back the clock. Once on the road it has a kind of kart feeling to it – the ‘02 feels well planted, the chassis is taut and the ride is firm but not harsh – no run-flats here. It truly is like being acquainted with a long lost friend, the thin A-pillars, with a rather steeply raked windscreen, gives one a good panoramic outlook.
There are no driver aids, no airbags, no side impact bars, or unnecessary niceties such as electric seats, this is truly a driver focused car that gives you that “driving by the seat of your pants” experience.
Soon we are on the freeway and although the motor is still being run-in we manage to get to 120km/h and even at this speed Nick manages to overtake modern day cars by just gently squeezing the accelerator, the needle on the cross haired speedo moving further south – no wonder it has a cult following virtually all over the world. As we head into the outskirts of the city to have the decal applied it becomes apparent that the ’02 is able to take the corners with much more vigour and without Nick having to lift off the accelerator; weighing just over 1000 kg there is definitely more power than weight.
We eventually make it to the racetrack at three thirty to do the shoot and I say to Nick, four house moves and ten years later how does it feel, “The finished product is awesome but I no longer want to race it. With the amount of money invested into the car, it’s not worth the risk racing it. Instead I will take it to the sport car club track days, gymkhana events, weekend cruises, the Knysna Hill Climb, but not racing anymore.” So what’s next? “Just waiting for some cash and I’m due to start my next restoration project – ‘71 E9 3.0CSL.”
Amazing for a guy who did not own a BMW ten years ago to one who has owned some of the most well sought-after BMW classics.
Words: Johann Venter Photographer: Colin Mileman
Special thanks to:
Aldo Scribante Raceway for the use of the track
+27 79 529 2721