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2002 Buying Tips - How to find a good one

Contributed by Mars Wednesday, 20 December 2006 By Mars aka Marsman

When considering to buy a BMW 2002, there are several things to consider. In the U.S. there were several different models produced. Production for these cars ran between the years 1968 through 1976. This guide will attempt to cover in detail some of the basic differences between each model and their respective year(s) of production.

1. Rust:

As with any older car from the 60's or 70's, the most important thing to look for is the condition of the body. You MUST carefully inspect the vehicle for any signs of rust. The most common points of rust on 02's can be found in:

  • Rear shock towers
  • The spare tire well
  • The gas tank area
  • The lower rocker panels on each side of the car
  • The driver and passenger floors (esp. on '76 cars, the passenger floors go bad)

The front fenders also tend to rust, especially around the turn signals and where it meets the front nose. Fortunately, they are very easy and relatively inexpensive to replace. Other areas that deserve attention are the bottom of the doors, the rim around the front hood and rear trunk and also the front strut tower assembly. Also look under the car and check the frame rails connecting the front crossmembers to the floors.

That having been said, don't let a little rust deter you from buying an 02. Some rust is merely surface rust and other forms of rust can easily be repaired. So long as you are aware of what the car has and needs before you buy it, and as long as the vehicle is priced right accordingly you will be fine.

2. Engine:

This applies to both fuel injected models and carb'ed models. Check for any excessive smoking due to oil burning. Note the color of the smoke as well. It can smoke in either blueish, white, or grayish black. The color of the smoke will indicate whether it's simple humidity off of the exhaust manifold, possible blown headgasket, worn valve rings, etc.. Here are some examples of colors and symptoms:

  • Blue smoke on 02's is most often seen on the overrun, meaning if you decelerate from high rpm speeds suddenly a blue puff of smoke would come out of the tail pipe. Blue smoke is the result of oil burning and most often associated with bad valve seals and worn valve guides. This is not major but will require attention down the line. Just be sure to check the oil level regularly.

  • White smoke is most often caused by some sort of humidity coming into the exhaust system. It could be as simple as drops of water hitting the exhaust manifold but usually is caused by coolant leaking out from the head. Somewhere water or moisture is being forced into the combustion chamber and being burned out the exhaust. A cracked head or leaking head gasket could cause these. If possible, momentarily smell the exhaust coming out from the rear tailpipe on a cold start. If it smells kind of "sweet", it could be a sign of a cracked cylinder head or also a potential blown head gasket.

  • Black smoke is caused by raw gasoline burning. An overly rich condition can be the cause by a choke stuck shut, a bad fuel pressure regulator, a plugged up air filter or a bad injector. On carbureted vehicles, the choke and choke linkage could have a buildup of gum and varnish. Typically, if you only get black smoke first thing in the morning, it has to do with the choke or the fuel enrichment portion of your fuel injection system. If you get black smoke all the time, get it fixed NOW.

Check for any sludge inside the valve cover or under the oil filler cap. Unusually white/milky substance can be indicative of a blown head gasket. The white milkiness is usually coolant mixed with oil. Ask the owner how long it's been sitting and whether or not it's humid in that area as sometimes lack of running the car and humidity can also cause moisture in the valves producing similar results. Also check for any dark, sludgy or black gummy stuff. Watch out for oil additives as well as some owners will use "stop smoke" additives or other products to masquerade any potential problems.

Check for any valvetrain noise(s) or other unusual sounds.

Inspect the water pump fan, check for any cracks.

The Tii models have a mechanical fuel injection system called the "Kugelfischer" injection system. This system is actually very reliable and dependable so long as it has been kept and tuned properly. If a Tii pump is running well, a good rule of thumb is not to mess with it.

Glance the engine compartment overall. Check the coolant cap to see if any discolorations exist, check the motor mounts, and make sure all the components are there such as the reservoir bottle, etc.

3. Differentials

The differentials in 2002's are pretty reliable. Simply do a visual check for signs of leaking seals, and listen for noises or whining sounds. Leaking seals or whiney diffs are usually worth repairing since these problems aren't severe. Most often 02 owners will simply replace them with another used unit.

4. Transmission:

Manual transmissions are also pretty much bullet proof in 02's. The most common problems with transmissions are bad synchros and faulty or loose output flange or bearing noise. If the noise is very faint, it is considered acceptable, but, excessively loud noise is usually indicative of impending bearing failure. If the trans has a louder noise to it, a rebuild will be necessary or at a minimum replace the layshaft bearings.

5. Model Year Variations/Info:

1968 was the first year for the 2002 model. It's origins came from the former 1600 model after a 2 door coupe concept (1600-2) was conceived. The 2002 model is simply the 1600-2 2 door body designation with a 2.0 litre motor. These are usually identified by missing lower side moldings, simple chrome bumpers, and no reflectors. These have the original round taillights and the front grills are silver & black combination.

1969-1971.5 models are pretty much the same as the '68's, with mild upgrades to the braking systems. Minor interior modifications were made and the long neck rears were replaced with the newer short neck axle. CV Joints were also added, I believe.

1972 introduced the 2002tii in the US, the most desirable of the 02 models. Tii models were fuel injected instead of the traditional carb'ed versions. The Tii stands for Touring Injected International. Prior to this, the Touring International (TI) designation was for the higher performance, dual carb'ed versions of the 02. The Tii's fuel injection was achieved by the "Kugelfischer" mechanical fuel injection system. Tii's had a higher compression than their regular carb'ed counter parts (9.0:1 vs. 8.5:1). Internal engine modifications were made as well. Larger intake valves were added, a completely improved braking system (larger front rotors/calipers/pads, larger rear wheel cylinders and larger master cylinder/brake booster), and a better suspension was added (stiffer control arms and spindles). Wider wheels (5X13 vs 4 1/2X13) were also added. The overall fuel injection changes and higher compression made the Tii good for about an extra 25-30HP over it's predecessor. In 1972, 130bhp was not common and made these cars a blast to drive. Visually, they looked the same as the 71.5's with the exception of the 2002tii badge on the rear.

The carb'ed versions stayed the same up until 72.5, where the engine gets a major revision due to new emission laws. This introduced the E12 head. The original heads were stamped with 121 or 121TI. The newer E12 head also benefitted from bigger valves (from 44mm to 46mm). A two barrel Solex carb is used. The EGR, and the air pumps are dropped. Performance was improved as a result. The Tii also gets the new E12 head in mid-'72, combined with aluminum intake runners versus the original black plastic banana tube intake runners found on 121 heads.

1973 yielded no major changes except for the bumpers. The bumpers were extended further out to meet the new U.S. bumper regulations.

1974 introduced some major body changes. The most noticeable are the rear tail lights and bumpers. The "roundtails" are gone and in place are the square tail lights. High impact bumpers were added to meet U.S. federal regulations. The interiors are upgraded with completely new upholstery and simulated wood is added to the gauges. The front grills are now black plastic. The turn signal lever is moved to the left of the steering column, where older models have it on the right hand side.

The Tii gets the same body facelift, however, this is the last year for the Tii in the US.

1975 brings no visual changes. The engines are highly modified with emission controls. Thermal reactors were added, EGR's and air pumps, and also the '75's yield lower compression. The '75's are the least desirable as a result.

1976 is the last year of the 2002. No major exterior changes were made, but the emission controls were removed for the 49-state version (non-California) cars. Thermal reactors are no more, which was a welcomed changed. Rear axle ratio is lowered on 49-state cars to improve acceleration up to a higher numerical 3.9:1 vs the original 3.64:1. A new cylinder head (designated the E21 2.0) is used which is the same one the 320i's eventually adopt. The non "49 State" version California cars are identical to '75 models. The '76's are by far the easiest to maintain and own. By 1976 BMW had ironed out all of the problems and as a result the '76's are the most reliable all around models. These are perfect for the first time 02 owner.

Turbos & Other Variations

Turbos were only produced in 1974, sadly, by BMW. They were introduced before the early crisis in the 70's and high gas sales affected sales. BMW in a panic pulled the plug on the Turbo model. They were never officially imported into the US. Other models not making it overseas were the "Touring" model (hatchback '02s) which were built from '71 to '75. BMW also produced a limited run of targa models referred to as the Baur convertibles. From '72-'75, they existed with targa-tops, a removable metal roof section over the front seats, and a soft fold-down rear window. All of the targa models were 2002's. Convertible 02's were also made in the late 60's using the 1600 model.



User Feedback


"......very easy and inexpensive to replace" is not what I think of when faced with having to replace the front

fenders. Be ready for some surprises.

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