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Retrofitting a BMW 2002 factory sunroof

The BMW 2002 sunroof models enjoy the perfect combination of open air and security. Designed before wind tunnels and coefficient drag ratios were considered, it was placed squarely over and *in front* of the driver's view. Peripheral vision included whatever is happening in the sky overhead as opposed to modern day sunroofs which are positioned over and slightly behind the driver due to a raked roofline. When new, the sunroof option cost an additional $276, which doesn't seem much for a car with a base price of $2850 in 1972 dollars (some didn't even come with a radio or air-conditioning, so BMW 2002 first-buyers must have been a frugal bunch). That said, sunroofs are also probably the leading cause of rust as these models get older and the drain tubes get clogged or the car is inert for long periods of time outdoors.

When I began researching this operation I didn't find much, if any, information or how-to's via Google or my club contacts. A few offered the 'cut and weld at the pillars' idea, but the more informed ones warned of weakening the overall structural integrity by taking shortcuts. I agreed. What made the most sense was to do it as if it was factory original by cutting away and replacing the roof skin over the unibody skeleton.

Clearly it's a tedious procedure and requires fortitude and determination, but it's no more difficult than replacing a quarter panel- in fact, in some ways it's easier.

In terms of retrofitting a Golde sunroof to a BMW 2002, this isn't the only way or the best way to go. It's just how I did it. I made mistakes and recorded them as well- I hope it helps your effort. Be sure and read the whole thing before starting because I made some 'discoveries' that will save time if you take them into account beforehand :-)

Tools and things you'll need:

  • 1. Cutting/Grinding tool with about 10 or 15 cutting discs and a grinding disc.
  • 2. At least two 3/16 DeWalt Pilot Point Impact-ready drill bits (SKU# DD5012). Trust me on this. Regular drill bits will wear out fast and test your patience. I’ve done a bit of this before with quarter-panels, and drilling out the spot-welds and separating the skin on two roofs (yours and the donor) will be the most tedious and time consuming part of this process. I’ve tried several brands and types and these held up well and consistently punched through fast. Also a 3/4" drill bit.
  • 3. A stiff spreader blade for wedging between and separating the metal between spot welds. If you can’t find a better tool more suited to this purpose as I couldn’t, get a couple- these will get trashed as you hammer on them. Spot welds have an annoying habit of holding fast while all the surrounding metal gets split, bent, and torn. Be patient!
  • 4. Acetone or some good paint solvent.
  • 5. A decent welder or a friend who has one and can use it better than you can (clearly, my welding skill is amateur-level)
  • 6. POR15 spot patch (http://www.autobodytoolmart.com/por-15-paint-products-c-1435.aspx) and POR15 paint.
  • 7. a tube of Blacktop Filler (Lowe's Hardware) that fits in a caulk gun. I liked this because it will dry flexible.
  • 8. 3/4"ID and 5/8"ID plastic tubing. 7 or 8 feet of each. More would be better. (CHECK ON THIS)
  • 8. other typical hand tools like pliers, a small wide-blade crowbar, etc.

I began by cutting the old roof skin out with the cutting tool close to the edges of the drip rails and front and rear window openings.


You can go ahead and cut further down on the A and C pillars than I did at first at this time if you're comfortable doing that.


You can see there's a place on the roof skeleton underneath the top of the rear side windows that protrudes up and out to the edge of the driprail. I cut through this by accident, but filled it back up with POR patch. :b


When it came to separating the old roof skin from the drip rails, I sacrificed the roof skin to try and keep from mangling the lower part on the roof frame. Some welds I drilled out, some I simply ground down with the cutting disc or grinding disc.


I came back and cut further down the A pillars (check your clip to make sure you have enough to cover the area) so that the length of the repair would be as small as possible.


After I cleaned up the area on the car I'd cut away, I got to work on the clip.


Here, I worked to salvage the other side of the driprail- sacrificing the bottom part to keep the top part as smooth as possible.


There's no quick and easy way to drill out the welds, you'll just have to be patient and do them one by one. It helped to reveal where they were hidden underneath several layers of paint by rubbing some Acetone on the area until enough paint was removed to show the spot welds.



You'll want to be careful with these support brackets and cut around them to separate the sunroof part. These will need to be cleaned up and welded to the inside roof structure of the car.





I shielded the roof skin from the cutting disc by wedging my crowbar in between and using it as a stop.


The old skeleton parts should separate easily once all these areas are cut.



Go ahead and cut away the slicktop cross beams and open that baby up. Ahhhh...


Now lay the sunroof section on top of the car to test the fit.



Since your car didn't come with a sunroof, you'll need to add the drain tubes. Remove the front fenders and drill about a 3/4in. hole just in front of the rear (vertical) wing support. Feed the tube bottom to top by using a straight metal rod (I used a headliner bow) through the A pillar and alternate shoving/pushing the tube up through the small passageway. It will take some messing about to figure out what I mean, but take your time- it will work.




The side with the antenna mount (in my case the passenger side) will take a bit more patience. Loosen the lower mount to clear the passage a little.


The passenger side did not have a pre-drilled hole in the A-pillar to pass the draintube through the top, so you'll have to create one.



Next, I squeezed out some Blacktop Filler on the roof frame to mate the sunroof section.



You'll need to carefully bend the side brackets on the sunroof in a little to make them fit inside the car roof frame. They're going to bend back out after you do that, so be careful how far you go. They won't break, but once they're bent they're bent.


Check fit all around after you've got the new rood settled in place.


This was tricky. I waited to cut the A-pillar overhang after the roof settled to make sure I didn't cut too much. In doing so, I melted a bit of the drain tubes- luckily, I'd left plenty of extra on the bottom to shove up through the passage and replace that burnt part :b Obviously, you can make the final cuts to fit the roof *before* you secure it so you can work in the draintubes.. I have no idea at the moment why I didn't do it that way. Just leave plenty of extra tube at the bottom and be careful welding over the A-pillar sections after the tube is up in there.


The rear tubes are a no-brainer


After you're satisfied with the fit, start spot welding the roof in place. Use some POR patch to fill any gaps, and be sure and wait the full 96 hours for it to cure. It will be hard as a rock- literally, but you can sand it down easily with an orbital sander and some 80-grit.

Now you can begin the grinding, Bondo, block-sanding phase to blend the new roof into your car.



I've had really good luck with 3M Body Panel Adhesive (3M#8115) gluing areas of the quarter panels, etc.. It boasts 4000lbs. of twist strength, dries rock-hard, and you can sand it down with a rotary disc sander if needed. It's used by new car manufacturers on non-structural body parts- sometimes in addition to welding (but not overlapping the two as the adhesive is flammable). If welding is not an option, I wouldn't hesitate to substitute this stuff- although I will add that I have not tried any competitive products that make the same claims. Make sure you have plenty of clamps and give it the full cure time.

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Well done. Thanks for the post. I have a bare '70 shell here that does not currently have a sunroof and if time and energy allow, it will get one as it's rebuilt. The car shown as the avatar has new rockers and a new factory quarter panel so drilling out the spotwelds is a process that is understood. Before doing the '70 shell however there is an Austin Healey 3000 first in line. At the moment the final touches are being put on another '70 2002 that was a frame up restoration. It might be nice to have a change of pace for a while.

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Looks like there might be a tiny little market for my roof as I plan to delete my sunroof.  Seems like a lot of work but it's a neat exercise if you really want a sunroof... 

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I have 2 1976 BMW 2002's one is a 4 speed & the other is an Automatic I am new to this site but everybody keeps telling me to just stop thinking about trying to do the repair work on the sunroofs on both cars. ( I like them), and would like to have both of them repaired to original use.......Help (jameelandjamal@yahoo.com) Thanking you for your article and help in advance. :)

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Just for the record. Back in the seventies I often visited my local BMW dealer in Northampton Mass. Here in the "happy valley" 1600's and 2002's were a very common sight. Never did I see at the dealer a car with A/C or a radio installed on the dealer"s property. I believe both radio and A/C was a dealer installed option just as it was with most imported cars of that era. I bought a new  1973 Volvo wagon in late 1972 again with no radio. None  of the Volvos at the dealer had radios installed either. In addition finding a Volvo at the dealer back then with an auto transmission was rare. Most all were manual 4 speeds.

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johnny- you're not the first one I've met to denounce and threaten removal of the '02 sunroof. However, to me, that's akin to having a leg amputated to save on the expense of buying shoes. I don't get it and I never will.


Mel- Don't listent to 'everybody'. It's not their car and they've already forgotten about it. Not sure what kind of repairs your sunroofs need, but assuming the cables are locked up or it won't move, just pop out the little section of headliner (it's on a small frame with a row of 'plugs' underneath on the front-facing side) and you will see where the cable ends affix to the sliding roof. The roof panel will be attached to two long rails, one on each side that go back into the recess of the roof toward the back of the car. After removing the screws for the cable ends under the roof panel, try to pull them inward (they grip the rail edge) and off the rail. (optional: Manually push the sunroof back into the recess and remove the metal cable covers around the sunroof opening to free the cables). Remember, the roof panel will slide toward the front of the car as you remove it. If needed, sacrifice the cables to loosen the roof- you'll find replacements on eBay and in this forum. I think Volvo cables are an upgrade as the ends are metal and not plastic.


vanagon- I'll always remember my mother's (then fairly new) '63 Beetle with an AM radio but no gas guage. I was too small to see over the window sill so I watched her work the gearshift and clutch until I understood manual transmissions ;-)


ohio- of course the car is all back together now and I'm driving around with the sunroof open ;-). But I'll check my photo library and see- I took a ton of pics.

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I currently have a 74 tii with an incorrect sunroof from the 80s.. Thanks for the right up as I was able to acquire a donor roof (no sunroof) and will  be doing the swap soon!

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So after starting work on my donor roof a few thoughts/questions.

Is the reason you put holes in both the new roof drip rail and the car frame because you used drill bits on the spot welds? It appears you had to spot weld/fill in holes on both sides of the mating surfaces. I am using spot weld bits and only going through one of the two surfaces ( from the top). Just making sure I'm not missing something...

Did you brace the car to prevent twist? Is it even needed since the roof frame is intact?


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I have done a roof conversion , you can use a carb/steel cutting blade in a 7 1/4 saw,  a hacksaw,  and cut the pillars a lot less work, the metal work is small you run the plastic drains after the roof is welded .

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After removing the majority of spot welds on the donor roof, IMHO the remaining frame has a surprising amount of flex. I am going to add bracing to my car when I remove the original roof.

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Hey, pilot- sorry, I'm not getting notified of comments in this thread for some reason. Let's see if I can answer your questions: Yes, the donor roof was cut at the posts and the sunroof panel was seperated later (as shown), so roof panels had to be removed from both the car and the donor clip. I didn't notice any more body flex than expected given the removal of the roof, but once the new roof skin was in place with the braces and drip rails spot welded, it was as normal.


This flex you noticed is one reason why I chose not to do what m-tuner suggests. It's a unibody car, and welding at the posts (IMO) seems lazy, and a dangerous shortcut. I've never met two welders who agreed on the best weld, and everyone else's but theirs were total shit. Besides that, welds can break under stress, over time, and due to extreme temperature changes. I would never buy a car that had had a roof clip welded at the posts.


Keep doing it the way you're going- it will be worth it.


P.S. No disrespect to m-tuner, of course, heh heh. :D   This is just my humble opinion.. YMMV.

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On 3/12/2021 at 3:05 PM, Mucci said:

Is it possible to re-insert the photos in this article? None of them show up for me. 

Ditto would be great to have those photos :)

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On 3/12/2021 at 2:05 PM, Mucci said:

Is it possible to re-insert the photos in this article? None of them show up for me. 

I will try– those images were hosted on my own server so it's just a matter of figuring out WTF they did to the site this time. It was all I could do to post a response since the ads slow down and freeze the page. I don't see any way to edit the article at the moment.


UPDATE: Ok, I got the images linked back up as I can click on the image link and open it in another window, so this web site just has to clear what is probably a monster cache and they'll show up again. If not, let me know bmwtype114@gmail.com

Edited by Artcop
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