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Realizing a 25 year dream

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blogentry-45559-0-79688800-1455581623_thBack at writing finally. It’s weird because I am looking back on this build from almost 4 years ago, but it all seems to be coming back to me fast and with a lot of detail.

So we last left off we me cutting and welding some of the rust. You will also see with these various shots me doing dumb things like cutting out the original seat rail towers.

There was a lot of time spent trying to get the various elements of a custom brackets correct. It was all a big hassle. I won’t rehash all of the details here, but as I stated in the last post there was a ton wrong with the e30 seats.

Factors about the e30 seats that suck when mated to an 02:

  1. Too tall for me, and I am average to shorter in height about 5’8’’ or so. I had to duck to get in and out of them
  2. They seem like they are twice the weight of the original 1600 seats. Not awesome.
  3. The thing that bothered me most is how offset from the peddles and the steering wheel I was.
  4. The last thing that did them in was the fact that I had to switch around the handles for moving the seat forward to access the back. The original way they worked cause the seat to meet the door.

I pushed the button on finding the e21 Recaros. This was not at all a workable situation.

Problem was, I had removed the old seat rails. Err, you kind of need those to put the e21s in. Crap. I had also tossed what I had cut out.

I needed help. I called the Dr. He laughed for more than 5 minutes. Then I got a lecture on being period correct or at least period reversible. Point taken.

Shockingly he had just cut up the floor and center tunnel of a 74. He had rails that were straight and had enough sheet metal to be trimmed down and welded back into my car.


The car went back up there and while it was up there I decided to have a bunch of other work done.


As you can see in a couple of the photos it ended up okay...thankfully.


the great side effect was i got the later and much more functional side adjusters for the seats. The original positioning levers were way under the e21 seats. Now they are right where you can get at them.


So, I was irritated that I had been down this path for a few months with not a plan in sight.

I was buying stuff. I was modifying stuff. I had no order to anything. Of course one project led to something else. As seen in my previous post; swapping out carpet led to cutting and welding.

I had a couple of magazines knocking around while I was waiting for my son to be born a few months back. I actually think I was most inspired by a tub that a guy in Scottland bought for 500 english pounds drove for years and then finally got in and tore the thing apart. We had similar goals, he has a lot more money than me in terms of the build.

I am a build not buy person for two reasons: I like to have as much budget as possible for parts, and second my job makes me nuts. I like to design and build things that actually see the light of day. I used to work on projects with a lot of physical design (think TiVo, or Zip Disks, or semiconductor fab equipment, things you design that get produced. Then the item exists in the world), along the way I started designing software interfaces…you get the point. I needed a project to prevent me from pulling the plug…on myself. Cheaper than therapy? Maybe.

Oh, and there is absolutely no judgments about people who buy. Keep doing that. Someday, I hope to be someone you buy from.

I had studied articles for hours while we were in hospital waiting for Alex to show up. I pulled that out and made some notes:

Custom gauges – Smiths (racetech)

ITBs with Weber alpha management

5 speed

Massive flares (probably not for me)

Custom interior touches

Mesh style wheels with a nice step for the hoop (again, probably not for me to that level of “done”)

I found another article in bmw car, same Chamonix white, rally set up.

More notes:

Custom made factory looking steelies

Brake biasing valve

Rear cage (maybe)

Full 318i fi swap (again, probably not for me)

Then I grabbed a fresh sheet of paper and sketched out my plan:


MegaSquirt for fueling and spark v3 – which also meant getting the ignighters

Trigger wheel and hall sensor

MSD coil for EDIS or some equivalent

Electric fuel pump

Battery relocation to trunk

Sway bars

Lowering springs and new shocks

BBS RM wheels (check, got those)

New Fuel tank – mine is leaking petrol at the seams

Brakes? Possibly a VW mk4 conversion at the back, Volvos at the front?

Seats – I’ve got the e30s (fauxcaros)

Carpet (check)

Steering wheel – Momo (again, got it check)

Guages – like the racetechs (but not yet sure how I want to make the speedo work)

Misc things that make the car different and interesting

Beyond that, I had made the decision to continue to blend touches from other German marques that I liked and respected. I had grown up with Porsche, VW, and few Audis. I also wanted to have a few touches that were pure mods for the purpose of making it more civil to drive…I suspected that to get my sig other on a long drive there would need to be some things in car that made her feel okay with coming along. Possible tie downs to put the kid recaro in?

A plan. Finally.

It lasted about a week, and it took a number of turns.

The first was tossing the e30 Fauxcaros. We’ll get to that next. For the time being…this was the plan.

Timeline shift: I had breakfast today with the bay area (south bay) with a number of people from 60ish miles around. Great group of people. A lot of very active characters on FAQ, I now have a framework for who they are and what they have all done or not done to their cars. Unfortunately being mid build was garaged but it was great to meet folks.


Ok, so here is the part where i reference a plan, but you'll also realize that in each post I've yet to reveal a plan.

I want to say there is a method to my madness. I want to say something about knowing; and having a designers mind toward things, but that would be absolute BS.

I had a lot of inspiration between Performance BMW, the FAQ, my time modifying VWs and Porches and Audis...but largely I just dove in.

Let's be clear, there's no plan at this point. Learn from my mistakes, because I can be an idiot around cetain things and this was one of them.

So I head out into the garage and just tear into the interior. I just do it. I start by unbolting the seats. Then I pulled out carpet.

Why? I have parts sitting in boxes that need to go into the car. Plus, if there is rust hiding away I want to find it now before I go any further.

Sounds very sound. It wasn't; I just litterally had it in my head that I could just jump in, fab up seat rails, and then put the carpet in, probably two or three solid weekends of work.

Not sure, what I was thinking.

Clearly, I wasn't thinking. I guess I wanted some activity.

Maybe it was an escape from my crappy job where I barely used my brain and never used my hands, maybe I just needed to go back to creating something. Maybe I just assumed it would be easy.

So i just got in and started tearing things out, but as I got into it I decided I was going to dynomat and paint. Out came the heat gun and the scraper.

This project was spiraling out of control. Then it hit: rust in the back foot well. Great. Now I am going to be cutting and welding.


Meanwhile I started working with my father to fab up brackets for the e30 seats I was going to put in. I just started cutting one day and pulled the original rails out. I would NEVER recommend this. NEVER. It was a huge mistake to pull those rails out.

I'll cover the whole e30 seats in my next post. They are infinitely adjustable and pretty comfortable. They are WAY cheaper than the e21 recaros and in someways they are more stout.

So very quickly I was knee deep in it. The first weekend of cutting and removing I was essentially buggered, bummed, and on my way to over engineering. Forget about it not being a restoration, it was a full on modification, and my first two attempts at the seat brackets were extremely ghetto epic fails.

I'd read about these brackets on the forum and it seemed like they would be extremely solid, they were, but the first ones had the seats too high in the car. I felt like my head was near the ceiling, I didn't want to feel like I was driving my ML. The second set had the seats two close to the door, so on the passenger side the recline and rear seat egress levers hit the doors. On the driver side, we had the same problem and i was so far off center from the steering wheel and the gas, brake, and clutch it felt like i was reaching over from my seat to drive.

I had some nice carpets in a box too ready to go in. They stayed in the box for a really long time.

I guess poor progress is still some kind of progress. I was still showing up to work on the regular, so I guess in some ways it did what it needed to do.

Extremely light on planning. Did i mention what a mistake this was? :D


I already had parts sitting around for the '68 that I knew I wanted to use on the '69, so great, at least we aren't having a massive project shift.

My plan for the wheels was simple: remove all of the polished bolts: one becuase they were improperly polished or chromed, and replace the rear hoops with 1 inch depth hoops that i'd aquired in Germany. I was hoping for a staggered look like more modern BMWs. It also got rid of two hoops that were damaged in shipping (bite me DHL).

Note to self, try and find wheels that are domestically, and readily available. I bought these in England when I was there and they were nicely refinished. Problem was I trusted the bloke to package them up appropriately. That was a fail.

The RM01 (these wheels) were standard issue on the VW GTI 16v on the 1992 model only...the one I just sold. I hung on to an extra set I had when I knew that the car was going.

These rims were not as trendy back when I started this project I think for a few reasons: They aren't a BMW part number and have a VW/Audi logo stamped on them. They are a two piece design as you can see in the photos, where the comparable BMW part the RS rim is three pieces. This does in fact give you a lot more options for spacing, stance, etc. but for the 02 they go on perfectly have the right bolt pattern and the spacing is pretty darn close to what you need. I'll post pictures of that when I get my suspension sorted out.

Oh and the other reason they are less desirable is that the center rings and caps are push in, vs. screw down. There is a good solution to this problem that I will post pictures and descriptions of later.

I chose them because I knew their proven stoutness on the GTI which I had truly thrashed in the backroads, on freeways all over NORCAL, and mostly because I knew they could survive in adverse conditions like ownership by a 17 year old...I bought the GTI off my cousin.

Resto should be an easy project. Right? Right.

Well, not quite. One; there are 30ish bolts on every wheel that you want to remove by hand. Trust me on this if there is any corosion on them or your previous owner uses some level of "locktite" and/or manhandled them in. If you get any resistance at all with these rather soft and spindly bolt. STOP immediately and use more penetrating oil.

So my not so wise arse thinks it can carefully use an 8mm star bit (what's the reverse of a Torqs tool called anyway?) on the end of a carefully modulated driver to pull these out in record speed. Not a plan, not on your most careful and accurate day.

To avoid mishap: go to your zen place. Get out your hand tools. Recognize that you will be doing this for a few hours, maybe over a few days.

I ended up sheering a bolt off completely leaving me with a extraction and tapping job. I did however learn how to best extract and what tools work. Handy knowledge later on with head studs. I also had another bolt break off 2/3 of the way out. That one I soaked in oil and used a smartly placed pair of vice grips to save me another extraction and tapping job.

Now done, I was resigned to reassemble to factory spec. Kind of. I was told that you could use ATV gasket seal for the connection between the barel and the back face of the hoop. This may work for some, but it did not work for me. The VW crowd has been doing this for years. Instructions are simple:

1. clean face and clean back of rim. remove all old sealing material

2. place ATV or sealer on both surfaces and let cure together

3. place bolts and hand tighten

4. wait 24 hours, and torque to spec

I did all of this. When I went to do have the tires put on, i essentially had leaks, one slow and one fast. This is a lot more common with the 1/2 inch lip hoops I am running in the front based on the shape. Recommend using the actual sealant from BBS its available from Black Forest Industries and it is worth the extra money.

That sorted i reassembled the rims and hey presto, they hold air.

A couple of other learnings:

Tire selection is a pain.

I ended up running 195/45/15s on the front, and 205/50/15s on the back. They are yokohama SDrive tires. These are a very quiet and compliant tire. I have done a couple of vintage drives on these and they actually keep a lot of the around town road behaviours of my skinny 13s in terms of ride quality. The extra contact patch is well worth it.

There are not very many good 13 inch tire choices.

There are only a few good 14 inch tire choices. At first I wondered if I would like a 15 inch tire on the 02, it has ended up pretty great in all areas I was looking for.

Another thing to figure out: how down and out you want to go with your suspension before finalizing your tire and wheel selection. It saves rubbing and expensive suspension rework later. I got lucky here.

Lastly, always have a "wheelman" see video.

Great tires and wheels together in garage. Now what's my big plan.

Interior? Suspension? Engine? Hmm, yes please.

What to do first, where to start, what was an immediate maintenance need. What was my plan.

Time to go visit my father and get his expert project management skill paired with my design skills. As I have learned you want to build something as Iconic as an Audi TT: best to get design and engineering together early. Often.


So, I went to Burlingame.

I was amazed.

I took it to Beamers in Redwood City had the PPI done.

I paid cash. A week later the Dr. dropped the car off to me in San Jose.

It's a 1969 1602 that wasn't exactly original, but it was in great shape. Someone had done the conversion of the engine to a 1974 bottom end and a 1980 121T head (seems like a rather odd choice for this car, but it seems to work, if anyone has info on that specific head, I would welcome knowledge...I've heard they aren't exactly common heads). [Photo attached.blogentry-45559-0-83692700-1443402176_th]

This car moves in a way that no other 02 I've driven has moved, it's torquey. It's fast, and it is smooth in town and it awesome on the freeway.

I had no intention of doing a period/factory correct restoration. It wasn't going to be a trailor queen, or a show car that wasn't driven. I was planning on modifying as I went, likely with the idea of reasonable performance and high reliability. I was definitely thinking fuel injection but I wasn't sure what type yet. Efi? Retro Tii parts? Not sure.

I agreed with the Dr. 'good material' it was solid, and it was right for what I wanted to do.

I already had parts in store and I was starting to asseble my project.

Great. Let's get started...


So the decision was made. The 02 went up for sale.

It sold in 5 days with a full disclosure, I'll admit I was amazed. Dr. Kwan took care of all of the details, and he was awesome. Of all of the people I have met in the local community he is one of my favorite people. He really saved me. I know other people have had different experiences with him, but honestly he has been nothing but helpful to me. A broker is a broker though, it is important to always do your homework and always go for the PPI before putting your cash down. More on that in a bit.

I don't actually know who bought the 1968, but I believe it went to someone who immediately took it to a shop to be painted?!?! Which was odd. I know this because I saw it sitting out in front of a shop in Redwood City. I later saw the car with the new paint. The photos in this gallery are of my discovery on the side of the road. They made a decision to paint the car an awful pearl white with the sparkles and everything. Whatever, It was someone's project. Odd that a body shop wouldn't fix the door and hood gap. Nothing. Just like I left it 'cept now it sparkled with gliter paint. Evil.

I saw the car again 9 months later, this time on ebay. It had been modified with a highly worked over m20 engine and a very large turbo. I kept hearing the words of Luis in my head "not safe to drive, and a danger at any speed..." Now with an extra 150+ horsepower. I scoured the photos and saw that NOTHING had been done to the frame. Even sent a question to the seller to ask about the frame and the overall bodywork. Never heard anything.

Hopefully whoever the latest "New appreciating owner of this particular 99% rust free car" gets the freaking frame fixed. Thankfully in the ebay ad it had a full set of Wilwood brakes. One issue got worked out seemingly.

The GTI sold about a week later. It was going to be a complete resto done by a couple of brother not far from me. Not sure whatever happened to the GTI but I do miss that car.

Now with a totally cleaned out garage it was time to figure out next. I got a call from the Dr. another week later. He uses funny terms at times "I have some new material for you to come look at."

Great, what are we looking at?

"Come up, i think this car is going to fit all of your needs." Sounds promising. We shall see...


blog-0211645001443125902.jpg...So the glow of being a new 02 owner came off almost immediately...

The good

It was complete (mostly, and it wasn't original and that was okay, I was never hoping for the lawn at Pebble, but i was hoping for the dirt at Laguna...)

It ran (mostly)

It had a new windshield

It had the short diff and a new subframe

It had a 2002 engine from a 75 (again, complete, minus he smog gear)

It had been painted in the last 5 years and i couldn't see any rust, maybe it was rust free?!?!

Magnet test said there wasn't much filler ('cept around those flares)

The dash was out of a 74 and looked new

The bad

The front seats were rubbish

The interior was pretty questionable (I started calling it the 'inferior')

Locks and door handles inside and out were questionable

None of the guages worked and the speedometer would bounce and click at any speed over 30 (which is only a guess in terms of its accuracy)

The brakes were questionable (and they were early 1600 units)

I think i saw a little bit of smoke out the back when I let off the gas on the way home

The engine bay was filthy

There was a pile of "spares" in the trunk which on detailed inspection revealed a lot of take offs that were going to be of no use to me

Deep sigh. Okay, well let's see about getting the brakes operational.

I called my local BMW mechanic in Palo Alto, decent enough guy. Immediately had a solution and a parts vendor who could likely get me a new booster, as we determined this was the issue for my extremely unpredictable brakes.

Days pass, nothing. Two weeks pass. Nothing.

Finally I call, "any luck on getting those parts?" Reply comes back "no, this is what we in the restoration world call unobtanium." There was no source for this booster, and even if there was it was largely determined that the cost to get me a part from 2002AD or Jaymic was probably not reasonable based on the complete lack of originality of my car. So I asked for a recommendation. I got one. "Replace the entire brake system." Okay, what's that going to cost me? about 500 bucks in parts and probably about 2K in labor.

Errr. Okay, plus the call came for me to get my near brakeless car out of his rather busy shop. I did as I was told.

At this point he also made a direct intro to a man named Dr. Kwan who could source me almost anything I wanted. Okay, I'll give the Dr. a call.

Kwan and I talked for an hour. We got a long well, but there was a bunch of hesitation in the interaction.

"I've seen the car. You sure you want to invest money in this particular car."

He kept saying, "this particular car." As if he had seen "this particular car", my car, somewheres else. So I pressed him on this. Turns out cars in the san franciso bay area are a lot like techology people, user experience designers...they get around A LOT and they get traded in the same circles. They go to the same brokers like the Dr. and Evan the guy i bought it from.

I decided to press on. Parts for the brakes got ordered.

While I waited I decided to take the car to a friend of mine, Luis, who is the owner of a very large constellation of body shops called Pan American AutoBody. I highly recommend Luis and his shops. More details on that some other time.

Luis puts the car up on a rack and brings it down almost as fast. "ditch this car, and i don't even feel right about saying that, it has frame damage and it isn't really safe to drive."


Now I am filled with the regret that only someone such as a noob like me can be filled with. I own it, i should have gotten a pre-purchase inspection, I should have taken one look at it and turned around, i should have taken my father the skeptical engineer, or i could have relied on my own knowledge of aircooled same period car and their issues. I didn't.

Now what?

I brought it home and put it under a cover and thought about it.

Then the Dr. called. Parts were delayed. Great, because I want to ditch this car like the bad penny it's become. So we discuss, and we decide to look for a certain kind of buyer. One that we can disclose the damage to and who will understand what they are buying.

We also decide to sell my Mk2 16v GTI, (which i now regret)...double my budget and find something decent.

Decision made. Let's find someone.


So I remember the first time I really noticed an 02. I was driving my Mk1 GTI up the block to my girlfriend's house. I was about 19, in college. The car that drove by me was a Red square tails; a '74 tii I later learned. It was beautiful and it was amazing. It represented a perfect blend of style, utility, and the best thing was it wasn't the 1980's style box I had been driving...was currently driving. So, i followed the guy home and watched him pull the little 02 into a garage next to a giant Mercedes and an old Alfa GTV. Who was this guy, and did I look like a total psycho following this person home...well yeah.

I got out of the car and had a conversation with him. He explained the lay of the land: carbs vs. fuel injection, round vs. square, and most of all the virtues of the m10.

I wanted to sell my car then and find one right then and there. Remember, this is 1991, there was no craigslist, there was no bring-a-trailor, but there was autotrader, except it was a newspaper style rag. I immediately went to find one, and there was not a single 02 to be had.

Rinse repeat for about 6 months. I stop looking, I go back to college life, i start traveling up and down 101 between san francisco and san luis obispo. I decide i need something even more practical than my Mk1. I buy a CRX Si. I forget German cars all together for a while. Graduate college, get a job, move back to San Francisco. Buy a 1993 325i. Which was utter garbage. I write BMW off alltogether. Thank my lucky stars I never bought that 02.

I keep progressing through life, jobs, and cars. In the next 16 years I own Audis, a Porsche, Volvo, Mercedes, and finally back to Volkswagen. Which also ignites another need to modify, restore, and build cars. I did what I could do to my Mk6 GTI, and then my wife's. Then I bought a Mk2 16v. But the 02 clearly was never truly purged from my conscience.

Until finally I stumbled across an ebay ad for a 1968 1600 with turbo flares. "it was 99% rust free". It was local. It was utter crap. We just had our first kid, and "I needed a project", or maybe I was just in a crazy denial of the giant life change I had just taken on. Mostly, it was the English BMW Magazine Performance BMW's feature on a early Roundie that I have been reading over and over the week we were in the hospital waiting...

I bought it, how could I not. It broke down on the way home. I towed it to my driveway and began to take stock. I had already violated every rule laid out in the restoring a 2002 book.

What had I done?

...i was soon about to find out.