While not currently a well "handling" car, that is one of the eventual goals. At some point fairly soon, I'll see new wheels and tires, stage 1 or likely 2 kit from IE and upgraded brakes. For now, the stock seats and seatbelts left something to be desired. The vinyl on the fronts had been redone at some point, so they were really clean, but the hinges on the driver seat aren't great, the back seat was original and in very rough shape (especially inside it), and the seatbelt retracting mechanisms were completely shot. I had read that lots of seat upgrades go toward Recaro seats with increased side bolstering. I found an automotive upholstery place here in Seattle that had a bunch of seats up front, and while the Recaro seemed nice, I chose a ProCar seat that has great support, but was smaller overall and looked a little more "period correct", although looking correct isn't my top priority. I also bought all new seat belts from @bluedevils here on the forum and they seem to be working great so far! I also had the upholstery place install the 3 point belts in back while they had the seats out. The driver seat had to be sent back (they shipped one without a head rest), so here is the current state which shows both old and new seats.
Knowing that the car had mostly been stationary for a few years, I knew that starting to drive it more regularly would highlight any immediately pressing issues. First things first was to get it insured and to address the non-working brake lights which required new bulbs and a new brake light switch. Also, the vinyl headliner, while structurally tight and sound was pretty moldy from sitting around. I was able to take upholstery cleaner, and the scrubbing wand of a carpet cleaner vacuum and return it nice white white headliner.
I had just licensed and insured the car right before the October PNW meet up in Snohomish, and was looking forward to turn up and meet the local crew. My wife and I showed up at the location, didn't see anybody else, and then realized it had been rescheduled due to weather. Oh well. Although, we were only sitting there for a minute, and realized the car was leaking a surprising amount of gas from a bent aluminum tube low on the frame by the clutch master cylinder which had a rotted rubber stopper over the top of it. A quick stop at a parts store and I had a replacement, but no idea where or why that little pipe has gas in it. Return line? Former high pressure line from before the engine swap? Still not 100% sure.
After that was changing all the fluids and filters (Oil, Coolant, Transmission, Diff). It made a funny clunking sound coming from the rear end in the 1-2 shift, which I diagnosed while changing the diff fluid. It ended up that all six hex bolts on the left drive shaft were basically loose at wheel end (less than finger tight) and I could rotate the drive shaft a few degrees by hand. I'm glad I found that before it became some sort of catastrophic issue later...
It also had a pretty nasty mis-fire, especially when it was cold but it happened under medium load and a roughly similar RPM every time. Inspecting the cap and rotor showed pretty significant corrosion. I sanded and scraped it off, which helped a little, but I decided to just replace the cap, rotor, plug wires, plus and coil, just to have a fresh setup.
After what was essentially just basic maintenance it seems to be driving much better. It starts easily even when its cold as well as shifts and runs much smoother now.
Next up is to update the seats and seatbelts for safety.
Fast forward about 15 years, and based on ONLY this picture, I come to find out that a work colleague had a 2002. The shape and lines of the trunk were THAT ingrained into my memory. How did a trashed out little 4 cylinder car from the '70 make that big an impression on me...
Regardless, I made an offer, and bought the car in September of 2017. Overall its really straight with a minimum of rust. My friend was having some ongoing problems with it, including a full engine swap at Midnight Motorsports, and couldn't afford to drive and maintain it any longer. So it had mostly been parked and rarely driven for the last few years. It has its quirks which I'll go into next, and then I hope the rest of this blog details the adventures in driving and upgrading/restoring it.
After a family vote, we deemed her "LaserBimmer", and sometimes "Laser" for short.
While I was in college, a friend had a '72 2002. It was that silvery BMW blue, possibly the factory paint, but it was pretty rough around the edges. The interior was pretty trashed, the headliner had a huge hole and was sagging, the doors didn't lock. Even though it wasn't a Tii someone had put that badge on it, and my friend had said there were rumors at one point it even had dual webers on it. After blowing a head gasket for the second time, he couldn't afford to maintain it, so he gave it to me. I towed it to my parents house, bought the Haynes manual and a head gasket set, and proceeded to take it apart. (I had rebuilt a Ford 5.0L V8 before so I was at least moderately comfortable with what I was doing...) After wrenching on it for a weekend, I got it working again.
I was just happy to get a free car, and I wasn't familiar with the legend, so to my disbelief it was seriously fun to drive! Despite having to double clutch to get into second gear, it would spin the tires and drift around dry corners. It smelled like gasoline and my brother broke the ignition lock. I pulled out the ignition switch so I could start it with a screwdriver. The muffler fell off one day and I had to put it in the trunk. Unfortunately it was hit in the front left fender while it was parked, and although someone left a note with insurance money it was never fixed.
I drove it daily for over a year without any major show stopping problems, but after graduating I needed something a bit more reliable. I ended up selling it to a guy in West Seattle with a whole yard full of 2002s, so I can only assume it was Patrick at Midnight Motorsports. (Side note I think he was working on a sweet little red 1600 at the time). To this day, I regret selling that car, and vowed to have another 2002 some day...