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Peeling Back the Paint Plot


jackm

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I've taken Phaedrus for a final test drive -- with my two semi-terrified teenage sons riding along as witnesses -- before pushing ahead to rebuild the front and rear subframes, detailing the engine bay (with the motor out) and then taking on the interior and ultimately getting the body, trim and paint done over the next year or so. The brakes are still imperfect, but I did get the clutch slave cylinder bled and the transmission shifting better.

 

In my post on the First Clean back in March, I shared suspicions about the car's color, with hints and clues about this 1971 model possibly not being truly blue. The original owner, Felipe, bought the car new in 1971, and his cousin Juan, a teenager at the time, only remembers it being blue.  Over the next month, the paint color question simmered in my mind like some archeological grand challenge. And more clues emerged.

 

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Juan had thoughtfully shared a photocopy of the original title, dated 12/31/1975. As I perused it one night, I noticed that under the box labeled Color/Axles the entry read: WT

 

How could the title have listed the car as white unless there was some official source for that?  Someone steered me to the BMW Group archives team and I emailed them the VIN number and retrieve any production or factory information on Phaedrus. 

 

I sent a note to info.grouparchiv@bmwgroup.com that began:

 

"I recently became the second owner of 2002 purchased new at Olympic Motors in Edgewater NJ in 1971.

 

I'm beginning to restore the car and working on a book about the process, so I'm eager for any information I can gather on this car, which was stored for nearly the last 20 years. I'm especially interested in what the original color might have been, since the sticker in the engine compartment was faded. There is lots of evidence it may have been white, including in the engine bay (in fact under the faded sticker with the color information) and other areas where the blue paint has worn away. Or could there ever be a white primer coat and blue color put over it?"

 

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Within a week I got a revelatory response. 

 

"Dear Mr Mason,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

The BMW 2002 US VIN 1677020  was manufactured on October 15th, 1970 and delivered on October 19th, 1970 to the BMW importer Hoffman Motors Corp. in New York City. The car was equipped with manual gearbox, the original colour was Chamonix, paint code 085.

 

We hope this information is helpful for you. Yours sincerely,

 

Andreas H.

 

BMW Group

BMW Group Classic

Historisches Dokumentationszentrum"

 

Just as suspected, the car had somehow been repainted from the factory Chamonix White to blue, presumably at some early stage because Juan had no recollection of it ever being white.

 

I solicited input from the wider 2002 world about the paint puzzle. On FB, one community respondent,  @Jackie Jouret, had literally written the book(s) on BMWs and 2002s in particular. As many members of this community most likely already know, Jackie had authored The BMW 2002: The real story behind the legend? and was also the former editor-in-chief of Bimmer magazine and a columnist for Roundel, BMW Car Club of America publication.  I asked whether there was a history or practice of dealers repainting cars straight from the factory.

 

“From what I know of that era, cars were really hard to come by, and customers didn’t always have a choice where color was concerned,” she wrote in the thread. “I think a lot of people who wanted, say, Colorado [the orange hue option], were presented with a car in Malaga [a red color] for example, and told to take it or leave it!”

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I had also inquired about Olympic Motors, the NJ dealership, as well as the new information from the archivist about Phaedrus being imported by Max Hoffman Motors in NYC. Jackie had also written the book on Hoffman in BMW in the USA, 1938-’75: Max Hoffman, Fred Oppenheimer, Bob Lutz, and the making of BMW’s Largest Export Market.

 

She noted that Olympic hadn’t been listed as a dealer in Hoffman’s 1967 booklet, but that Olympic Foreign Car Sales was in the official BMW North America directory in 1976, with the same address as on the order form, 820 River Road in Edgewater. From Jouret’s book on the 2002 I also gleaned a fundamental insight. What made the model so historically important was that its success opened up the U.S. market for BMW. The 3 Series that followed may have assured BMW’s place in automotive history and created the performance sedan category, but the 2002 opened the door.

 

How or when the car got repainted remains a mystery, but I was glad to finally know the ground truth about its original color.  When the time comes, I feel quite inclined to bring the car back to the Chamonix White applied at the factory, but what say you all? 

Edited by jackm

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I’d repaint it white if you’re interested in authenticity.  I would, but that just me.

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I certainly agree with @EricA that I would return it to Chamonix. As to its history, is it currently a BMW color? It looks too light to be Baikal metallic, but appears fairly close — perhaps slightly dark — to be Fjord metallic. Admittedly, post-factory interpretations of colors are frequently better described as a “range” rather than as a precise color. A view of the car as a whole, not simply close-ups, might provide a better image on which to judge the color. While Baikal existed in 1970 and 1971, Fjord only made its first appearance in January 1972. It’s conceivable I’m missing a color brochure between June 1971 — no Fjord — and January 1972 — Fjord appears. Color brochures for June 1971 (first 4 photos) and January 1972 (last 4 photos) are attached below.

 

What is the quality of the re-paint? Was it a “glass-out” re-paint (blue paint is under the windshield and rear backlight gaskets)? Was all the trim removed (blue paint is under the trim)? What color is the inside of the trunk (it was Chamonix originally)? What color is the engine compartment (it was Chamonix originally)? What color are the wheel wells (they were Chamonix originally)?

 

I see Chamonix exposed on the cover for the front heater plenum and I see blue paint on the hood hold-down bar (inadequate prep and inadequate masking). If the paint is just a quickie job — not under the car’s details, etc., I’d find it hard to believe a BMW dealer re-painted it for initial delivery. Post-delivery? Well, anything can happen!

 

I realize you have eyewitness testimony in the form of the cousin, testifying the car was blue from initial delivery, but, hey, it was 50 years ago…

 

And why was the original title dated 12/31/1975?

 

Regards,

 

Steve

 

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Steve:

 

Thanks for all this fantastic input. I wish I knew more about the car's paint, including if it was done by the dealer, but any of the insight is lost to history with the passing of the family friend who was the original owner. But you raise some interesting questions. The inside of the trunk was painted the same somewhat metallic-y blue as the rest of the car, but the top of the trunk seems like a lighter color, with a hint of red underneath.

 

Indeed the whole car seems like a patchwork of several colors of blue, but there are many signs of the underlying Chamonix, which is the color I will almost certainly revert to when I get to the end of the rainbow. I even have one replacement fender in white, which I take as another sign from the universe that the car is meant to return to its factory hue.

 

On the title question, I also wondered why an original title would be dated several years after the year of purchase. I do know that the car was initially financed (I even have one sheet on the loan) so maybe you don't get to title it in your name -- in this case, the family friend kept it in his mother's name since 1975 -- until the bank no longer technically owns it.

 

 

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