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The 1st Year Learning Curve - 2016



Some background: As a boy I lived across the street from a guy my dad disliked who happened to have a Malaga big bumper 2002. I remember appreciating how it looked from afar.


I learned the automotive basics from my dad working on his '79 VW Rabbit in our driveway; then a little bit more riding a friend's Kawasaki KX80 from 11-13. This is also how I learned to manage manual transmissions.


Later, I didn't drive for nearly 20 years straight while living in NYC and SF. Maybe once or twice, but had no license. My wife did all the driving if someone had to and we didn't own cars. I mostly skated, as I always had, and got into street-riding track bicycles and long distance running. 


In late 2015, we moved to LA for work. I was a somewhat depressed and institutionalized workaholic from my last few years in NYC. I looked for new experiences to help me get away from that life and adapt to my wife's native city.


I started looking on Craigslist for 2002s on January 1st, 2016.


A month later a friend introduced me to @kbmb02. Graciously, Ken allowed me to come visit his shop in the South Bay. His shop was filled with very cool race and rally 2002s. He spent almost an hour with me on a workday, explaining and teaching in a way I really responded well to. In fact, Ken has been something of a mentor to me through this whole process, and for that I'm grateful. I think it was that first time at his shop that really sparked all things 02 as a hands-on hobby. 


Somewhere around this same time, I joined the FAQ and began educating myself. I did my due diligence and spent late nights reading the site's archives; finding myself reading posts circa 2011 from Toby B, C. Diesel, _ray, Conserv, Delia and Mike Self. I starting going to every 2002 related event in California and sought out older folks who's cars inspired and educated me and made friends or acquaintances with them. 


All my Craigslist searching paid off. A listing in Van Nuys, CA for a roundie. I went out there immediately, but I barely remember looking at the car.


The car left the factory wearing Atlantikblau, but the PO had sprayed her in Fjordblau sloppily himself. The interior was wrong, engine wasn't properly mounted and didn't run, and the E30 Sport Seats were "mounted" by someone with bad fabrication skills and a deathwish. Overspray everywhere. I didn't know enough to really know any of that at the time, I was too high on the idea of my own roundie 2002


That was March 6th, 2016 and I paid $4200 for the car.


I named the car after a name scribbled in the concrete in the driveway of our first home in LA: Dolores, VIN 1668702.


The start of the journey. 










Once the car was dropped off at my house, there was a moment where I realized I didn't really know what I was doing. The car wasn't currently running, the brakes didn't work, old suspension. I needed help to get to all that stuff going.


Regardless of all the things wrong with the car, I couldn't help smiling looking at it in the driveway. 


@kbmb02 helped me a lot that first year of ownership. I got the engine running initially in the driveway, but Ken actually made it run smoothly and added a 38/38 weber in place of the original Solex. That was enough for me.


I proceeded to drive the car around Culver City, violating laws. I was learning more precisely how the 2002 felt and was trying to understand how different decisions we made in the suspension would change the handling. Feeling out the car's character as it was felt like the right thing to do before I spent too much money on any changes. 


Around this time, I wanted to understand more about how my car actually worked. I started to pay more attention to Ken's skills as an engine builder. He would show me a bit of what he was doing to customer's race car engines to make them competitive and I would try to follow up by reading about the subjects on the FAQ. I went to see the races at Willow Springs and Buttonwillow and Ken would let me hang around the paddock as he prepared the race cars in his care along with his own. In hindsight, I'm thankful I was able to watch someone as skillful as Ken problem solve real time, fixing problems in 30 mins to get them to the starting line. And his cars were winning races. I saw that he was using a sort of 'logic of automotive deduction' I tried to pick up and employ when something happens.


Up at one of the races, I met an older dude named Darren Young who raced 2002s in the 80s-90s. During his time as a racer he had a company called Artspeed and he worked to refine coil over suspension for 2002 race cars. I found out he lived near me in LA and I took him to lunch a couple of times to explain how 2002s work in the corners . 


Hanging around the racetrack and talking to older guys that first year had a big impact on how I looked at 02s. 



(Ken over the engine in those first days)




For my part, I started with what I felt confident in doing with the skills I had, planning my project and scouring the country for 2002 parts.


I started looking at/collecting as many photos of 2002s as I could find on the internet and developing an idea of what I wanted the car to feel like in the end. I probably looked at about 1000 photos of cars in that first month. Shoutout to the Stance thread on the FAQ. I then created organized moodboards and laid out the options: sporty or stock, maximum accessories vs ultra-clean lines and deleted trim or bumpers.


At some point, I found @MOJOJOY's two-tone Bristol/Granada early car. Out of all the cars I looked at, his car felt like the peak to me. Sporty and very low, with mainly period correct motorsport inspired features.



@MOJOJOY's car at 2002 Swap & Show in Brisbane, San Francisco 




I learned about Borrani/CMR wheels and started looking for a set for myself. I really liked the look of the super wide steelies and the association they had with the Alpina race cars. With Darren's help, I learned about how to use coilovers to achieve the stance I was after for my car. Ken helped me install them. 



In 2017, I picked up a set of 13x6.5 stamped '71. I paid $800 and planned a roadtrip with my wife just so I could pick them up in Seattle...



Driveway mock up.




Installing Ground Control coilovers and rolling fender lips



By this time, I'd sourced a center grille and euro signals as well. Deleted the front bumper for a little while. Seam covers on the rear bumper. Stickers on the rear quarter window for added HP.




So after that first year, the car was on its way. Around Christmas 2016, I had I decided I wanted to build a head-turner hot rod... 

Edited by hellayego

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Even though the Fjord looks pretty good, I’d bet Atlantic respray would look fantastic (with gray interior).

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@hellayego loved this read. A few months into my own journey and grateful to see someone write about their first year AFTER they completed it. I keep wanting to provide updates but have yet to finish the important part - updating the car. 






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On 1/8/2023 at 8:08 AM, jgerock said:

Even though the Fjord looks pretty good, I’d bet Atlantic respray would look fantastic (with gray interior).

I'm thinking Atlantik with some sort of nice honey brown interior, but we'll see :)

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3 hours ago, Devilish_02 said:

@hellayego loved this read. A few months into my own journey and grateful to see someone write about their first year AFTER they completed it. I keep wanting to provide updates but have yet to finish the important part - updating the car. 






Thank you man. This is my 4th try at making a blog of my resto process, I finally published haha. It is hard to explain to folks, so I decided to try making it in a story format. We'll see how it goes...

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10 hours ago, hellayego said:

I'm thinking Atlantik with some sort of nice honey brown interior, but we'll see :)

Just trying to help you save money by keeping those Grey e30 Sports seats😉

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I’m hoping to pick up a 76 in another week or so it’s running fairly well, but it needs some attention, body wise and certainly in the interior… That was a great  read, and it’s nice to know that I don’t have to know everything before starting out… I had a 76 many, many, years ago, but didn’t hold onto it. Sorry to say so I have a lot to learn. Thanks for giving me a little motivation.

Edited by Walter Daniels
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i can't remember where we had first met. It was either in SF, or it was at Bimmerfest in 2014-15 while it was held at Autoclub Speed Way. 


You were as enthusiastic then as you are now and always eager to learn and ask questions, as you described in your first blog post above. 


Never lose that trait. It gives life! 

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