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A "barn Find" Story...


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I have been an infrequent poster here since I got my 02 in 2005. I love my 1976 Verona despite the rust but I have been looking for something with a clean body for some time. I travel a lot for work so I always check Craigslist when I travel, especially CA. 
So last week I was in Sacramento and I saw a 1976 Polaris, which is my favorite 02 color, on Craigslist. The ad was intriguing but I really didn't know what to expect. It was de-smogged, a one owner and in “excellent condition”, but that's nothing remarkable. I sent the poster a text to set up a time to see it that evening (I was headed home the next day). When I got there I found out the poster is the nephew of the owner who lives in Reno, and the car is stored at somebody else's house. 
The first thing I noticed when I got there was that the tags expired in 1989. The car was repainted at some point and it looks fantastic! Someone wrote a date in 1983 on the underside of the hood and initialed it, which I have to assume is when it was painted. I would guess a job this nice would be well north of $5K today. Other than one very minor rust bubble trying to poke through on the hood and a door ding, it is flawless. 
I find out the car has been stored inside its entire life and it certainly looks it. The beautiful blue interior is even better than the exterior. The seats are perfect and unbelievably comfortable. They are very soft, supple and look like they are five years old. The dash and center console are perfect too. I am stunned at this point. 
I look under the hood and it has the wear and tear you would expect after 37 years. The car has 123K miles and the engine looks it. There is a little surface rust on the engine compartment but not bad at all. You can see where the "new" exterior paint was blended with the paint under the hood. The factory engine compartment paint actually has a greenish tint that I didn't expect. 
After a lot of looking around I can't find any other rust other than a tiny bit on the beltline trim. All of the trim absolutely sparkles. To look at the car you can imagine how they were back in the day. I am in love at this point but I am trying to keep my cool. 
The nephew is a car guy but he's into muscle cars so he doesn't think much of this 02. He is selling it for his uncle as a favor and priced the car himself. He did some research and figured out what seemed like a good price to him. He also totally understands the challenge with a de-smogged car in CA. There have been a few people that showed some interest, including someone who wanted to drive it back to TX, but no one has jumped on it. 
I took the car for a drive and it is really nice. It drives just like I would imagine they did when they left the factory. The engine is very smooth, the suspension is plush and the brakes are great. This is nothing like driving my lowered and modified 02. 
I make him an offer and he calls his uncle to see what he thinks. I hear him trying to convince his uncle to sell because he thinks it’s a fair offer. He rejects it without a counter offer. I really don't think the uncle wants to sell but he has no place to store the car. It may have been sitting in this garage for 25 years, and who knows, maybe the owner of the house is tired of seeing it sit there. He did change all the fluids and put new tires on it though, so I know he is somewhat serious about selling. So I make another offer, there is another call and the uncle says he wants to think about it over the next few holes of golf.
Later that night I get a text saying no deal, and still no counter offer. I say thanks and decide to let him sleep on it. The next day around lunch time I shoot him another offer that’s $500 more and this time I actually get a counter offer for another $500. At this point I’m thinking what the heck so I say yes. I’m getting on a plane in 8 hours so I need to make the deal. 
I have a friend in Sacramento that happens to have some extra garage space. We go pick it up and take it back to his house. Of course I need to be heading to the airport in SF but we go for a nice drive and take some pictures. When we get back I seriously considered driving it home to VA, but of course that would be crazy with a car that had been sitting that long. I take a few more pictures and tear myself away. Now I can’t wait to get my hands on it again!
So what did I pay for it? $6000!!! Which certainly seems like good deal to me, even considering the cost of shipping it home. I even found the owners manual and the window sticker in the glove compartment.
Orginally I was looking for something I could heavily modify but this car is so nice and original that it seems like that would be a crime. I have a stroker motor, rebuilt head, 292 Schrick, tii exhaust manifold, new black upholstery for E21 Recaros and the back seat (I just bought it for my other 02), H&R/Bilstein suspension and 13" BBS wheels but I'm really not sure what to do. I'm thinking about leaving everything stock but the engine and making it a bit of a sleeper. Or I could do it all and keep the original parts so I could restore it to original condition if I ever felt like it. Or I could just restore the engine compartment. When I bought it I was planning to sell my current 02 but now I'm not sure about that either.
So what should I do? Any suggestions would be appreciated.













Edited by vtmtber
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Leave it as is...unmodified cars that have been out of circulation for many years are getting harder and harder to find--especially when they are this nice--no outdoor storage, mouse condos etc. 


BTW I like that 80s vintage Radio Shack LED clock on the shift console.  I have an identical one velcro'ed to the underside dash parcel shelf lip on my '69. 


cheers, and congrats on a great find.



'69 Nevada sunroof-Wolfgang-bought new
'73 Sahara sunroof-Ludwig-since '78
'91 Brillantrot 318is sunroof-Georg Friederich 
Fiat Topolini (Benito & Luigi), Renault 4CVs (Anatole, Lucky Pierre, Brigette) & Kermit, the Bugeye Sprite

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Wow!  Nice find.  Up here in the Northeast, you almost NEVER see original examples like that.  My vote would be to leave it the way it is.  Repair things as needed to keep it stock since you have another one you can modify.  Congratulations on a great find!

1970 Granada 1600 "The 16",  2000 528i Siena Red "The 5",  1968 Mustang 289 Muscle Car Blue, 

1999 318ti M Package Green,  1982 633CSi 5 speed Blue,  2011 550i M Package Black (6 speed manual)


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I say definitely keep as is.... I remember when I was first looking for an 02 in '77-'78, I drove one exactly like this, polaris with blue. Had about 20K on the clock, and ran like a dream, probably still the nicest 02 I've ever driven, mainly because it was practically new. But I remember the guy wanted something like $6,200 for it, which as I recall was more than it had sold for new. Some of you might remember when the 320i first came out, the late 02s became a very hot commodity, and I remember ones with very low mileage were selling for more than the 320is.

Nice car!


FAQ Member #126

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Nice find, as previously stated - keep as-is, restore the engine bay if you want.  Assuming your in Cali, remember you have to be careful what you modify (engine) since you aren't smog exempt (that is if you can't shake the "modification" bug).  You will see the value of your car escalate in no time at all.



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Great find, great deal!

The engine compartment in my '76 Polaris (PVC-frei, paint code 060) also turned that goldish-greenish color. Rubbing compound and other ointments did nothing to return it to silver. I ended up having the engine compartment painted while the motor was out for an overhaul.

Please leave it stock: there are fewer around each month. Your dashboard also looks fantastic. I suspect your front seats have foam padding, or something other than the factory-style horsehair: they have lost some of the flat-cushioned, sharp-edged look characteristic of '02 seats. But they look recently re-stuffed so don't change a thing now!

Enjoy. Preserve, but enjoy!



1976 2002 Polaris, 2742541 (original owner)

1973 2002tii Inka, 2762757 (not-the-original owner)

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no surprise what i am going to say...


modify the crap out of it.  you wanted a rust free shell, you found one and you have a bunch of performance parts already stockpiled.  it is a 76, it won't be  rare or desired like the roundies and tii's are perceived to be so i would not worry about "keeping it stock".  it is yours, make the car you want, you have a great starting point!


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Nice car! Go for it, add some mods! I;m with marshall on this one. Make it what you want! I purchased a 76 from the original owner with 60k on the clock and have done some modifications to it and most of them I would never look back on. It drives better and in many cases is more fun. But in the end it's your car. Do as you like :)

'76 2002 in Malaga (110k Original, 2nd Owner, sat for 20 years and now a toy)
'86 Chevy K20 (6.2 Turbo Diesel build) & '46 Chevy 2 Ton Dump Truck
'74 Suzuki TS185, '68 BSA A65 Lightning (garage find), '74 BMW R90S US Spec #2

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I think I will probably leave it as is for now and see how I like it. I have a M Coupe and an E28 535is aleady so it might be nice to have something tame to drive for awhile. It is really fun to drive, it feels so retro!


Steve - thanks for the info on the paint and seats. I will definitely be restoring the engine bay at some point so I won't waste my time trying to fix the color. I thought the seats were too comfortable to be stock but I didn't even consider that someone could have added padding.


Thanks for all the great input!



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