Project Overview

With a little work

Ground Up Restoration

So how do I define the term, "ground up restoration?" And what does it mean when restoring a 2002? The term restoration can be widely interpreted; I've found that it can mean anything from a quick repaint, to the complete replacement of every nut and bolt with only the most perfect New Old Stock (NOS) parts. My definition is probably best illustrated by a conversation I had with '02 and tii expert, Jack Fahuna, at the 2002 BMWCCA Oktoberfest in Breckenridge, CO. I was introduced to Jack, and mentioned that I was performing the ground up restoration of a '73 tii. He looked at me skeptically for a moment, and then pointedly asked, "Did you remove the wiring harness?" My answer, "Yes." Jack, "Have you removed the glass and interior?" Me, "Yes." "Have you removed the engine, drive train, and subframes?" Me, "Yes, yes, and yes." Jack, "Did you have the entire shell dipped or blasted?" Me, "Both." Jack, "Do you have a way of getting to the bottom of the car for repair and painting?" Me, "Yes, and here are some pictures of my rotisserie." Jack then smiled, shook my hand and said, "Let's talk."

Old Car Nuts Are Optimistic Fools

This project began in the spring of 2000 with the decision to find a fairly solid '02 with which to begin a restoration project. I had recently given up on my first '02, an early 1971 Nevada colored car, and was searching for something with a little less rust. After a few months of looking at local cars, all of them pretty rotten, an ad in the local club newsletter caught my attention. A 1973 tii in my price range, was it too good to be true?

Montrose 01

This was originally a Bay Area car. It found its way to Montrose, Colorado in the mid-90s.

A four-hour drive to Colorado's Western Slope, revealed a tii stored in a dusty horse barn. It only ran on three cylinders, the tires were rotten, the interior provided shelter to rodents, there was definitely some rust, but the car seemed to have solid bones. Plus, it came with a bunch of extra goodies—including a clean looking Getrag 245 tranny, a straight rear bumper, a new Behr radiator, a new carpet kit, new Bilstein HD shocks and Eibach springs. The previous owner had the best intentions for the car, he just didn't have the time or the facilities to carry them out. Even if it was a little rough, I couldn't pass up the chance to get a "fixer upper" tii. The car was purchased on the spot and trailered home a week later.

Montrose 02

Wheel arch rust is visible, note that right-side of bumper is pushed in a little.

The condition of the car, as found, included a fair amount of the usual '02 rust. Initial inspection of the body indicated that the driver's-side rocker panel, wheel arches, tail panel, hood, trunk lid, spare tire well, and doors would all require repair or replacement. There were a few bright spots. Although it is was obvious that the nose had been replaced, it looked solid, as did the floor pan, fenders, and roof. Those notorious '02 rear shock towers looked good too. A word to the wise, and a good rule of thumb—especially with '02s: take the amount of visibly apparent rust and double it. Where there's smoke, there's fire. I was to discover this as I dismantled the car and had it stripped.

Montrose 03

Although this picture doesn't really show it, the driver's-side rocker has some pretty bad rust just in front of the rear wheel. The door skin has some rust bubbling in the lower corners.

A closer inspection of the body revealed that the car had been in two accidents. The first collision was repaired by replacing the nose, the passenger fender, and the tail panel. The damage was limited to these areas, as no other panels show obvious signs of damage or repair. At this point the car was painted a light blue. At some later time the car was rear-ended again. The damage was moderate, but not repaired. The rear bumper was bent, as were the bumper mounts, tail panel, and trunk floor. The damage from the accident allowed rust to form on the tail panel and on the trunk floor. Had this damage been repaired initially, the tail panel and trunk floor would probably not need replacement now.

Montrose 04

Tii experts will notice that the nose has been replaced.

The engine ran, but very roughly. It had suffered from years of neglect. Thorough troubleshooting of the ignition and fuel systems revealed that a stuck fuel injector was the most likely explanation for the fact that the motor only ran on three cylinders. I briefly considered trying to make the car roadworthy before beginning the restoration, but decided to focus my limited time and financial resources on the goal of getting the car back on the road by completely restoring it.

Project Goals

The car has now been disassembled about as far as possible, and I am slowly restoring it. While I don't have plans to replace everything with NOS parts, I do intend to be as thorough and meticulous as I can. My goal is to have a tii that is equally at home on the track, at a drivers' school, at a club show, or enjoying some spirited driving in the mountains.

The car will be largely restored to original tii specs, with a few performance-minded modifications:

It will be returned to its original Inka (bright orange) color. I am also considering relocating the battery to the trunk, and 14" wheels. Otherwise, the car will be fairly stock.

How long will all this take? When I began this project, my goal was to finish it in five years. That means I'd better get moving if I'm going to have it finished by the Fall of 2006.

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