The 2002 put BMW on the map, and the 1972 2002tii put the 2002 on the map. Both models and their progeny are the seminal sports sedans from which so many wannabes have proliferated over the years. Ironically, BMW itself seems to be vacating the market for simple, two-door, lightweight, manual gearbox, fun-to-drive, rev-happy four-cylinder cars. We'll have to see what the 1 Series brings, but its curious name alone conditions us for a car totally unlike the original sports sedan.
So, in this most auspicious year, we've been looking for the 1972 2002tii to bring you-one that is relatively mild on exterior mods so that the natural beauty of the car still shines through. Yet, the cars beg for certain standard mods. We wanted a tastefully modified yet period-looking example with drop-dead paint. Here it is, kind people. But first, a bit of tii history.
The 2002tii was created from 1971 to 1975, encompassing some 38,100 examples worldwide. Distinguished principally by its Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection, the tii version of the venerable M10 sohc four-cylinder engine also featured higher compression pistons in some years. In the U.S., part of the 1972 2002tii's allure is the utter absence of any power-robbing emission control devices and the inclusion of the European-specification mechanical advance high-performance ignition distributor. The latter is commonly known as the "002" unit but more currently the Bosch ID48X.
Visually, the trademark round taillights were standard 2002 fare until 1974, when BMW switched to a square design that is, to some eyes, less attractive. The 1972 grille treatment, with black slats separated by two chrome ones, and faux sidelights in the lower corners, is a favorite among marque aficionados. The 2002 in general is so beloved to its cult-like following, one gets the sense that anything BMW did to it would have been sacrilege to someone. Discontinuing the model altogether in 1976 is something that certain pockets of resistance have yet to forgive.
Other, more subtle improvements further distinguished the 2002tii from its carbureted brethren. Larger solid front brake rotors (256mm vs. 240mm on the 2002), larger rear wheel cylinders in the 230mm brake drums (17mm vs. 15mm on the 2002), a larger brake master cylinder and hydraulic booster, a dashboard-mounted VDO clock, and reinforced rear semi-trailing arms all set the injected model apart.
Optional equipment included a Getrag five-speed close-ratio gearbox in place of the standard Getrag four-cog unit, various differential ratios, a rear sway bar, Bilstein shocks, metallic paint, sunroof, alloy wheels and various other bits. True to form, U.S.-specification models tended to appear in ordinary colors rather than the more interesting European hues, and any drivetrain combination other than a four-speed manual gearbox and a 3.64 open differential was very rare. The 2002tii was not available with an automatic transmission. What a great time it must have been. Poseurs would never lurk at a track event-by their Monte Carlos you would know them.
In the U.S., the high-compression pistons caused detonation with the crappy fuel sold during the Arab oil embargo, and some dealerships had to tear down perfectly good tii engines and replace fit 8.5:1 pistons to get rid of the pinging. In 1973, the tii fell victim to U.S. emission control laws and was fitted with a less enthusiastic ignition distributor. By 1974, the dreaded enormous U.S.-spec bumpers had essentially sucked the life out of the poor tii.
We spied the 1972 2002tii you see here at a unique event-02-02-02, or "02's in '02" held on February 2, 2002 at the BMW Manufacturing Plant in Spartanburg, S.C. (see european car Magazine, 09/02). The car was an instant celebrity. In addition to being a coveted '72, the paintwork is, in a word, spectacular. The level of preparation, finishing work and expense evident in this custom Glasurit paint job cannot be genuinely conveyed by photos, even in warm evening light. Even more extraordinary is the color itself, which is actually a factory hue called Inka. To the factory mix, Bavarian Autosport (Perrysburg, Ohio) added mother of pearl for a unique effect that literally blasts off the car without the need for graphics. Many cool '02s attended the event, but people kept coming back to this Sun-kissed Screamer.
As is often the case with 2002s, this one was treated to a ground-up restoration due to rust. (But let's be fair; it's 30 years old. Lots of you won't look this good when you hit 30.) But unlike us, 2002s can have new original BMW body panels thanks to BMW Mobile Tradition, the factory division charged with archiving information and cars, as well as maintaining parts supplies for classic Bimmers. The only panels on this tii that were not replaced are the roof and the hood. Over the course of the two-year project, the previous owner backed out and sold the car to its current caretaker, Adam Nitti.
Something of a celebrity in his own right, Nitti is an accomplished bassist, keyboardist and vocalist, who teaches music and writes for several industry publications. With three CDs to his credit, he tours with various bands and is a prominent studio musician in the southeast. Check out www.adamnitti.com for more information.
What you won't find on that website is all the cool stuff Nitti did to his tii. "When I purchased the car, it was mostly complete but still required some final assembly," he recalled. He replaced the entire brake and clutch hydraulic systems with new original BMW parts and added the stunning Panasport 6x15-in. alloys, shod with Michelin Pilot SX-GTs size 195/50ZR-15.
All U.S.-spec side lighting was removed during restoration for a cleaner look, as were the original upper and lower body-side moldings. European flat turn-signal lenses replace the bulbous U.S. variants, and a third brake light from an E30 3 Series BMW augments those round taillights. The front bumper is history, and a highly functional Zender "slot-type" air dam reduces lift on the front suspension at speed while allowing cooling air to reach the front brakes. A European-spec rear bumper, sans bumperettes, was also sourced. The back of this car couldn't look better if it were wearing a thong.
The interior is updated with Recaro seats, a later-style one-piece dashboard restored by Joseph Nitti at Foreign Car Interiors in Fort Meyers, Fla. Adam Nitti also replaced the stock floor insulation with Armaflex rubber for added soundproofing and insulation. He also fabricated a custom console panel with a DIN chassis for the Sony head unit, as well as VDO oil pressure and oil temperature gauges.
Mechanically, the previous owner had fitted a full Ansa free-flow exhaust system-Ansa still supports the 2002-and in my opinion the sound is perfect for these cars. The stock BMW 2002tii exhaust manifold is a free-flow unit. It and a stock downpipe were mated to the Ansa system. Bilstein sport shocks handle the damping, while suspension techniques springs and sway bars comprise the standard 2002 suspension modifications enthusiasts have used for decades. A standard four-speed gearbox/3.64 differential car, Nitti plans to upgrade to a five-speed overdrive and a 3.91 LSD from a late E21 3 Series BMW, a common swap. Air conditioning, a Schrick 284 camshaft and European headlights are also planned.
This Sun-kissed Screamer proves that the BMW 2002 flame is not only still alive, it's blazing-26 years after the last one was created. And contrary to what some folks would like to believe, 2002 owners are not all balding, briar-pipe-smoking, tweedy ex-freaks with another sort of pipe hidden in the glovebox. In fact, most 2002 owners we see have new Bimmers as well. Others have cars that were born before they were. And hey, it's still 2002. This is a great time to own one!