Light steering, reasonable acceleration and braking, a delightful gearbox and above-average build quality have led the BMW 2002 to cult car status. With its cohorts, the Austin Mini-Cooper and the Lotus Cortina, these classic cars reinvented the simple box as automotive performance art. In BMW's case, the 2002 probably saved this now Bavarian powerhouse from automotive extinction. As David E. Davis wrote in April of 1968, "To my way of thinking, the 2002 is one of modern civilization's all-time best way to get somewhere sitting down."

Although hundreds of thousands of 2002s were manufactured between 1968 and 1976, a few stand out. Unfortunately not officially imported to the USA, a Turbo version, Touring (hatchback), Targa and full Cabriolet are all desirable and rare in this market. The round taillight, chrome bumper 2002tii's built between '71-73 have the most punch (140 bhp, 0-60 in 9.8 seconds) and uncluttered appearance. Optional equipment included a sunroof, alloys, dealer installed A/C and the very rare 5-speed transmission. The tii's have always been at the top of the 2002 food chain. Find one in Inka Orange, Golf Yellow or Florida Green, as these "laugh in" period colors are now cool again.

A fair number of 2002 owners have played DaVinci and tried to reinvent the simple box by personalizing their cars with air damns, fender flares, bigger carbs, aftermarket rims, custom steering wheels and seats. Pass on these and keep your eyes open for an original one. A good number of cars, especially in California, have had their smog equipment removed. If your state requires this equipment to be present, be sure it is, as smog pumps aren't cheap.

Watch for rust (BMW helped shorten the life of the cars by draining the sunroofs into the rockers), leaky cylinder heads, clutch throw-out bearings, fragile interior fittings, cracked dashboards, worn transmission synchros and leaky windshields. Avoid the power-robbing automatic transmission.

The BMW car club lists plenty of parts sources and members are very helpful recommending local garages that specialize in 2002s. A thorough pre-purchase checkup is mandatory on these cars. Finally, take your time, wait for a good one, and don't be afraid to pay a premium for excellence. With so many 2002s built, if you have patience you'll come up with the right car.

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