Me and my car Richard Stern has owned more than 60 BMWs, but he stills considers the 2002 Tii to be his favourite.
There are enthusiasts and then there are enthusiasts! As far as BMW is concerned, Richard Stern is very much one of the latter. He’s committed to the brand and says that, if you cut his arm off, you’d find the famous blue and white roundel running through it!
Certainly, the interesting few hours I spent with him recently left me in no doubt of the man’s credentials; after all, you don’t spend 20 years voluntarily running the ‘02 Register for the BMW Car Club GB, if you’re not 100% committed to the marque.
But, astonishingly, Richard has owned 60 different BMWs and, believe me, he’s not finished yet. Pick an interesting model, and he’s probably owned it; M3s, M5s, Alpinas, 2002 Turbos and even the odd race car.
Richard’s enthusiasm is infectious to anyone who meets him. Even without reference to his impressive BMW model collection, and the photos and other BMW-related memorabilia dotted around his house, it’s clear that he’s a serious fan. Currently, he and his wife own an E39 M5, an E92 335i, an X3 2.5i and, of course, his beloved, Colorado orange 2002 Tii. But, as I discovered, his original interest in BMW was inadvertently triggered by his father.
“My involvement with BMWs started in the late 1980s,” he explained, “when my father bought a secondhand E28 520i. I was running a terrible MG Montego as my everyday car at that time. Both it and the 520i happened to be 1984 models, but the difference between the two of them is what really hit me.
“My Montego was in a terrible state, with rust along the bottoms of the doors, reliability issues and a general level of build quality that reflected those difficult times at British Leyland.
“His, on the other hand, still looked and felt like a new car. Everything about it was in a different league, and it was at that moment that I saw the light! It was clear to me that I had to become a BMW owner, even though it wasn’t a make of car that, at that stage, I was particularly aware of.”
THE DIE IS CAST!
“So I bought myself an E21 316; a very early one on carburettors, and used it as an everyday car, despite its dodgy brakes. I enjoyed it but didn’t keep it for long, as I soon began exploring the model range; a habit that I’ve never really lost.
“I’m the first to admit that BMWs have become something of a problem for me and, having owned so many of them already, I think that I need help! I’ve had some very good ones over the years, and there are plenty of those that I really wish I still owned. But the twists and turns of life demand changes every now and then, so I’ve been forced to sell cars on occasions, which was a shame.
“But I’ve never bought a new one in all this time and, in fact, the newest I’ve ever owned is the E92 335i which my wife currently uses. I cover a very high annual mileage for work, and had intended to use the coupé for that; I thought it would be a great motorway mile-muncher.
“It certainly is great at that but, sadly, it just didn’t do it for me. It was missing that indefinable ingredient, as far as I was concerned. So then I bought an Alpina B10 E39 3.3-litre, which I regarded as being a ‘sensible‘ M5. It returned 33mpg on the motorway, and was another great car but, once again, it just didn’t put the necessary smile on my face.
“Then, about a year ago, I finally settled on an E39 M5. It wasn’t the first that I’ve owned so, in a way, it was something of a home-coming, but it ticked all the boxes.
BEST BMW, EVER?
“I reckon this is one of the best designed and built cars that BMW has ever produced. It just does everything so well. It’s fantastic to drive under all conditions, the performance is addictive and yet it remains a quiet and comfortable cruiser when required. Another major benefit is that it’s not a complicated car, by today’s high-tech, electronicsdominated standards.”
But, as far as ‘classics’ are concerned, Richard’s first venture into them came with a white, 1974 2002 Tii, which he bought in the1980s. It was a square-light model which was pressed straight into service as his everyday driver, and he loved it.
“I’d started looking into things more seriously by that stage, and had done a bit of research into the model. I’d discovered long-standing, Norfolk-based BMW specialist Jaymic Ltd, and the fact that they produced a monthly newsletter. These became essential reading for me, and I couldn’t wait for each new issue to arrive.
“In those days, long before the internet and the ease of the ‘online search’ that we all take for granted now, this newsletter was one of the best sources of classified ads for interesting BMWs; but you had to wait. Classic car buyers needed patience and tenacity back in the 1970s and 1980s. We really are spoilt, nowadays!
“I kept that car for 14 years and really loved it. I used to leave it in the station car park every day and, even then, I used to find notes under the windscreen wiper in the evenings – messages like ‘Lovely car’ and ‘You’re losing oil!’
“Once I’d got some money together, I started getting some renovation work done, and so began the long process.”
LABOUR OF LOVE
“In fact, it turned out to be like painting the Forth Bridge – it was never finished. Looking back, I threw a lot of money at that car, sorting out the bodywork and getting the paint right. Highlights included a pair of genuine Recaro competition seats (trimmed in Alcantara and leather) and a brand new engine, which I bought – on a crate – from a BMW dealer.
“Then, an unfortunate change in my personal circumstances meant that I was forced to sell the car, which was a real wrench. Nevertheless, life goes on, and so did I. Over the years, I’ve owned six 2002s, including two turbo models. But it’s the Tii that really is the model that I’ve kept coming back to, despite all the other cars I’ve tried. “There’s just something about it that really strikes a chord with me. To be honest, I really haven’t found anything that’s such an allround, fun car to own. I love the way it drives and the fact that, even though it’s now over 40 years’ old, it remains perfectly capable of holding its own in the cut and thrust of modern driving conditions.
“I’ve driven it all over the UK and Europe, and have no qualms about taking my current car on long journeys. For example, I took it on the Bavaria Tour last year, as part of the 02’s 50th anniversary celebrations. I think to be able to get into a 43-year-old car, drive it across the continent safely, effortlessly and comfortably, and have tremendous fun while doing so, is an amazing thing. What’s more, I don’t believe there are many other cars that could deliver that in the same way that the 2002 does.”
“Of course, it’s taken a long time to bring the car up to its current level, and I’ve certainly spent a lot of money. But it’s been thoroughly worth the investment, in my view.
“The car has been sympathetically modified, and that’s another aspect that I love about the ‘02; there’s just so much potential for fettling here, and tweaking there. That’s not something you can do with many other models, especially the newer, more technically-sophisticated cars.
“There are still things I want to do but, as it stands, it’s in great shape. I’ve driven it up and down Alpine passes and it handles them like a dream. The steering is pin-sharp and the engine’s 150bhp output ensures you can go as fast as you want. The brakes are excellent, too, without a hint of fade.
“Mechanically, the car has been completely refreshed, using new, BMW parts wherever possible. It’s been converted to the five-speed overdrive gearbox from the E21 (an essential modification) which makes everything that little bit more relaxed – for driver and car.
“I’ve also fitted one of the new, 123 Electronic distributors that are now available for the M10 engine. It’s a really easy fit and I have already noticed an improvement, even though it hasn’t been properly set-up yet!”
As I mentioned earlier, Richard has owned a couple of 2002 Turbos but, despite their ever-growing desirability and value, he says he still favours the Tii. “Both my Turbos got a lot of use and attracted plenty of attention – every stop for petrol turned into an event, as people seemed drawn to the car and wanted to talk about it.
“But, in reality, the Tii is the better car to live with, which is why I sold both of my Turbos. My memory of those cars is clouded by their temperamental nature; it seemed as though something went wrong just about every time I took one of them out. In those days Jackie, my wife, always used to know when I was home, as she’d see the orange flashing lights of the recovery vehicle outside!
“The problems I experienced always seemed serious enough to disable the car; things like the brakes seizing on and issues with the head gasket. The cylinder head was a weak point in my experience. Gaskets used to blow, and the head itself had a tendency to crack. On one occasion, about eight years ago, an exhaust valve got bent.
Replacements from BMW then cost £500 each and, of course, I had to buy four! “The bearings in the turbo were also worn, and when I asked BMW how much a replacement would cost, they quoted £3,500, but added that they were out of stock. Eventually, I managed to track down a suitable replacement in Sweden. It required a bit of modification to fit. It worked well but I think the system was over-stressed, as head gaskets kept on blowing.”
“So I still regard the Tii as the better car to own, from a practical point of view. It’s easier to drive and certainly far less stressful to live with. The parts situation for the Turbo is very limited now, which just makes ownership that much more of a hassle. I saw an engine for sale on the internet last year, for $25,000! With maybe just a dozen or so Turbo models left in the UK, good complete cars are now selling for well over £100,000.
“But, despite these high values, the cost of proper restoration is such that an owner really needs to want to keep the finished vehicle, because it’s not going to represent a quick profit. Running the ‘02 Register for the BMW Car Club, I’m in touch with Turbo owners all the time, and keep up to date with the costs involved. Amazingly, I heard recently from one owner in America who has already spent $100,000 on the labour-intensive restoration of the bodyshell of his car. He hasn’t even started the mechanical, interior or trim aspects of the vehicle yet! “My silver Turbo was sold to an enthusiast in the Midlands in 2009, who, I know, is still only part-way through the restoration. There was no way I could have afforded to restore that car properly.
“One good thing about the sky-rocketing Turbo values is that they are drawing-up the rest of the ’02 range with them. I’m happy that, at long last, people are starting to appreciate the worth of the more ‘ordinary’ 2002 models, like the Tii.
“For whatever reason, the ‘02 struggled for years, in terms of values. I could never understand it, especially when the cost of cars such as the Ford Escort Mexico from the same period, were going through the roof. But the growth in values that we’ve seen over the past five or six years is great news; it makes these models much more viable as restoration projects, so hopefully more of them will be saved.”
“My current, Colorado orange 2002 Tii came to me thanks to a timely tip-off from a friend. It had been sitting on a driveway rotting quietly for five years, although all of the mechanical work – including a new race-tuned engine from Jaymic, turbo brakes, an E21 gearbox, and adjustable Spax suspension – had been carried out. That all gave me a great start. Bodily, though, it was in quite a state, with the sills and floorpans badly corroded.
“Luckily, I’d been collecting spare body panels over the years (new and genuine, of course!) but, nevertheless, a lot of time and effort has gone into sorting out this car’s exterior. I’m indebted to the excellent work carried out by John Herman (tel: 07712 453915), who worked so hard to get the bodywork looking as good as it does today.”
Richard’s dedication to the ’02 is unquestionable, and his enthusiasm for the model, undeniable. Of all the many BMWs that he’s experienced, the 2002 is the one that he’s owned most consistently. Other, more exotic, models have come and gone, but the ’02 has endured. He freely admits that his current Tii gives him more driving pleasure and all-round satisfaction than any other car, which says it all. He is a man who is utterly content with the joy that owning a well-sorted, eminently usable and, more importantly, reliable 2002 Tii brings him.
Richard has owned 60 different BMWs and, believe me, he’s not finished yet.
Everything about it was in a different league, and it was at that moment that I saw the light!
Classic car buyers needed patience and tenacity back in the 1970s and 1980s!
Richard Stern gets more driving pleasure and all-round satisfaction from his 2002 Tii, than from any of the many other BMWs he’s owned.
This 1974 2002 Ti is a reliable, practical, and comfortable machine; qualities that belie its age. This cylindrical feature signifies that this front panel is from a carburettor-equipped car, in which it carried the air intake ducting. Genuine, Tii front panels, without this feature, are no longer available. Richard’s formidable attention to detail extends right down to the fitting of the early-type Alpina hub cap badges.
Richard Stern’s sympathetically-modified 2002 Tii fulfils all his classic car-driving requirements.
The 2002 Tii’s engine has recently been fitted with a state-of-the- art, adjustable distributor, that will allow Richard to select different ignition maps. Engine oil is changed every 4,500 miles.
Seventies styling with plenty of shiny chrome.
Richard’s car is perfectly happy to ‘mix it’ on modern roads.
Non-standard front seats re-trimmed in Alpina colours set Richard’s car apart from the norm. But he loves the fact that 2002 ownership allows owners to adapt cars to their own liking.
A period ‘boot tidy’ fits neatly and securely over the rear suspension turrets, and the boot is a good, practical size.
The 2002 Tii remains a car that can be hustled quite happily over distances as long as you fancy.
Reliability, comfort and practical usability make the 2002 Tii a great choice.