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    Life or Death in the Andes. We travel to Ecuador to discover how this #BMW-2002 was rescued from an ignominious fate and lovingly brought back to life. Words and photography: Robb Pritchard. A lovely 2002 that was saved from an ignominious end in Ecuador / #BMW-E10 / #BMW / #BMW-M10 / #1972 / #BMW-2002-E10 / #M10

    The glacier-capped Cotopaxi volcano was obscured by clouds and the storm was coming in fast. “It was smoking this morning,” Alfredo smiled. This wasn’t some hardcore trekking expedition, though, but rather Alfredo Cevallos’ back garden. If I lived on the slopes of the biggest active volcano in the world I don’t think I would be so happy to see it so active! However, things in Ecuador are often a little different from what I am used to…

    Alfredo is the owner of the stunning Schnitzer 3.0 CSi car we featured back in the March 2016 issue, but today I have come to see what he calls his little pride and joy: a pristine 1972 2002 which, considering he owns a Group 5 Batmobile, sounds a bit strange. This car has a personal story, though. Even though he knew it was not going to be an easy task he rescued this little beauty from the ignominious fate of being cut up and turned into a pick-up!

    He came across it by accident while visiting a mechanic who was working on another car of his. While waiting for him one morning Alfredo wandered aimlessly around the back of the workshop and came across a very sad sight. Covered in graffiti, all the tyres flat, and grass and moss growing on it, it had clearly been abandoned for a long time. “He said that he was going to restore it, though, and I know he’s a great mechanic – which is why he was working on my car – so I assumed it would soon be joining us in the classic car club. I even suggested some places that he could get some new parts from. But then he said he was going to cut the roof off and make it into a pickup! Of course, I told him it would be crazy to destroy a beautiful classic car like that and I tried to convince him to keep it normal. He wouldn’t listen, though. I actually couldn’t sleep so well that night thinking about it, so in the morning I decided that I couldn’t let it happen and went back to buy it off him.”

    At first he didn’t want to sell it and Alfredo had to go back a couple of times to persuade him. Eventually the mechanic let it go for $1000 and he went back with a winch truck to drag it onto a trailer to bring it home. But, as you might recall from the last feature, Ecuador is possibly the worst place in the world to restore a car. Bringing a dilapidated classic car up to scratch is definitely not something to do on a whim here. The unpopular government has had a decades old law forbidding all but brand-new cars and parts to be imported into the country so getting necessary pieces for a restoration across the border is about as easy as smuggling sausages into a vegetarian convention. Such projects are only taken on by people with serious amounts of disposable income and great connections with import officers.

    Alfredo had never worked on a 2002 before so he had no idea how hard it would be to get parts but the first thing he did was to get the engine running because if the mechanical parts were in a bad condition it would be a very big and expensive job. It hadn’t run for at least six years so he filled the cylinders with diesel and rotated the crank slowly by hand. Amazingly, after just a few turns, everything looked to be turning freely. So he put a new battery on it, changed the oil, the filter, and the fuel and water pumps and then just turned the key. “When it fired up and ran it sounded like it was ready for 1000-mile trip so I knew that it wanted to live, that it was a survivor!” says Alfredo.

    He put some plastic bags over the mouldy seats and drove it for a little while around the yard to see what the gearbox was like and, apart from an oil seal on the rear axle, it seemed mechanically fine. The brakes were beyond repair, though, so the whole system was replaced with parts he got from the BMW dealer in Quito. Those, it turned out, were the only parts he could get in Ecuador.

    Over a few free evenings and weekends some friends came over to help strip the car down to a bare shell so it could be sandblasted and that’s where Alfredo had another pleasant surprise. The bodywork was in such good condition that only the floor panel on the driver’s side needed repairing. That was it. There was no rust, no filler anywhere, not even any places that had been repaired before. Unusually for Ecuador, it seemed that it had never been involved in an accident.
    Despite the car being in such good condition on the outside, unfortunately there was no hope for the interior. This is where the main cost of the restoration came from as it all had to be imported from Germany. All the draconian import taxes and fees meant that the seats, carpet, headlining and door panels cost $6000. Another $1200 went on all the chromework as the previous owner had taken it all off and left it out to the elements which meant that everything was rusted and ruined. Fortunately Alfredo found some new parts in the USA that had been in stock for some 40 years just waiting for a needy 2002 to adorn. The chrome gleams like it is new because it is new.

    Some of his friends tried to convince Alfredo to paint the car in a striking ‘sporty’ colour, such as bright yellow or orange, but he has the Schnitzer CSi to drive if he feels the need to be behind the wheel of something outrageous, so he wanted to go with something more classic. Agave green is the colour he chose, understated and dark so it shows off the chrome trim.

    Something else that surprisingly withstood the test of time was the wiring. “I was ready to pull it all out and scrap it but it was much better than I imagined so I was careful to look after it during the rebuild,” Alfredo tells us. “The fuse box, most of the fuses, and all the loom is original.” Years of being exposed to the harsh Ecuadorian sun didn’t do much for the rubber so a new window trim and door seals also had to be ordered from Germany.

    “For me this car is a real survivor and I saved it from being butchered with an angle grinder, so that gives me a really nice feeling of satisfaction when I drive it. It’s fast, manoeuvrable and easy to drive and although the CSi is the most fun to drive, I use that exclusively for shows and races. I drive the 2002, however, just for the joy of it.”

    The wheels the car came with weren’t BMW ones so when Alfredo got a set of BBS for his 323i E21 he swapped the original Alpina ones over, which look great. The steering wheel is another slight personalisation. When he bought an original Italvolanti for the Schnitzer car he put the old Petri in the 2002, the one the previous owner of the CSi used in road races in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Apart from the numerous incapable drivers and roads with some seriously impressive potholes there are a couple of other issues for running classic carburetted cars in Ecuador. As Quito is 3000 metres above sea level, when storms come the difference in atmospheric pressure is enough to have an effect on the running of engines. It was for this reason that there was a misfire. The car fires up with a bark of the glorious sounding exhaust note and we pull out of the yard. We look like flashback to simpler times.

    Alfredo lives out in the distant suburbs and the road to his house hasn’t seen any maintenance crews for a long time yet the suspension copes with the bumps and holes – surprising considering that he didn’t change the springs or shocks. It seems that the car was very well looked after before it was abandoned. With the volcano hidden under the clouds and local buses hurtling past the ugly concrete church it perhaps wasn’t a great place for a photoshoot but then, looking across the deep valley, Alfredo points to the dark wall of water coming towards us, a few streaks of lightening ahead of it. “Nope,” he says, ushering me into the passenger seat. “We have to go back.” We speed back to the house, the thunder catching up with us, a few fat drops falling on the window as we turn into the driveway. We get under the porch roof just a moment before the rain really starts. This beautiful 2002 had many years of being left out in the elements so now it is looked after properly!


    “It’s fast, manoeuvrable and easy to drive… I drive the 2002 just for the joy of it”

    Above: The roads in this part of Ecuador aren’t up to all that but the restored 2002 copes with just about everything despite Alfredo not having renewed the shock absorbers and springs. Below: The 2002 was in a parlous state before Alfredo bought it and was going to be turned into a pick-up!

    “He said he was going to cut the roof off and make it into a pick-up!” ‏ — at Ecuador
    • Above: The roads in this part of Ecuador aren’t up to all that but the restored 2002 copes with just about everything despite Alfredo not having renewAbove: The roads in this part of Ecuador aren’t up to all that but the restored 2002 copes with just about everything despite Alfredo not having renewed the shock absorbers and springs. Below: The 2002 was in a parlous state before Alfredo bought it and was going to be turned into a pick-up!  More ...
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