Restoring a Classic 1972 BMW By Ron Foss
I grew up in the small town of Fort Chambly, Quebec, just south of Montreal. From an early age, my grandfather, who built the first gasoline engine car in Canada, the Fossmobile, often shared his own interest in cars with me, which may have contributed to my fascination with the automobile.
I fondly remember neighbours allowing me to test drive their MGBs, Triumphs and Minis, but it was getting behind the wheel of a 1972 BMW 2002tii that confirmed my thinking. It felt much more smooth and faster than the other cars I had driven. It had greater horsepower and felt like it was able to hug the road effortlessly. I promised myself back then, that someday I would own one of these fabulous vehicles.
While researching these cars in early 2009, I stumbled onto a gem in Calgary, Alberta and discovered it was in surprisingly decent shape. All original, with no previous modifications or attempted restorations. I swiftly scooped it up, based only on pictures and my intuitive confidence in the person selling it. This fellow was just the second owner and it had only 45,000 miles on the odometer. The vehicle originated from the USA and the original owner was traced to Colorado.
A 2002tii is usually worth more, and therefore, more coveted. Finding one in good shape, without owner modifications is increasingly difficult. This is especially true considering the tii’s (touring international injection) mechanical uniqueness and cost of some of those unique parts. The original 2002tii had a Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection system, a first for BMW. This 2.0-liter engine was able to produce 125-140 horsepower and 127-145 pounds-feet of torque.
I had a vintage vehicle carrier pick it up and transport it to Burlington, Ontario. The car had been partially painted once, but it was a terrible job and there was evidence of excess body filler, cracking paint and some visible minor rust. That was at least, what I was able to see. Other surprises were waiting for me.
When the car arrived from Calgary, it was delivered to the local BMW dealer. I went over it with the help of the mechanics. We just wanted to see if it would run. We discovered that it required very little to meet safety and certification requirements. The engine compression was almost factory and very even. The fuel tank was cleaned out and all the fluids were flushed. We changed the oil, oil filter and spark plugs. Finally, they completed an intense brake inspection. Once everything looked good, I hit the road and drove the car for a few weeks, learning as much as I could about it.
For the most part it ran just fine, but some parts were tired, affected by age and required updating. It was sluggish, had certain vibrations and did not handle the bumps very well. My plan was to use all original equipment manufactured (OEM) parts.
I started the restoration with all things mechanical. The entire fuel delivery system needed cleaning and the three fuel filters were replaced (fuel pump, fuel injection and in-line filter). The water pump was partially seized, so that was next. I was concerned about the mechanical fuel injection system, but it seemed fine.
All rubber items were my next project for inspection and replacement. Seals, belts, engine mounts and frame bushings required a going over. Due to the age of the car, I decided to replace all rubber frame and mounting bushings. New hoses and belts were then installed. The rear and front shocks were in terrible shape. The two in the rear were rusted right out. All new shocks were installed, complete with new tower mounts. Not surprisingly, the entire exhaust system was rusted. While the exhaust manifold was fine, all pipes and the muffler had to be replaced.
The rubber rotoflex guibo bushing/bearing between the transmission and front of the driveshaft was the worst of all parts requiring replacement. This is an all rubber mount, with metal sleeves for eight mounting bolts to pass through. Its purpose is to cushion the vibration and motion between the transmission and the driveshaft. As I took it apart, it completely crumbled in my hands. The rear universal joint on the driveshaft was seized in one direction, which meant replacing the entire driveshaft, since it comes as a complete sealed unit.
The clutch slave cylinder was leaking, so that too headed for the recycling bin. Smaller items such as brake cylinders and engine gaskets where all replaced. Some items were replaced because they absolutely needed it and some as a good measure, like brake pads, because it was easier to do it while disassembled, rather than dismantle it again later.
The gearshift linkage required some attention. When the car arrived, one of the first things I noticed was that the gear shifter was very loose and wobbled in every gear. The shift throw on the 2002tii is long, but this one made constant gear-changing an unpleasant chore. I discovered that all of the bushings, sleeves and linkages were mostly worn or gone completely. Once replaced, it shifted smoothly through all four gears and as tightly as it would have from the factory floor.
The interior of the car was in remarkable condition. Even the 2002tii tell-tale dashboard clock was present and in working order. Some cleaning and one welding job for a seat bracket was all that it required.
I completely stripped the vehicle of all chrome: lights, grills, bumpers, etc. All of these were in excellent condition and were now going to be stored safely away over the winter, as this was the best time to complete the body restoration.
There were the obvious rust areas, like the outer rocker panels along with the two rear fenders and the right front fender, but inner rocker sills also looked suspicious. As the old front fenders were removed, reality set in. I discovered what everyone attempting a project like this fears: more rust than anticipated. The entire right pillar between fender and door hinge was almost nothing but rust. It had to be completely rebuilt by grinding and welding in a new piece.
The vehicle was completely stripped of old paint. Rear outer fenders were tin filled and new front fenders were installed. Some very minor bodywork to rectify a dent or two and it was ready for skim coat and sanding – Lots of sanding!
The doors, trunk lid and engine hood were removed and painted separately. The rest was painstakingly papered, taped and readied for the paint booth. Then it was into the paint booth for six coats of original paint and three coats of clear coat. After that, the vehicle looked like it belonged back in the show room (minus doors, chrome, lights, bumpers etc.).
Then, very carefully, it was a pain staking effort to re-install all the chrome: lights, grills, and bumpers that had to be re-attached. With almost everything mechanical fixed, it drove as I remembered it, back in the 70s. I was finally ready to show this vintage 1972 BMW 2002tii to anyone willing to look.
The car became everything I dreamed it would be. So my passion had been satisfied. I had the vintage BMW 2002tii the way I wanted it.