02 Rewind: Art Gabriel’s “2002-6” At Legends ’17

With 2018 being the 50th Anniversary of the 2002, we’ll be periodically peeking in on 2002s owned by some of our members. Some of these you might have seen from Legends Of The Autobahn and BMW CCA Festorics events, others from the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, or maybe the Vintage.  Others might be from your local Cars and Coffee, and others might not yet have surfaced at events.

We can see a wide variety of amazing sights at Legends Of The Autobahn. Some of us like the old classics—a 1937 328, perhaps. Others like rows of E9s arrayed on the Nicklaus Club fairways. Newer cars pique the interest of some, who spend their time admiring E92s and F82s. But it’s hard to not appreciate a one-owner 1973 2002 with a license plate boasting SNCE 73, and a proper-looking “2002-6” badge when you see it parked next to its proud owner, Art Gabriel, as he happily shares the history of this fine, black M20-powered machine.

And what a history it is! How many of us still own the first car we bought? What if that car was purchased 44 years ago? “This is the first car I have ever purchased,” Art began. “It is a 1973 BMW 2002 purchased from Fred Snooks BMW in Monterey. I was stationed at Fort Ord in Monterey from 1973 to 1977. In the first three years, I put over 100,000 miles on the car commuting from San Jose—where I still live.”

Art has invested in his car since Day One—probably a big reason he still has it to this day! “The best part about owning a car is being able to personalize it,” he explained. “I didn’t want to make it outrageous-looking, but I wanted it to be able to turn heads with its subtlety. Black was the only color I considered after seeing one in the showroom. When the car was delivered, it was already lowered, with an Ansa exhaust and Ronal wheels. I like that the closer you look at it, the more you appreciate it.”

People were certainly appreciating it at Legends. There is never a shortage of 2002s at Legends, but each one seems to always find a way to stand out. Sure enough, as Art described, at first, people saw a black 02. Then they might have noticed the badge on the back, which made them curiously approach the open bonnet—and then looked back at Art with mouths open in awe.

Art remembers so much about the car’s history, he might want to set up more chairs next year and sell tickets. “After leaving the service in 1977, the fun began. Hardy and Beck in Berkeley was an Alpina distributor back in the day. They ported and polished the head, installed a header and the Alpina FA2 chassis kit: big-brake kit, reinforced rear trailing arms, and Bilstein negative-camber struts. In 1978, dual Webers and a cam were added,” he recalled.

“Because the car could no longer pass smog, I decided to go all-in on an engine swap, since I didn’t want to return the 02 back to stock,” Art continued. “The original swap was made in 1984 by A&E Performance, later to be bought by Dinan. The engine was a Euro 323i, 2.3 liters with the five-speed overdrive transmission. It was the second one done by the shop. It took some time, but I am still amazed at the level of attention to detail. They powder-coated the intake, valve cover, and numerous suspension parts. The final touch was the 2002-6 badge that they surprised me with. The 2.3 lasted until 2015 and had about 250,000 miles on it. It was replaced with a 2.5 from a 1985 325i.”

The updates continued with more ahead, too. “The 02 was repainted in 2005. Recaro seats and rears were redone in 2006,” he added. “Willwood brakes and Ground Control suspension went in in 2014. Headliner and carpet were replaced in 2015. I am currently in search of a limited-slip differential for the car. It’s a joy to drive—definitely old-school. All mods after 2012 were done by Bay Area Motorworks in Campbell, California—great shop.”

Fortunately, Gabriel’s passion led him to the BMW CCA. He joined in 1980 and has always appreciated the BMW community. “After buying the car, I noticed that whenever I passed another Bimmer, they would flash their headlights. I thought that was pretty cool, once I found out that it was their way of saying hi to another BMW owner (you don’t dare do that now). The shop I did business with, A&E Performance in Campbell,  gave me some information about the club, and I joined shortly after that.

“The club has proven to be such a resource for everything BMW,” Art explained. “I’ve owned two other BMWs—1979 and 1980 528i’s. I’ve been able to keep up to date with what BMW is producing. I have used many of the vendors who have advertised in Roundel to purchase parts for my 02 countless times. I have always enjoyed the many articles in Roundel magazine, especially the ones of people and their cars. I still have every Roundel issue since I joined. Needless to say, the publication has changed dramatically over time!”

This was Art’s fourth Legends Of The Autobahn experience. “To tell you the truth, the cars are great, but meeting and talking to the owners is the most satisfying feeling,” he said. “It’s amazing how people just light up when talking about their cars.”

With as much fun as he has talking with people, his car still gives him the greatest satisfaction. “All I can say is every time I put my butt in the seat, it puts a smile on my face!”—Kyle van Hoften

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