Cars are like soulmates. Sometimes, if we’re fortunate enough, fate and destiny intervene and we cross paths with the perfect car. When that happens, we cherish those cars and keep them running for as long as possible. And so the story goes with a man named Landen Andersen, who knew that he had found something special when he was first introduced to the BMW 2002 many decades ago.
If we define a soulmate as someone you would love to the moon and back, Anderson’s 2002 fits the definition. By 1990, Anderson was on his third BMW 2002, which presently has traveled over 470,000 miles.
The car was a 1975 Polaris Silver over Marine Blue example that he purchased in 1990 with 87,000 miles on the odometer (which may have already rolled over once). At the time, he was living in Houston and driving 20,000 miles a year. Spending so much time behind the wheel required a car that invoked joy and smiles in the way that only a 2002 does. But, his mission profile called for reliability, so he outlined a fastidious maintenance schedule. It already had a non-numbers-matching engine that had allegedly been rebuilt. That left the next order of business being comfort (or survival, on the hotter days) in the South Texas heat. To do that Anderson removed a Clardy air-conditioning system and installed a Behr system. Astonishingly, it is still blowing ice cold three decades later without ever being opened up or recharged.
Anderson drove the 2002 relatively trouble-free for the next nine years and 150,000 miles, at which point it was time to overhaul the engine and drivetrain again. He had Mike Perkins, founder of Bavarian Machine Specialties, install a stock engine with higher compression pistons, a tii exhaust manifold, balanced internals, and new accessories (sans the air conditioning system). The late Perkins’ work was renowned for quality, and his legacy continues today with the shop he started. While the engine was being done, the gearbox and differential were also overhauled. That engine and drivetrain currently have about 220,000 miles on them and are still pulling strong, although the gearbox can be whiny at times.
In 2000, Anderson moved to New Castle, Colorado, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. He has used the 2002 as his daily driver here for about eight months out of the year there, sparing it from the snow during the winter months with an E30 325iX. His current commute is roughly twenty miles a day and he also uses it for road trips to the Front Range and as far as the West Coast, along with regular car camping trips to the Moab desert—not a place favorable to breakdown. Despite its schedule of use over the last three decades and, as near as makes no difference, half a million miles on the odometer, the 2002 is still exceptionally nice. It not only looks like a car with a fraction of those miles, but it drives like one as well.
I asked Anderson what other work had been done over the years. He had a spreadsheet of most work until a few years ago and estimated his operating cost over the vehicle’s life to be roughly twenty cents a mile, not including fuel. Compared to the cost his wife would periodically spend on newer cars, he also considered the 2002 to be cheaper despite the maintenance. Regarding other mechanicals, he has gone through no less than six sets of brakes (pads, rotors, and preventative caliper rebuilds) and two sets of suspensions (Bilsteins and OEM springs) with all associated bushings and control arms. The gas tank and speedometer have been overhauled once. Many other small items like fuel lines have been done regularly, while the steering box is still original and tight.
Cosmetically, virtually all of the car has been repainted, but never simultaneously. Even coming from Houston, it was relatively rust-free, which has been helped by living in Colorado for the last two decades. He repaired small rust areas once in the floor pan and rocker panels, and the balance of the car is still mostly rust-free. The interior has also been re-fitted with no less than three sets of reupholstered seats, one dashboard, one headliner, and one carpet kit. The ignition switch and key were replaced with a Ferrari ignition, known to be typically temperamental—i.e. Italian. The door cards and the remainder of the interior bits are original.
Anderson’s plans for the future are to do a full mechanical restoration along with a glass-out paint job, with the ultimate goal of making the 2002 nice enough to bring back to its original glory, while still being able to use as a daily driver. That won’t happen for another two seasons, which could add a significant sum of miles beforehand. In the meantime, it came to my shop for a clutch job and a few odds and ends. It was well-behaved for a 2002, which have a habit of mission creeping into larger jobs when having work done, but that is also likely due to Anderson’s maintenance stewardship.
Sitting quietly with the 2002, the first thought that came to mind is how wonderfully lucky Anderson has been to be able to enjoy a 2002 for so many years. He knows the car intimately well and can describe in exact detail the noises and nuance that it has. I have treated it with the same degree of affection I would a collector grade 2002tii, if not more, because this car is exceptionally more precious and important to its owner. At the end of the day, it’s amazing how nice the 2002 actually is—you would think it had a fraction of the miles it actually does, especially being the better part of a century old with literally enough miles on the odometer to drive to the moon and back. That is a testament not only to the marque, but also its dedicated owner. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be a small part of their story.—Alex McCulloch
[Photos byWeston Engstrom.]