What’s the perfect 2002? If you ask 100 people, you’ll get 100 different answers—from show-room stock to wildly modified and everything in between. Of course, there’s a sweet spot, melding the best OEM BMW parts—mechanical, interior, exterior—with proven aftermarket upgrades—brakes, suspension, and go-fast goodies. And that’s where Stuart Moulton’s Stryker Red 1974 2002tii fits on the spectrum of 2002 modification. It’s a testament to “OEM-plus” restomodding.
Moulton has an eclectic list of project vehicles under his belt, with a core forged in German steel. His workshop has a wall dedicated to past builds, with a skateboard deck commemorating each one. Being a connoisseur of the long roof, there’s no shortage of bad-ass wagons among his coupes, sedans, and trucks, which includes an LS7-swapped BMW E46 3 Series Touring, a 700-plus horsepower Mercedes E63 AMG, and an S62-swapped E39 5 Series Touring, just to name a few. While each of his projects deserves their own feature, we’re here for that glorious ‘74 2002tii.
With fond memories of 2002s from an early age Moulton jokes, “I’m reliving my childhood!” He explains, “When I was a kid, my dad had a ‘69 2002. He helped get me addicted to cars and I have definitely passed on this addiction to [my son] Alex.” So, it was no surprise when both Stuart and his nine-year-old son Alex arrived for our photo shoot on a temperate August morning in Maryland. Alex clearly loves riding along with his dad—just look at the smile on his face! Moulton’s eight-year-old daughter Audrey isn’t as excited by the automotive realm as her brother, but still appreciates taking one of the project vehicles for a spin.
In a way, Moulton found this particular 2002 because of Alex. He reminisces, “My son had just been born. He wasn’t sleeping at night, so I was up late on the internet.” As I’m sure other parents can attest, when the baby isn’t sleeping, no one in the house sleeps. What better way to pass the time than surf the web for cool cars? That led to the sight-unseen purchase of a ‘74 2002tii out of California.
When Moulton started to dig into this project and peel the metaphorical 2002-shaped onion, he discovered it had many layers, and it wasn’t good. “It had ten layers of paint and twenty layers of Bondo,” he grimaces. At this point, Moulton chose a new path for this project. “It became a full rebuild, and that’s when I decided to go ahead and resto-mod it,” he says.
Over the next four years, Moulton executed his vision for the 2002tii. The body received OEM 2002 Turbo fender flares, new doors, and new fenders, with Moulton performing all of the necessary cutting, welding, and fitting to give the chassis and body a new lease on life. Behind the gas cap lies a battery charging point, for storage during the winter months—one of the many unique details of this build.
The powertrain also received extensive upgrades. Moulton says, “When I decided to take out the 2002’s original tii engine, it was either rebuild that engine, which would cost over $10,000 to do it right, or swap in an S14. At the time, you could pick up an S14 and drivetrain for about $5,000.” He purchased a full 1989 M3 (E30) drivetrain for a fraction of what they cost today and went to work refreshing it. Moulton says, “I saw that [the S14] was tired and I wanted to rebuild it. There was some ‘mission creep’ with fitting larger pistons and a 2.5-liter crank. Before I knew it, I had built an Evo II-spec 2.5-liter S14.” The engine also received larger valves, aftermarket cams, stronger rods, and some other goodies to complete the package. An E21 320is Getrag 245 five-speed-manual transmission handles the power nicely, sending power through the limited-slip 4.10 rear differential.
To put the performance increase in perspective, the tii’s original engine, a fuel-injected 2.0-liter four (M10) made 128 crank horsepower. The refreshed 2.5-liter Evo II-spec four assembled by Moulton was dyno’d at 242 wheel horsepower. If the sound of a hungry S14 didn’t give away the fact this car is not stock, a custom-made aluminum “2502tii” badge is proudly displayed on the trunk, perfectly matching the original script. Moulton credits the engine tuning to Chris and Mario Langston at Vintage Sports and Restoration in New Hampshire.
Moulton’s son, Alex, also had a hand—or shall we say a screwdriver—in the interior updates. The tii was originally fitted with a set of nice E21 Recaro seats. Moulton recalls, “About eight years ago, my son, who was one at the time, was helping me in the car. I was under the dash and heard a popping sound. When I looked up, I saw Alex was poking the seats with a screwdriver.” The punctures expanded until eventually Moulton replaced the seats with a set of factory-like Recaro Classic LS buckets.
The gauges are all custom, using a GPS speedo and electronic sensors that integrate with the S14 engine seamlessly. Though, Moulton laughs, “In the center console I have redundant mechanical gauges for oil and water temperature. I always want to make sure the electronic and mechanical gauges read the same. If they differ, there’s a problem.” With a jewel of an S14 under the hood, who could blame him for wanting to keep an eye on it?
The H&R springs paired with Koni dampers make the car sit just right on the custom three-piece 16×8 front, 16×10 rear BBS RS003 wheels built by Ehrlich Wheel Works. He also has a set of custom three-piece Weds Bavaria wheels in similar fitment, depending on what the situation or mood calls for. Wilwood brakes front and rear make sure the stops are short and repeatable.
When it finally came time for paint, the one thing Moulton admits he doesn’t do himself on his projects, he handed off the car to Dave Simone at Mid-Atlantic Customs. It had taken a while to choose a color, but as soon as Moulton saw Stryker Red, he knew it was the one. “Four coats of orange, six coats of candy red, and six coats of clear,” Moulton says. As you’d expect with that many coats, it has substantial depth.
Moulton recognizes that all projects take a village and was appreciative of the guidance and advice he received along the way. Moulton says, “Le Tran of 2002 Garage Werks has been my mentor and guru throughout the whole process.” He adds, “VAC Motorsports in Philadelphia guided me as to what parts to buy for the engine and helped procure some of the special things, like special CP pistons.”
As this project was completed six years ago, Moulton has been able to enjoy plenty of seat time and iron out any wrinkles. What’s his favorite part of his adventures with this 2002 to date? He laughs, “My wife says that I enjoy the planning and building phases of projects the most. I’m an introvert, so I don’t take them to many events.” But when the projects are complete, Moulton does enjoy getting them out to stretch their legs. He smiles and says, “A day alone in the car, out in the country. I often go up to where I used to live in Dickerson, Maryland, which is near Sugarloaf Mountain. I’ll go there because I like taking pictures—especially in the spring when all the azaleas and rhododendrons are blooming.” He’s also traveled a bit farther, having attended the Vintage gathering in Asheville, North Carolina multiple times with his 2002tii. It’s always a big hit among the hundreds of Bimmer lovers in attendance.
As a self-proclaimed introvert, Moulton may not be the most outgoing person at automotive events, but his wonderfully executed over-the-top pieces of rolling artwork don’t need their owner to shout their praises—they speak for themselves. —Mike Bevels