As ViaRETRO readers will know, my current classic is a Golf Yellow 1975 BMW 2002tiiLux, christened Die Zitrone by my partner for obvious reasons, and the name has stuck. Although I have always loved cars, and classics in particular, Die Zitrone is in fact only the second I have owned, the first being a gorgeous Polaris Silver 1976 BMW 3.0CSi back when it was really just a Youngtimer, bought in 1994 and sold in 1998 when I was offered a job in The Netherlands that came with a company car – an Alfa Romeo 156 2.5V6 in Azzuro Nuvola, as it turned out. How I wish I’d kept that E9!
The lack of a classic in my life was for all the usual reasons – insufficient funds to run a second car, lack of mechanical ability to maintain an old car myself, not enough space, a young family, a career that involved long hours and frequent overseas travel, divorce… did I mention insufficient funds? As a result, I followed the classic car scene through magazines and occasional visits to events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Wings and Wheels in Dunsfold, but wasn’t part of it.
About five years ago, the urge to scratch my classic car itch was becoming overwhelming, and fortunately my circumstances had become more favourable towards the whole concept, so I started to give it some serious thought. Initially, I fancied buying another E9 coupé – still the most beautiful BMW ever made, with the possible exception of the 507 – but as is so often the case, prices had moved beyond my reach. I was hoping to limit my spending to somewhere between £15 – 20,000, and E9’s were twice the price and more.
Having had my sights rudely lowered, I started looking in this price range and to my delight, found many potential options, so had to narrow them down. But on which basis? As I was only going to have one classic, I wanted it ideally to be one that had some motoring significance, was relatively rare, was hopefully going to appreciate in value to absorb the running costs, wouldn’t need a lot of work for a while (oh for a crystal ball…) and because I’m shallow, looked good even standing still. My short list included such goodies as the Porsche 914 2.0, the Opel GT 1.9, the Manta A 1.9, and the BMW 2002tii.
The observant among you will note that these are all German. This doesn’t mean I only like German cars (although eight of my last ten daily drivers have been German, including my current 2017 BMW 220i Coupé), but I’m half-German, have lived in and visited Germany and have always considered German cars to be the best. It doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination mean that I don’t like classics from other countries – Italian cars are a close second favourite for me – I just happen to prefer German ones.
You’ll also observe that these are the larger-engined versions of these models, and in the case of the 02, I really wanted a tii, preferably in either Inka Orange of Golf Yellow, and ideally a roundie. Of course, these self-imposed limitations narrowed my options – there were very few of each of these around, and the first ones I saw all had lots wrong with them that even I could see costing me serious money over time.
After more than six months of searching and looking at some very scruffy cars – one of the many things I’ve learned is that photographs tell only some of the story – I came across an advert for a Golf Yellow 2002tii, being sold by One2One Motorsport in Warwickshire. With an asking price of £17,500, it was relatively expensive compared to some I’d seen advertised, but having had a full restoration including new engine in 2004 and been practically unused since (it had 658 miles on the clock), this looked like it could be almost exactly what I was looking for – I had given up on my ideal of a roundie.
My eagerness to finally buy a classic led me naively to not examine it quite as thoroughly as I should have – after all, it had barely been used since a full restoration, and looked lovely in the sunlight; how bad could it be? That there was no documentation of the restoration – or indeed any other history – was explained away by the wife of the deceased previous owner having accidentally thrown the papers out during a clear-out of his personal effects, which seemed reasonable enough to me at the time. After a test drive, and a bit of to-and-fro, I bought the car for £16,500 and proudly drove it home.
That joyous first day of ownership…
All was well in my new classic car world, and although foot surgery meant my driving was limited for the first six months of my ownership, the little yellow Bavarian got used more and more regularly, attracting admiring glances and waves everywhere it went.
About two years in, I noticed a few bubbles appearing under the paint, particularly in the front wings, and thought it time to get the car resprayed before the demon rust ate too deeply into the metal. Little did I know….
I took the car to local restorers Templar and Wilde (named after Simon Templar and Danny Wilde aka The Persuaders, a 1970s TV-series), whose workshop that day was filled with a 300SL Gullwing, a DB6, a Pagoda 280SL and a handful of Volvo P1800’s, so I figured they would probably be able to handle Die Zitrone. Plus. By happy coincidence, T and W are also my initials – what other reason could I need? I discussed the work with Keith Forrest and Simon Borrell at T&W and reckoned on a budget of between £6-7,000. From this point onwards, things began to go other than expected, and not in a good way either.
To keep costs under control, I had opted for just a trim off, lights out respray, especially since the car had received a full restoration only a dozen years previously. However, as Templar and Wilde began the process of preparing the car for its fresh coat of paint, they began to find far more rust than either they or I had expected. Every other day my phone would ring, and each time I saw their name flash up on my screen, my heart rate would increase. Huge amounts of rust in the sills, wings, footwells front and rear were found, with significant welding required. My original budget was blown very quickly, and after a few weeks I was looking at well north of £10,000. The pictures tell the story better than words, I think.
As more and more work was required, it became increasingly clear that the car I had bought had been some way from the car that was described in the ads or indeed the letter of provenance provided with it. This resulted in a brief and unsatisfactory exchange with One2One, but too much time had passed for me to consider redress. And yet, the car still features even now on their website in the “Sold” section, with some changes… SOLD – BMW 2002tiiLux
Despite all this, eventually the car was deemed to be ready to go to the paint shop just up the road, at Adam Redding Classic Cars, and a few days later I was able to pick up a much improved Zitrone, although there was still some known work which would need doing sooner or later, as is the way of classic car ownership.
In the last four – almost five – years I’ve learned more about buying and running an ‘02 than I ever knew before, thanks to the kindness and wealth of knowledge from the likes of my ViaRETRO colleagues Anders and Dave, and friend of ViaRETRO, Paul Hill, as well as Richard Stern of the 02 Register. I can state with some certainty that when and if I come to replace die Zitrone, whatever I buy next will be much more thoroughly and knowledgably examined before I part with my hard-earned cash.
Since then, die Zitrone has been driven more each year, including a return to its birthplace in Munich as part of a wonderful roadtrip last summer, and been seen at numerous classic shows and events around the south east of England. The odometer now reads 8500 miles, almost 8000 of which have been with me at the wheel. Along the way I have tried to build a decent history file for the car, and whoever takes care of it after me will be buying a much better car than the one I bought.
And so we come to the present day and die Zitrone has again been in the workshop at Templar and Wilde – who I can unreservedly recommend for both the quality of their work and their customer service – for its pre-season fettling and, hopefully, last bit of significant bodywork, as I finally found a replacement for the disintegrating spare wheel well. The completion of this work, plus a service and a couple of miscellaneous bits and pieces, means the little yellow ‘02 is now ready once again to brighten my day whenever I get in it, and to bring smiles and waves from passers-by and other drivers. On the day I collected it, it was lined up with an Aston Martin DBS V8, a Sunbeam Rapier Series 1 and a Daimler 250 V8 – while within the T&W workshop, a 1972 Alfa Romeo Montreal project owned by Keith and Simon themselves.
Numerous outings with die Zitrone are already planned for this season, some to familiar venues such as Silverstone, Bicester Heritage and Brooklands, and some to less familiar pastures. Although a long road trip such as last summer’s run to Munich isn’t scheduled for this year, a trip to incorporate a run from Land’s End to John o’Groats is being lined up for next summer – even my better half is excited by the prospect!