In the first of a new four-part series we are celebrating Continental’s 75th birthday in South Africa. We will be featuring cars that were originally fitted with Continental tyres and we kick things off with this mint 1973 BMW 2002tii.
Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
Photos: Justin Pinto
There is not a lot that Jaques Wessels doesn’t know about BMW 2002s - the car’s general history as well as its racing pedigree. It’s the result of a true passion for this particular car, and consequently Jaques has devoured every bit of reading material on the 2002 and, of course, also benefits from the intimate knowledge that comes from owning one.
Jaques' love of cars
“I got my love of cars from my dad. I was born in 1971, and from 1971 to 1985 we spent every year at Kyalami circuit. Back then you could spend a week there while the teams came down with their Formula One cars. That was kind of my first introduction to engines and petrol and has stayed with me my entire life.
“My dad was a BMW fan. However, I actually come from a family of dyed in the wool Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts, and he was kind of the rebel and decided to go with BMW. We had an E12 518 in a horrendous orange colour. And I remember being very embarrassed when he dropped me off at school because it had this very psychedelic hue. But then I grew to love the vehicle. We then moved on to E30 3 Series BMWs. In actual fact, my dad’s dream car was a 2002.
“One day in the mid-80, I remember this very well, there was a BMW dealership in the Free State town I grew up in, and a truck came through the town and on the back was a 2002 and my dad pointed the car out to me – and it was love at first sight. I said to him, I never ever wanted a new car, or a different car, when I get to the age that I can drive. We made a pack back then that my first car would be a 2002 – which it was.
“So, I had my first 2002 from the late-80s until 1994. We had two, I had a 2002ti and my dad had the bog-standard 2002. My dad passed away in 1994 unfortunately. At that time I finished my studies and started working while the cars were just standing at my mother’s house. During the course of the 90s we decided to sell both. But, I made myself a promise that I would find another one. My dream was always to get a tii because it was a mechanical fuel-injected car.
Acquiring the 2002tii
“In 1999 my company sent me to the UK for work. There is a large following in the UK for the 2002 as well as a specialist company, Jaymic, that maintains and restores these cars for the rest of the world. I thought to myself, this is your prime opportunity to buy a good one. I was lucky that after a four year search I came across this one – and I’m only the second owner. It used to… really… belong to an old lady.
“It was Easter weekend of 2003 when I saw this car advertised. I phoned the gentleman and he didn’t answer his phone. I literally left around ten messages. After the Easter weekend he returned my call and said he had about 15 enquiries, but I was the first person to leave a message, so I could come and have a look at the car first. I went to have a look and bought it. And it has been in my ownership ever since.
“I absolutely love the styling to start off with. I like German Bauhaus styling. Everything on this car serves a purpose – there are no fripperies. The other thing that I enjoy is that it has enough power, because it weighs under a tonne, and then the analogue feel of the steering. It is a heavy steering feel, but once you get going it has a very precise feel to it. The gearbox is also a delight, even though it is a four-speed ‘box.
“It offers fantastic visibility, is very practical and you can use it everyday, and I use it as often as I can. It is not a trailer queen, I don’t believe in just storing cars. When they stand you doing them a complete disservice. In the summer time I commute with it to Cape Town which is a 100 km round trip once or twice a week. The mechanical fuel injection especially needs a workout as they can become quite complex if you just leave them.
“This car is fitted with the M10 engine, it is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit. They are generally bulletproof, but it is a 50-year old car. A couple of years ago I had a technician go through the car back to front. I would say the most problematic thing on these is the mechanical fuel injection system – they are complex and to work on them is time consuming and there is not a lot of expertise in South Africa to work on them.
“I’ve done the brakes, I’ve replaced the pistons and rings and I’ve done the whole suspension system. This was more preventative maintenance than anything else. The car has never left me stranded next to the road and is as reliable as any other car. Because I want to keep it, and keep it on the road, I believe in doing preventative maintenance.
“The wheels are period-correct 15-inch Alpinas. When these cars came out they had 13-inch wheels. I searched for these Alpinas for about three to four years and eventually came across a lady in Berlin who advertised them. I put in a bid on the auction and thankfully won it. The interior features period-correct Recaro seats. It is an upgrade a lot of enthusiasts did as the standard seats in a 2002 are quite flat. I’ve also fitted the fog light at the back and the two Cibie Oscar lights at the front.
“The best trip I’ve done in this car was actually in the UK when I bought it. In 2003 there was an Ayrton Senna festival at Donington Park and I drove the car there from London. That was very special because of my connection and love for Ayrton Senna.
To find out more about why so many car manufacturers fit Continental tyres to their cars, go here.