What do you remember from 1969? If you're like me, you probably weren't even born yet! But for those who can recall, you might remember such milestones as Richard Nixon's presidential inauguration, or the Apollo 11 mission putting the first man on the moon. If you're a music fan, you can't forget the first-annual Woodstock festival, where Jimi Hendrix mesmerized the crowd.
Back then, European car manufacturers were still trying to tap into the US market. And for BMW, that meant gaining recognition of the 2002, the forerunner to the 3-Series. Although over 800,000 were built, only 80,000 made it to the USA, including this vintage'69 masterpiece rebuilt by Groma Race Fabrications in Irwindale, CA.
"We bought the car and sold it to a friend of mine," explained Ed Haroutonian, owner and chief fabricator at Groma. "All the bodywork and painting was done before we sold it, including the 2002 Turbo fenders and front air dam. We had already installed a high-compression M10 motor from an E30 318i. After a few months, another friend sent us motor mounts to swap in an M20 motor. So, we decided to buy the car back and finish the project."
Ed had already taken the car a long way by ditching the original '69 2.0 twin carburetor engine for a 318i motor. Swapping in a six cylinder 12v M20 motor would prove to be a harder task, but he was determined to give the car more power.
The M20 displacement ranged from 2.0 to 2.7 liters, so Ed sourced an S52 crankshaft from an E36 M3 to lengthen the stroke. He also added larger 85mm JE pistons to increase the bore, resulting in a new 3.2 liter displacement. For more top-end power, Ed reground a 272 cam to keep the intake valves open longer. Finally, forged connecting rods ensured the new power would be reliable.
"When it came time to drop the motor into the car, none of the mounts lined up," Ed recalled. "Since we're fabricators, we made new motor and transmission mounts, shortened the driveshaft and balanced it. We also got the motor to sit lower in the car to help with its center of gravity. We pushed the motor back to the firewall and removed the front core support so we could fit an oversized aluminum radiator with electric fan."
The new stroker motor improved power to 250hp and 200 lb/ft of torque, which would be more than enough for this 2225 lb car.
While Ed and his team labored under the hood, they also swapped in a five-speed manual transmission and rebuilt the differential from an E21 3-Series with a 3.45:1 final drive. Most naturally-aspirated motors are geared for more advanced acceleration, but the lightweight 2002 had enough low-end power so the gearing could be increased.
The next upgrade was the suspension. Since this was going to be a regular track car, Ed used parts from Ireland Engineering to rebuild the front suspension. Coilover bodies, camber plates, plus sway and strut bars were installed without problems. Ed then fabricated a four-point strut brace and radiator support to increase rigidity.
Ed crafted a setup for the rear using inverted Pro-Shocks for the track. Then, polyurethane bushings were added all-around for longevity.
Braking power would also be an important characteristic, especially since the old system was designed for 100hp. To update the front brakes, Ed sourced parts from a Volvo 240 consisting of four-piston calipers with larger rotors. The rear featured the bulletproof trailing arms and disc brakes from a European E21.
Since keeping the 2002 in contact with the pavement would be a difficult, Ed opted for sticky 225/50-15 Toyo T1R tires. The 15x8" Axis Oldskool wheels were then painted gold.
Ed also mentioned there was a set of BBS for the track matched to race tires, but the '02 is typically setup for daily driving.
The final upgrade was the interior. After stripping the car, he welded in a 1.5" six-point rollcage. The motorsport theme was then enhanced with Sparco seats and a Momo steering wheel. As a finishing touch, a Stack instrument cluster was fitted.
Since the BMW's completion, Ed's taken it to a few track events and on a rally from LA to Monterey, CA. Several exotic car owners were surprised the little '02 kept pace with their six-figure cars.
A word of advice: don't be fooled next time you see a 2002. Although built in the '60s, a simple motor swap enables these classics to become speed-hungry warriors.
Tech Spec1969 BMW 2002Owner: Ed HaroutonianLocation: Irwindale, CAOccupation: Groma Race Fabrications
Engine: 3.2 liter 12v i-6 with S52 crank and connecting rods, 85mm JE pistons with 9.5:1 compression, 272 reground cam, oversized aluminum radiator, Groma custom exhaust
Drivetrain: five-speed manual transmission, 3.45:1 final drive
Suspension: Ireland Engineering front suspension, with coilover bodies and camber plates, inverted rear Pro-Shocks, Ireland Engineering front and rear sway bars, 323i rear trailing arms, Groma four-point strut brace and radiator support
Brakes: Volvo four-piston front brake kit, rear disc brakes
Wheels & Tires: 15x8" Axis wheels with 225/50-15 Toyo Proxes T1R tires
Exterior: OE front air dam and Turbo flares, car painted red
Interior: Stack instrument cluster, Sparco seats, Groma six-point 1.5" TIG-welded rollcage, Momo steering wheel
Thanks: Mano Agulian, Harvey and Sean Patterson from Sirius Gearheads, Ireland Engineering, Ricardo Vega
Contact: Groma Race Fabrications (818/402-3008, www.gromafab.com)
Behind The Builder"Six years ago, I was homeless; I had no direction," Ed revealed. "I was even in and out of jail a few times. But the last time I was imprisoned, I knew that was it. This wasn't what my life was about. My older brother put pressure on me to fix my life and through him I met Mano Agulian, a pastor and car enthusiast. He took me under his wing and taught me fabrication."
After Mano's instruction, Ed started on the path toward custom cars at Ireland Engineering, where he worked for four years. He later broke away and started Groma Race Fabrications, keeping a close relationship with Ireland.
Because Ireland only focuses on producing and selling parts, Ed saw a demand for fabrication and wrenching on cars. Today, Groma specializes in custom parts, rollcages, custom exhausts, turbo piping and intercoolers. Their direction is geared toward racecar setups and exotic show cars.
"We've been behind the scenes on several SEMA cars, but we're stepping out with some of our own projects like the 2002 and an E30 V8 coming soon. And there's plenty more in the pipeline!" Ed promised.