When Rob Daehn drives his ’72 BMW 2002 he gets repeated thumbs-up and high-fives. The static stance of the rusting 2002 on shiny SSR wheels means you’d never guess it was originally a grandma’s car!
Growing up, Rob started working on cars with his dad. Although he was into Barracudas and Bumble Bees, it taught Rob how to build cars. Now 39, he grew out of his ’64 Impala lowrider phase and wanted to create a modern twist on a classic hot rod theme.
Most of the build was dedicated to achieving the correct stance, and Rob’s earlier involvement with the drift scene and JDM crowd got him thinking about transplanting Nissan S14 front suspension into the 2002. To his amazement, the S14 is very similar to the BMW, with only 10mm difference in track width.
With the parts ordered, Rob started on the upper front strut mounts. They were raised 38mm and molded into the shaved engine bay to look stock. Fitted with shortened E30 M3 Koni adjustable struts, it would allow him to lower the body without losing all suspension movement. He then added Ground Control’s coilover conversion kit that would allow him to adjust the height of the 500 lb Eibach springs. The original 2002 spindles were then welded to the shortened struts, while camber plates gave him even more adjustability.
Rob bent the Circuit Sport S14 adjustable control arms by 30˚ to prevent the suspension binding. He then reinforced it with a tension rod and fabricated his own 22mm sway bar. Finally, he added an AKG Motorsport bumpsteer strut spacer.
The rear received similar attention, raising the towers 57mm before adding custom heim joints to the Pro Comp aluminum coilovers with custom valving and 800 lb Eibach springs.
The rear subframe then got AKG’s solid aluminum mounts, and Ireland Engineering’s 22mm sway bar finished it off.
Intrigued by Rob’s unique blend of JDM and BMW parts, Jay Morris from Ground Control helped dial-in the precise spring rates and camber angles.
For braking, Rob originally used Volvo 240 four-piston front calipers and ’83 VW Rabbit rotors. However, he’s since switched to a brake kit from BMW specialist, Massive Brakes. It included Wilwood four-piston calipers with 12" front and 11" rear rotors mounted with Massive hats.
Steel braided lines connect the calipers to a BMW 750 master cylinder, operated by an E30 pedal assembly and billet Comp Brake handbrake.
Impressed with the quality of the parts, Rob felt the brakes were “like a work of art.” Wanting to show them off, he ordered SSR Professor 2 wheels after taking careful measurements. He then received 16x8" front and 16x9" rear wheels, to which he stretched Yokohama S.drive rubber.
With all his suspension changes, it was possible to tuck the wheels under the body, so Rob created homemade fender flares all round. “The wheels totally create the sex appeal of the car,” Rob said. “They bring brand-new components to the old school rat-style.”
Wanting to build what Rob described as a “garage stroker,” he replaced the 2002 motor with the M20 from a ’90 E30 325e. It was delivered to Dell Machine Shop in Sacremento, CA where it was bored for 85mm JE pistons and modified to accept the E36 M3’s S52 crank. Equipped with forged rods, the displacement was increased to 3.2 liters.
Up top, a reground 272˚ cam increased top-end power, while custom chip tuning was carried out by Schatz & Krum in Sacramento. The “bulletproof” M20 was mated to an E36 transmission with shorter first-through-third gears. It was held in place with a custom frame-rail brace and AKG mounts.
The 4.11:1 diff is from an E24 6-Series. It sits in a casing made from E30 and E9 halves that were welded together and held in a custom subframe.
The interior was gutted but gained a motorsport theme as safety equipment was added. The Sparco Sprint 5 seats are the most obvious additions; joined by a Sparco shift knob and pedals along with an Auto Power rollcage and Crow Racing six-point harnesses for the drift events he attends. Steering is managed by an E30 column, E21 rack and Sparco 215 wheel.
The exterior shares the same raw look as the interior. In fact, the 2002’s “leopard print pattern” was created by a grinder and is still a work in progress. The hood and trunk, however, are carbon fiber from American Fiber.
For custom work, Rob recessed the rear license plate, made exhaust cut-outs and designed his own front air vents above the “temporary” chin spoiler.
Rob plans to continue working on his car, hoping to add a carbon front spoiler, bumpers and door cards. He also wants to fit individual throttle bodies on the M20.
As a work in progress, the owner thoroughly enjoys his creation. Although it’s been six years in the making, the blend of rat-look and motorsport give this classic BMW an utterly unique look that we’re sure will inspire many more tuners out there.
et Tech Spec
1972 BMW 2002
Owner: Rob Daehn
Location: Sacramento, CA
Occupation: Starbucks manager
Engine: 3.2L M20 325e with S52 forged crank, 85mm JE pistons, forged connecting rods, 272˚ cam, Schatz & Krum chip-tuning, HKS filter, honed intake manifold, Ireland Engineering headers, custom mandrel-bent catless 3" Magnaflow exhaust with center-exit tailpipes, E36 318i radiator
Drivetrain: five-speed E36 transmission, shorter first, second and third gears, UUC Motorwerks Ultimate short shifter, lightweight flywheel and clutch kit, 4.11:1 E24 diff in custom casing and subframe, AKG Motorsport polyurethane mounts
Brakes: Wilwood four-piston calipers front and rear, 12x1.75" front and 11x1.5" rear Wilwood rotors with Massive hats, billet Comp Brake hydraulic handbrake, E30 brake pedal assembly, BMW 750 master cylinder, braided lines
Suspension: shortened E30 M3 Koni adjustable front struts with Ground Control coilover kit in 38mm raised strut towers with camber plates, 500 lb Eibach springs, Circuit Sport S14 adjustable control arms, tension rods, AKG Motorsport bumpsteer strut spacers, custom 22mm front sway bar. Aluminum Pro Comp adjustable rear coilovers with 800 lb Eibach springs in 57mm raised towers, upper and lower heim-joint mounts, AKG solid aluminum subframe mounts, Ireland Engineering 22mm sway bar. E30 steering column, European E21 steering rack, Peak Perfomance tie-rods
Wheels & Tires: 16x8" front, 16x9" rear SSR Professor 2 wheels with 195/40 R16 and 205/40 R16 Yokohama S.drive tires
Exterior: custom front spoiler, fender flares, skid plate, carbon hood and trunk, Vitaloni mirrors, Sparco fuel cap, Hella lamps, Xenon HID headlight conversion
Interior: Sparco Sprint 5 seats, 215 steering wheel, shift knob and pedals, Crow Racing six-point harnesses, Auto Power cage
Thanks: Nita, Sofia, Emilia, Tony, Mach at TNT, Jay at Ground Control, Mark at fatlace.com, Nelson Parker, massivebrakes.com