– A 47 year old car. Check!
– A car I have never driven before. Check!
– A car I actually haven’t even seen in real life. Check!
– A 2000km long roadtrip. Check!
The above were the words from my friend Anders. Who many people know as “02Anders”. And yes, he did it again, the serial carbuyer, auto romantic, my old mentor: He has bought another classic car. He is very good at that and this was indeed how I met him back in 2009. We became friends and shortly afterwards he helped me find my first non-British classic, another BMW 2002.
It will be quite obvious that Anders likes his BMW 2002’s. And that he is rather good at finding them. But currently he is living in Hong Kong. While his new car is in the north of Sweden. It shall live in the middle of Denmark. And Anders will share the car with an Australian friend…arh, this is complicated. Let him explain it himself:
Ehrm… hang on a second. This doesn’t sound like a terribly rational decision, does it?
Let’s just rewind a bit, because – as is always the case – it obviously all starts with a dream. I have owned and played with BMW 02’s for more than 20 years now. It started aged only 16 when I bought my ’73 BMW 2002 – a car that I still own to this day. I’ve always been into maintaining the originality of my classics, but with time my interest in the earliest incarnations of a given model grew exponentially. From a time before an array of facelifts where introduced, and from before the bean counters where allowed too much power. This is where it gets a bit nerdy: The 02-model received two facelifts in its lifespan – the first in 04/71 and then the big one in 09/73 where it among other things lost its characteristic round rear lights. The pre-04/71 models have a fabulous simplicity and functionality to them – it’s a thoroughly clean design and an uncluttered feel. There’s nothing here that you don’t strictly need.
And now, this is where it gets very nerdy. Because further to the above, the first one and a half years of production lead to several small changes. These changes can’t really be justified as facelifts in their own right, as most of them just happened along the way. It was really more a question of streamlining the production a little – and already here did the bean counters have their say. These very early models – from the production of the very first BMW 1600-2 in March 1966 and up to the ’68-model was introduced in September 1967 – quickly evolved to becoming my Dream #1! But while dreaming I also kept learning about all the special little details that these early 02’s possess, and with time it became clear that even a ’67 just wouldn’t cut it for me. It simply had to be a genuine ’66-model, which was only produced between March and August 1966 – a mere 6 months. But only here would all those initial unique details – which were later lost – still be intact.
However, it’s no easy feat finding a ’66 BMW 1600-2, as the production was so short and most have since been lost to the sound of decaying bodywork. Furthermore some of the few that still exist have been restored through the 80’s and 90’s , and as a ’66 at that time wasn’t regarded as anything special, they were often updated to look like a more recent 02. But lacking all the ’66 detailing really leaves them kind of pointless. Luckily I came to know of a BMW 1600-2 up in the very most northern corner of Sweden, which by all means ticked all the boxes! With a VIN number of 1504010 it was produced on the 25th of August 1966, and to add to all its awesomeness it even wears one of my all time favourite colours – Derby Grey (colour code 056). It just doesn’t get much more 60’s chic! Besides continued maintenance through the years and a respray in its original colour during the 90’s, it’s still utterly original, untouched and unspoilt. Just one little nagging problem, really: The owner, Mats Helstroem, was not interested in selling. But I obviously declared my interest and we stayed in touch.
Then suddenly last winter an email popped up in my inbox from Mats: He was considering whether the time had come for the 1600-2 to have a new custodian. The timing couldn’t possibly have been much worse as at the time I was coming towards the end of a 7 month stay in Australia, was about to embark on moving my family to Hong Kong, and on top of that I really didn’t have the finances to fund yet another classic in my garage. But I couldn’t possibly let this fabulous chance pass me by. Luckily the little ’66 also caught the interest of my aussie mate and 02-enthusiast, Alvin Chua, and we quickly agreed that it would be ideal as our co-owned classic for European meets and drives. A deal was struck with Mats which included the ’66 staying put in his garage until summer, where the weather – and not least my calendar – would be more inviting for a roadtrip from Piteaa and to its new home in Denmark.
So the last couple of weeks have gone by planning this epic journey. And a real journey it will be! Because this is not simply a matter of transporting the ’66 to Denmark as quickly as possible, but rather an obvious opportunity for a full-blown roadtrip and a journey back in time – perhaps to 1966… First of all an old friend of mine from the UK, Paul Hill, who I got to know through classic BMW’s more than 10 years ago, immediately signed up for this adventure. So while I’m flying from my new home in Hong Kong to Luleaa, he’s doing the same from London to Luleaa. We’re well aware that we could simply blast southbound and complete the trip in two days, but that would just be missing the whole point with this journey back to better times when everything was simpler and more charming.
Nope, instead we’re as far as possible going to stick to backroads, we’ll stop for a break whenever we pass something beautiful or otherwise interesting, we’ll take a ton of pictures, and more than anything we’ll just enjoy the car, the roads, the nature, the small villages we pass through, the food and of course the good company. In other words: We’ll allow ourselves time! Something the modern world rarely allows us to do anymore, but it seems the right thing to do in a ’66. There is no definite plan and also no definite route, but we expect to follow the east coast down to Stockholm. From there we hope to visit the beautiful Motala Motor Museum on the waterfront in Motala and possibly stay the night in their Hotell Nostalgi, which has a cosy old-school charm to it. The Saab Car Museum in Trollhattan is certainly also an option, and Kagerod just outside Malmo is the home of Swedens best known 02-magician when it comes to historic motorsports.
Add to that a couple of Swedish friends that we would like to visit on our travels, and there’s certainly potential for a great roadtrip. But the plan and the route can change at any T-junction, if the road to the left seems more inviting than does the one to the right. Of course certain things can’t be left unplanned, and Mats has promised me that the ’66 will be ready for the trip with insurance and a fresh MOT. I’ve also arranged for Walloth & Nesch (www.wallothnesch.com), Europes leading specialist in spares for classic BMW’s from the 60’s and 70’s, to send a large spares package up to Mats in Piteaa, ready to dump in the boot before Paul and I depart, just in case we need a few repairs on our roadtrip. Hopefully it won’t become necessary, but it would be rather silly to have to cover the last 1000km of our trip on the back of a tow-truck, just because we didn’t have a fresh distributor cap with us…
So is this a perfectly rational decision? Nope, not really. Actually not at all! But it has the potential to be the motoring experience of a lifetime and a true adventure. Besides, we’ll be driving German engineering, so despite its 47 years, I’m sure the little BMW will hold up fine on our travels.
Famous last words…
With these initial words from Anders, let me add a sincere thank you for inviting me to join you on the trip, which unfortunately didn’t fit my schedule. Instead we at ViaRETRO decided to support the trip the best way we know: By featuring Anders & Paul’s story, and letting all of you follow their journey down through Sweden. First of all we wish them all the best – and secondly we hope some of you out there may become inspired: It just seems like such a brilliant idea to combine buying a classic with an epic roadtrip.
First installment of the series will be brought to you tomorrow. And from there we’ll follow the travellers through thick and thin – “Hals- und Beinbruch!”, as the German saying goes.