Youth Project

A BMW as a first car?Classic cars are inevitably a work-in-progress, even when freshly baked. You commit fully when you own an oldie, but the extra effort that comes with it is normally rewarded by a character-filled car that can be an important part of one’s life and of course, have decent value in the long term.

The old car ‘thing’ often comes from a parent, or a car that links to one’s past, or simply to a long-forgotten car parked in the yard, being slowly nibbled away by the dreaded tinworm, while anything made of rubber atrophies and the upholstery turns to dust. Then there are the legal issues of registering a car which may have been off-system for decades, and has got R5 000 in licensing arrears to be sorted out…

On a more practical level, there are safety issues to consider (ABS, airbags – what are they?) and reliability: cars don’t break down nearly as often as they used to, thanks to the demise of humble condenser and points ignition, and the carburettor. They require far less maintenance and use way less fuel and generate a lot less pollution.

Let’s face it, even hardened enthusiasts don’t use their classics as daily drives. But we’ve set out to build, as a long-term project, a Modern Classic which will be exactly that, and simultaneously introduce an 18-year-old to the joys of personal transport.

The ‘Modern’ part of that phrase is important: the car needs to provide standards of safety, reliability, and economy associated with a more modern generation of car – without losing the appeal and period look of the original.

We’ve set out to build a BMW 2002, but the philosophy behind the project can just as easily be applied to a Ford Escort, Alfa Giulia Sprint, or Datsun 510.  Owners can tap into a network of enthusiasts, where both information and parts can be donated, swapped or sold to help a like-minded individual. The Internet has also made the world much smaller in this regard.

In addition, we’ve partnered with respected motor industry component and service providers who will use the opportunity to show off their wares and/or skills.

First to sign on the dotted line was Bavarian Auto Recyclers. They provide a wide array of parts for BMW models old and newish and will be supplying a 1.9-litre M44 multivalve engine and a compatible five-speed box, both from the E36 generation Three, replacing the carburetted M10 lump and its four-speed box.

Project beginnings...Also on board is Cornrights, a panelbeating and spraypainting business founded in 1964 by patriarch Aldo Corna, with the business now run by his son Peter. Interestingly, this will be the third generation of Burford male to use Cornrights: in 1973 they painted my father’s 1948 Cadillac, and in the course of the 1990s and into the next decade they painted, repaired and decalled numerous race cars campaigned by this author – and now they’re going to paint a car for my son! Highly respected, they operate out of modern premises in Midrand where the Glasurit Academy is also based, and the 2002 project will be used to help train young spray-painters.

Next up is Evolution 2 Motorsport, something of a legend when it comes to building and running Beemer race cars, as well as servicing and repairing older cars with the roundel on the bonnet. They’re going to be our official workshop, and will handle the main part of the rebuild – with James serving an ‘apprenticeship’ under one of Alec Ceprnich’s regular technicians. This will also hopefully act as an example to others of how to manage a process like this:  you don’t want to modify a gear-lever aperture on a car which already has had its interior fitted, for example.

Finally, Autobarn, a parts and spares chain with its roots in Australia and fairly new to the local scene, will be our retail partner. Through their various suppliers they will contribute everything from wipers to lubricants to brake pads, and will also hopefully be able to show that huge cost savings can be achieved by using ‘generic’ rather than BMW specific parts.

So the ball is rolling and by the time you read this, the donor body will be at Cornright Motors, with a long and arduous revitalisation process about to start.

CPCA readers can keep abreast of developments with Project 2002 on or in Automotive Business Review, a leading trade magazine aimed at the parts and components industry. Visit to find out more. Please also follow the build on Adrian's and James Facebook Page: BMW 2002 Youth Project.

"Wow, my very own car, and not just any old hand-me-down hatchback but a BMW 2002! Okay, so right now it is just a slightly rusty bodyshell, a pile of parts and a picture in my head, but hopefully by July next year it’ll be shiny and red, with a 16-valve engine and a racy exhaust note to listen to when I’ve turned down the volume on my iPod… 

A BMW as my first car? I can’t remember the last time I was this excited for a birthday! I think it goes without saying that I’ll have the coolest first car of all my mates. Working throughout the July school holidays to strip the car to its bare, rusty shell has been tedious work but it has really opened my eyes as to how big a project this is going to be and how much work it will actually involve.

Nevertheless, I’m stoked to be part of the process of building my own car and to be given an opportunity like this to learn something along the way. It will be a tough project for all the partners involved but with their expertise and my elbow grease the end result is sure to be something special, and will suit the needs of a teenager such as myself. Bring it on!" - James Burford

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