Rare racer, revived

A mysterious e-mail leads to a long-dormant BMW race car with a genuine 2.0-liter Schnitzer motor under the hood. Freshly restored by Mario Langsten, a racer gives up its secrets.

January 19, 2017
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It’s purely a coincidence that my last name is on the windshield, because this full-race BMW is definitely not my car. First, I can’t reach the pedals. The seat position is fixed, and the only way I can reach the controls is to stuff a life jacket (!) behind my back before buckling in. Second, I’m sitting so low in the cockpit that I could wear a stovepipe hat and still have room to spare, and I can barely see over the dash. Where’s that panoramic view I remember from my old 2002s?

As I’m trying to get comfortable, the car’s restorer and custodian, Mario Langsten of Vintage Sports and Restoration in Bow, New Hampshire, points to a red switch. I press it, and the sliding throttle injection squirts fuel into the 2.0-liter, 16-valve, twin-cam M10 four as the ignition sparks it raucously to life.

The pressure’s on: Can I master the finicky, on/off racing clutch well enough to launch this Schnitzer-powered 2002 without stalling? Can I turn a few respectable laps here at Club Motorsports in Tamworth, New Hampshire before bringing this rare beast safely back to the pits?

That old race car aroma

The car I’m driving has a long history as an active race car in Germany and the U.S. Before we get to that, however, we need to tell the story of how Langsten came to be involved with it, and how he discovered its secrets.

It started with an e-mail to Bimmer Tech Q&A, which editor Mike Miller says “arrived looking like any other BMW technical question” in the fall of 2012.

“It wasn’t,” Miller recalls. “The owner of an ’02-bodied race car, [Lynford Bentley] had passed away, leaving the car to his girlfriend. Her name was Belinda Horne, and she somehow found my e-mail address. She needed to value the car in order to offer it for sale.”

Also from Issue 145

  • James Clay's BimmerWorld E92 M3
  • 2017 G30 5 Series first drive
  • 2017 F30 330e road test
  • Engine chief Ilka Horstmeier
  • Buyer's Guide: Durable BMWs
  • BMW saves its trademark in 1949
  • BMW saves its kidneys in 1961
  • Andrew Korinis' 2012 1M Coupe
  • Craig Zaller's 2001 E39 M5 & 2002 Z8
  • TC Rivers' 1966 1800
  • Tim Duncan's 1972 E9 3.0 CS
  • Jeremy Barbakow's 1982 E24 645 CSi
  • Britt Vail's 1995 E36 M3
  • Antoni Miller's 1976 2002
  • Jack Deren
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