Blame me. It’s all my fault.
I was just beginning my academic career teaching photography at Montclair State University in New Jersey, and part of my pedagogical charge was convincing my students that BMW’s spritely little 2002, not Detroit’s heavy iron, was the way to automotive Nirvana. (This was a long time ago, back when you could still buy one new.)
Some of my students were more receptive than others to this idea, especially if they’d already experienced German cars. Having customized a 1961 VW Beetle with his dad upon turning 16, Karl Klewiada proved particularly amenable to my instruction.
“Professor Schnitzer introduced me to the world of BMW 2002s, and it was an incredible eye-opener,” Klewiada recalls. “Who would ever think that a boxy car like that could be so amazing to drive? Not to mention that Klaus had an even higher passion for extreme driving than me. I think the BMW 2002s just naturally bring that out in people!”
Klewiada got his first BMW in 1979, when he bought a new 320iS. Since then, he’s had a slew of interesting European cars, including a 2008 M3 that he regrets selling and a 2009 Porsche 911 4S, plus a Kawasaki KZ900 and a 1979 BMW R100 motorcycle.
Through it all, the 2002’s simplicity continued to appeal, and so did the car’s driving dynamics. More importantly, perhaps, the car’s ease of modification drew him back. A Bellingham, Washington builder of extraordinarily clever and interesting objects who began his career as a wind-tunnel model maker at Boeing, Klewiada planned to personalize his 2002 before he’d even started looking for one.
His first choice was a tii, naturally enough, but good examples were few and far between in the Pacific Northwest. When a co-worker mentioned that one of his Boeing teammates owned a 2002 that had been parked under a tarp for about ten years, Klewiada was ready to compromise. The car was a 1976 model that had left the factory in Inka orange but now wore Granada red, and though it wasn’t running it would serve as a good starting point for a resto-mod. It didn’t hurt that Klewiada’s son Eric had started taking auto body classes at a local technical college, turning the 2002 into an educational father-son project.