How vintage iron and modern tech made this iconic BMW truly better than new

Most people really like some classic car or another. Maybe it’s a vintage Mustang or some classic Alfa Romeo, but if you ask around, there’s usually some special car that each person would love to own someday. But there’s a part of the old car experience that people tend to forget: old cars are terrible compared to their current-day cousins. They generally have less engine power, they rattle and shake, and air conditioning was far from universal. Even people who are old enough to have driven these cars when they were new tend to forget the difference– they just remember how much they loved their cars back in the day. Rose tinted glasses and so forth.

However, there’s no denying that old cars have a certain panache that is mostly missing from our current ultra-reliable, super-quiet, fuel efficient grocery getters. Now that they’re mostly gone from the roads, a classic car stands out from the boring sameness of the wind-tunnel-tested modern designs. It doesn’t take a car lover to realize that old cars have got a heart and soul that can’t be duplicated.

You can have it all

The point of all this musing is simple: You can have the classic car experience along with new car convenience – at a price. That’s what Allen Gharapetian, Vice President of Marketing and Product Planning for Clarion Audio, set out to achieve.

“The 2002 was not an easy choice, but it was a unanimous choice.”

“I like things to be genuine, with tasteful modifications. You can see really built-up show cars with 22-inch wheels sitting on the ground, but I wanted to be authentic, to make something that someone can actually drive,” Allen says.

Allen started Clarion Builds to bring older cars up to as-new condition, with some strategic updates to modernize the driving experience. Of course, that includes an up-to-date infotainment system. He works for a car audio company, after all.  You may not be familiar with the term, but that process is called “resto-mod” – combining restoration with modification to produce a car that looks more or less like it did when it was new, but includes current technology.

“We want to build cars that you would love to look at and to sit in, but you could also drive it anywhere you wanted to go. It’s supposed to give you the pleasure of driving,” Allen says.

The first car to go through the Clarion Builds process was a 1974 BMW 2002. This was the car that really sparked BMW as a performance brand, and it’s instantly recognizable on the road.

“The 2002 was not an easy choice, but it was a unanimous choice. We looked at Detroit iron, but we wanted something that also would appeal to a wide group of enthusiasts, including younger people who are also interested in our products,” Allen says.

The long grind

When you set out to build a resto-mod, the process doesn’t happen overnight. What you’re doing is taking the car completely apart and then rebuilding it as a new car. You start with the body and chassis – fixing any rust and dents that have accumulated over the years, and sending all the mechanical parts out for rebuild.

“We love the car, and anyone else who drives it loves it too.”

Many resto-mod builders opt for a brand-new drivetrain. Allen could have dropped a modern engine and transmission into the vintage chassis, but he chose to stay with the original 1974 engine. To get some driveline improvement, he mated the old engine to a newer BMW 5-speed gearbox and rear end.

When the body is painted and the engine is done, the car has to be reassembled with as much care as the factory used when it was new.  Allen had the suspension modernized, including a full set of aftermarket Wilwood brakes and modern Koni struts. He even found a set of vintage 15-inch BBS wheels that were restored to as-new condition.

On the inside, the old BMW got a complete makeover with leather upholstery, suede headliner, fresh glass, and a custom installation (using all Clarion components, of course) with a state-of-the-art infotainment setup including GPS navigation, Bluetooth, and a full set of amps and speakers.

The result is as close to a 2015 BMW 2002 as you can get, and the price of rebuilding an older car is about the same as buying a new one. Although this BMW still lacks air conditioning, it rides and behaves like a brand new car. By using new parts in key areas like the brakes and suspension – and rolling on the latest Toyo tires – you can get the benefits of a new car along with the unique look and feel of a classic.

“We love the car, and anyone else who drives it loves it too,” Allen says.

The dream come true

It’s all well and good to talk about how great some car is, but it doesn’t really matter unless everyone has a shot at getting behind the wheel. With this completed resto-mod, you do have that chance.

“The idea of using this car to benefit others dawned on us very early on. When we were done, we knew there would be a lot of shows but in order to make an impact, we wanted to auction the car and pick a charity to benefit,” Allen says.

This BMW will be auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach auction next April and all proceeds will be donated to a cancer charity. So if you just gotta have this vintage Bimmer, your way forward is clear. If this story has you thinking about your own dream car, then that’s even better.

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