This article was first published in November 1999.
Tanunda's a beautiful town just over an hour out of the city of Adelaide. Located in the wine-growing area of the Barossa Valley, the locals who line the streets for lunch have always got time to speak to a 'rubber neck out-of-town-er'. It's a very respectable community that gives an air of untouched innocence. Brian Fechner's a good example of most of Tanunda's people - he's brimming with small town humour and slang. So it's a little surprising when you hear his BMW 2002 slinking down the main street, the strength of a Vortech supercharger whining away. It sure makes you look up from your country-baked pastry!
Brian uses this 2002 as the spare family car, but whenever there's an excuse to fire it up, you can bet your bottom dollar he will. Brian's poor wife has all but lost what was to be "her" car! But I suppose she probably suspected something like this might happen when it was a 2002 that hubby bought for "her". Brian had already owned two 2002s and various other Bee-Ems - and he also wasn't adverse to tinkering with them...
The very first thing to be changed on this car was the headlights. The standard lights are pretty poor to say the least, so they were promptly swapped for a set of modern Hella H4s. And to power the improved road lighting, a bigger alternator yanked off a Commodore was required. Then - damn it - the carb wore out! This was the break Brian subliminally needed. Off came the carburetor set-up and on went an assortment of other BMW intake items. A 320i intake manifold bolted straight up, as did a 318i fuel rail and 323i injectors. Then a high pressure Bosch fuel pump was plumbed into the stock tank. A programmable EFI system built in Melbourne - an Injec unit - was wired in to control both fuel and ignition.
Being bought from outback Broken Hill, the interior of the car was pretty well stuffed from sun damage - and what Brian calls the "glass house" cabin design didn't help either. So this was another area where he got stuck into things, fitting velour seats from an imported CRX, having the rest of the trim re-upholstered to match, and removing all of the standard wood-grain trimming for a cleaner look. The previously-fitted small diameter sports twirler was left in place. A superfluous head unit from a BMW 318i was slid into the dash and the cabin equipped with a set of Eurovox 6 inch speakers. And to go with the more highly tuned engine, there are also now boost and oil pressure gauges to keep an eye on.
This lot of upgrades certainly made the BMW much more comfortable for his wife to drive...
This was all good 'n' dandy but the allure of those new Vortech superchargers from the 'States was too intense for Brian to ignore. As he gladly admits, he's a bit of a "cheque book mechanic"!
So on went a Vortech centrifugal blower that's actually one size bigger than the company recommends for a two litre engine. It's run up to 15 psi and blows straight onto the mouth of a stock 320i throttle body.
There's no room for any form of intercooling, but a simple locally sourced methanol injection kit sourced was fitted "to freeze the intake". This uses a pressure switch for activation, while a tank is kept in the boot alongside the engine battery.
Brian confesses "I don't know what possessed me to do it", 'coz within a few weeks the engine had expired due to detonation. He then bit the bullet and went for a proper engine build that could cope with the hyperventilating of the Vortech. A set of forged flat top slugs was slid into the bores and some machining-out of the combustion chambers was also performed. The resulting static compression ratio was cut down to just under 7.0:1 - a fairly low compression ratio in anyone's books. And to prevent oil surge problems, a new baffled sump was also bolted the underside of the block. The otherwise plenty strong 2002 bottom end was left stock-as. A little higher up the mountain is a Lowe cam that's a bit wilder than stock and more suited to the torque characteristics of the force-inducted mill.
Introducing the Vortech meant more fuel was also needed to ensure the motor wouldn't lean out under boost - which lead to the fitment of four Group A spec BMW injectors to replace the 323i ones. An additional fuel pump was also added to prevent some of the fuel surge problems that had been experienced, and a swirl pot (made by the "blokes at the winery") was mounted in the boot. By the way, Tanunda is the place for wine - even Brian was heading off to "try a few vintages" after our photo shoot!
Big blows of exhaust gas are released into a free-flowing exhaust system that kicks off with a wonderfully fabricated 4>2>1 equal length extractor system (which is also heat wrapped). The flange then bolts up to a 2¾ inch exhaust pipe equipped with two resonators and a rear muffler (all of the straight-through variety). But it's still boisterously loud - "it's destroyed her toy car," Brian told us.
Dyno'd in Melbourne during final tuning, the car is capable of around 270hp at the flywheel - and that's way more than the old 2002's driveline could contend with. In fact, the original gearbox blew up in the pre-supercharged stage, which goes to prove how flimsy the stock drive system is. It was initially beefed-up with a 4-speed Getrag 'box from a larger 6 cylinder 528i, but inside this was a completely inappropriate set of ratios. So on went another interchangeable unit - a 5-speed E21 318i gearbox. This is much more suited to the engine's torque characteristics, and is linked to the flywheel via an E23 323i clutch plate with a Holden 1 tonne pressure plate.
Out back is another upgrade found in the BMW parts range - there's an E21 model 323i LSD branching out into 320i axles. Fitting these axles made it easy to bolt up larger 320i drum brakes at the rear... these complement the 320i vented discs fitted under the nose. But to enable Brian to have some fun in the car out at the Mallala race track (remember, this was his wife's car!), a set of Race Brakes pads are fitted - which are good enough to let him slip in four sprint laps without fade.
Under each guard are ex-rally car 14 inch Cheviot alloys clad in 195/55 Dunlop W1 Spec R stickies. However, track use sees a wider set of E30 model steel rims, wearing Yokohama Advan race tyres. Running around in these, the car has done a best time of 1 min 27 sec around Mallala - but it should do better. Brian's really only in it for fun, and says with more sorting, that time could improve considerably. Still, it accelerates to 185km/h down the back straight - though Brian says it feels more like 300!
He added, "I really wouldn't want to find its limit". It's got pretty large turn-in understeer - which, he says, is a big change from the 2002's usual oversteer. This is probably due to the front sway bar being double the standard size and the rear bar measuring about 50 per cent bigger than stock. King springs lower the body a good two inches in road trim, though this is dropped further at the track using the adjustable spring platforms. Lastly, a Holden front camber kit lets Brian dial in some neg.
The sorely-needed body and paintwork was done about three years ago with some basic rust and dent removal and included stripping of all the factory chrome work (bar the trademark BMW grille of course). A set of dinky aftermarket mirrors was also stuck on the leading edges of the doors, slightly lower than the usual. This was so Brian had enough clearance to pop the front quarter windows - but since he never does, he often wonders why he bothered. After the body prep work was completed, on went several layers of a snazzy BMW colour called Forged Blue. It isn't a show quality spray job, but Brian makes no quarrels - "it's not a concourse car - it's a hot rod!".
Hmm, I guess wine is about the only thing that matures with age!