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Stella's 2006 Adventures:  Driving Impressions

Feedback from you all - which is always appreciated - the #1 most common e-mail I get now is:
                                What is it like to drive a new 1974 2002tii?

Well, at first it was a very nervous experience.  Having never taken a car completely apart and put it back together, that weighed pretty heavily on every bump and pothole I drove over. Every seam in the road, every noise that I heard.  With the interior of the car not totally completed, you hear things that are a normal sound the car makes, but youre not aware of it on any other 2002 youve driven.  In hindsight, that has helped to sort the car out, but sometimes I think Im going crazy and that Ill never have it all figured out.

Since that time, Ive become more familiar with a car that I had to learn essentially all over again.  So let me run it down for you.

Getting in the car with power door locks and remote it makes it really convenient and you never reach to over to let a passenger in.  Seat belts? New that retract mostly like new ones, just not as fast. I never have to coach the damn things out like the old days. Key in the ignition (buzzer buzzes if you put the key in before the door is shut) is smooth and crisp like a new car.  Even new the key still can be pulled out without turning off the car! Starting usually takes 8-10 cranks and she fires right up.  

Once I set the timing correctly it holds idle, never dies, and revs as it should.  Emergency brake handle comes up and down and stays centered thanks to new special roller bearings and washers adapted to keep it stiff and in place. Quiet even without carpet yet and the Fat Mat sound proofing all over, the car is more quiet than it used to be, but its fairly bright because the deadener reflects sounds actually amplifies rattles and noises.

Windows roll up and down smoothly and there is no real wind noise except the sound of air hitting the outside mirrors. Anything else is the inherent aerodynamics of the car.  The sunroof opens and closes smoothly and quietly every time.  The Rear window defroster works as designed and helps on those cool mornings.

Once on the road, throttle response is crisp and the engine has way more torque than I ever remembered.  Interestingly, about 3,000 RPM you can hear the fuel injectors begin to cry and at 4,000 rpm they whistle over the sound of the engine itself almost like a tuning fork ring to my ears. The new injectors make a HUGE difference in the way the engine performs and really once you get to 4,000 RPM then 6,000 comes up very quickly. 

Shifting now is easy. Im using a new 2002 Haus short shifter setup that is optional with their 5 speed conversion kit. It makes the car feel like a new BMW, not so wishy-washy like the original shifter and I had a new original shifter on the car up until a couple of months ago. With a Getrag 245 5 speed and 3:91 LSD rear end, I think 2nd gear is really your friend. First gets you going, then 2nd gear you can just nail it and she takes off in a hurry especially in around town traffic. From there, it just keeps right on trucking and when you finally hit 5th gear, the car just hums along like its meant to go 70mph at just under 4,000 RPM. And so much quieter at that. Below 70mph it's almost like new cars.

Lighting - the tail lights are so much brighter when the lenses are new and all the bulbs are new. The third brake light I installed in the rear window package try is pointed UP so that mini vans and SUVs can see the car when I hit the pedal.

Firmness of the suspension is apparent. The 15 wheels and lower profile tires transmit every bump and defect in the road and these Potenza S0-3 tires I have are very stiff in the sidewall so Im sure that contributes to it.  Body roll is really non existent. I have stock rubber bushings everywhere in the car except the sway bar links provided by Suspension Techniques front and rear. Its so easy to take a 90 degree turn at 40 mph crossing an intersection and feel the car just make the turn with no effort that you think all cars should work this way. The LSD grunts right when you would normally feel slip in an open differential, the car just locks and grabs which takes a bit of getting used to when you drive the car on twisty roads.

Engine noise with the stock exhaust this car is louder inside than outside. I had my son drive it up and down the road back and forth to try and hear it coming and going on a deserted road in the outskirts of town. You really just hear it purr, its not loud or ricey by any stretch of the imagination, but inside, you hear exactly what you want to hear.

Above: Special thanks Bill Hiddle for the final missing part of PROJECT STELLA !

Braking is superb with the bigger ATE 4 piston calipers, the Brembo cross drilled E-21 rotors and the larger E-21 rear drums.  Stopping power probably meets or exceeds what E-30 M3s have from the factory.

Lighting at night is really improved because I used H4 Bosch lenses and PIAA extreme white bulbs. The color of light at night is white, not blue and I see better. Heck I hardly ever want to use the high beams.

And when you come home, it shuts off, nice and quiet, and one click of the key fob the doors are locked and she's ready for the next drive. It's become so common to me now, I have forgotten how it was before all this rebuilding. I don't notice the difference until I ride in somebody else's 2002.

>>> PART THREE >>>

 


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