Dream Come True – Bruce Carr’s Bristol Gray 1969 BMW 2002

Photography by Kevin Trower and Miller Roberts

Bruce Carr is a quiet man; we stood to the side of the photo shoot, as Kevin Trower and Miller Robers snapped photos of his ’69 2002 – we talked about our love for the classic pint-sized coupes. He’s without a doubt one of H2OI’s most grounded attendees, too. At 33 years old, he’s found his way; he’s happily married, has a three year old son, and owns a contracting business with his father in Crownsville, MD. His love for cars was passed on to him from his father, and from him to his own son as they tinker, teach, and learn in the garage. From the outside, it seems as though Bruce is actively living the ‘American Dream.’ As we stood under the afternoon sun in Ocean City, his inarguably perfect ’02 iced the cake – the American Dream come true.

A car’s story begins in one of two places – the owner’s love for cars, or on the other hand, the car’s own significance, and the story of its journey to present day. For Bruce and his 2002, the story lands somewhere in-between. Turning back to the mid-’90s, Bruce’s half of the story begins just before the important age of 16. Bruce and his father spent the summer searching for the “perfect” 2002 to serve as Bruce’s first car, but pickin’s were slim. Without finding a car worth settling on, Bruce moved into an E30 instead, but his desire never waned. “I knew I would one day have to own a 2002.” 

Despite the missed opportunity of 2002 ownership, Bruce has kept plenty busy. He’s owned a few E30s since, a VR6-swapped MK3 GLI, and along side his father, he restored a 1968 Chevy Camaro. On top of that, the two are building a 1993 Mustang Cobra Pro/Stick drag car. There’s no shortage of oil and fuel in their lives… and for the most part, these projects did their part in holding off Bruce’s need for a classic BMW.

For years, Bruce and his family have been active attendees to Barrett Jackson Auto Auctions, home of some of the rarest and most expensive cars the world has to offer – all of which are substantially out of Bruce’s price range. However, between the big-block Chevys and the 12-cylinder Ferraris, the occasional “deal” rolls across the auction block.

In 2009, at the Palm Beach, Florida, Barrett Jackson Auto Auction, a Bristol Gray 1969 2002 was displayed to the audience. Despite his complete lack of intent to purchase a car that weekend, flashbacks of Bruce’s childhood promise to one day own the car he had set his heart on took hold. The car was perfect: one owner, with a completely documented history; a complete photo album of the car’s life, and a binder full of receipts. The original title, purchase options sheet, and bill of sale were included, along with a BMW factory roadside service kit and original owner’s handbooks.

After figuring a rough budget of $9,000, Bruce enlisted the help of friend, Tim Holt, to start his bidding. Within minutes, the bid had reached $11,000, which was well past Bruce’s limit, but Tim continued to bid, and won the car. Tim may have gotten carried away, but it was all in good fun; “Tim came to me and told me not to worry about the rest of the money, he’d spot me the other $2,000.”  With that, Bruce was finally the proud owner of a near-perfect 2002.

The car was as nice as they come for being 40 years old, but with such a well-preserved history, Bruce sought perfection. With the help of his friend, Jon Miller, Bruce took to tackling the single rust spot on the car, located behind the rear wheel. After some minor metal and paint work, the car was as true as the day it was made. Ben Sarli of Sarli Motorsports was brought in to tend to the mechanical necessities and upgrades, with Andrew and Jeremy from Ireland Engineering helping to provide many of the parts needed to bring the car into the 21st century.

The driveline was overhauled, fitted with an Ireland Engineering-jetted 32/36 carb and Canon intake manifold, along with an IE radiator and fan kit. The necessary maintenance items were fixed and replaced, and lastly, a Pentronix ignition system was fitted, ensuring that the 2002 was road-trip worthy. An IE 2-step header and stainless exhaust were mated to the head to pipe out the little M10’s grunts and hoots, giving the understated ’02 a bit of bark. Under the car, IE shortened struts, housings, and coilovers were mounted, and paired with Eibach 2.5″ springs for the front. In the rear, IE stage-2 springs replaced the stock units, and lastly, new tie rods, track rods, ball joints, and bushings were installed.

With the necessities and functionalities out of the way, Bruce moved to focusing on the aesthetics of the car. The first change in order was to address the car’s rather large multi-piece bumpers. With further help from Jon, the bumpers were welded together, shaved, re-chromed and mounted close to the body, offering an updated but otherwise factory look to the front and rear of the car. It was the single subtle but necessary touch, unnoticeable to those not intimately familiar with 2002s, that Bruce felt the car needed to look “right.”

“Of all the work that I have done or had done, my two favorite parts are the bumpers and the wheels,” Bruce says.  “Jon Miller and I spent a lot of hours redoing the BBSs.”  The two completely dissembled the wheels and stripped the clear coat, with a mission to re-do every part and piece. The lips were polished and left raw for a classic, simple finish, as expected. The hardware to assemble the wheels was sourced on his own – polished stainless parts – that were then turned down on a lathe, one by one, to fit the RS’s holes. The centers and barrels were repainted, and the classic hex nuts were given a fresh polish. The outcome, while simple, is the ultimate example of why the BBS RS is arguably the most iconic wheel ever designed. Best of all, tucked behind the tight basketweave pattern of each center is a 15″ Wilwood big brake kit.

All that’s left on Bruce’s to-do list, at least in his dreams, is an S14 swap, although he’s skeptical of the idea’s reality. In all, he’s happy with the otherwise complete car. Of the cars he’s owned, he admits it’s his favorite… by far. All that’s truly left, in his eyes, is to track down the original owner. “Hopefully Hal Avery will one day see this and like the changes I’ve made to it. I can tell the car mattered to him.” So, Hal, any chance you read StanceWorks?



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