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This classic BMW 2002 tii packs a 343bhp E46 M3 motor

First cars are normally battered old superminis, not so for Magnus Granberg: meet the M-powered 2002

Published: 15 May 2024

Firsts are of course, significant milestones. For construction engineer Magnus Granberg his first car was a 1970 BMW 2002 tii. “I got my driver’s licence in 1995 and my Dad came to the conclusion that I couldn’t continue driving his car so I needed my own,” he tells TopGear.com. Indeed, before Magnus could even walk his Dad began sowing the seed for his BMW passion. The family consistently owned and worked on cars from the German brand so it was a given where his loyalties would lie.

“Understandably, the car had rust issues but we fixed these and fixed the engine so it would run normally, it wasn’t bad for a 25-year old car,” he says. For the next five years Magnus used it as his daily driver, but living in Sweden meant it was less than ideal in the winter. In 2000 he swapped the 2002 for a four-wheel drive Audi S2.

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“I regretted selling the car almost immediately. As the years passed I started missing it more and more,” Granberg recalls. A decade later, he found himself scrolling through car ads on Ebay and wondered how much a 2002 would be. The first search result was his old 2002. He was straight on the phone to the seller and the next day he was the proud owner of his first car once again.

Photography: Alen Haseta

“I bought it back in bad condition, but all I remember is smiling the whole way home,” he explains. “It was my car, so it didn’t matter what it looked like. I decided there and then never to sell it again.” By this point, the 2002 had picked up some accident damage, more rust issues and after being stored outside the paintwork wasn’t looking great. Magnus patched up the worst of the rust and got the engine running reliably again, then a full respray was in order to protect the remaining original bodywork that hadn’t yet succumbed to rust. 

He didn’t have any plans to turn the 2002 into a project, but a few years later the paintwork was looking scruffy again, so he treated the car to a new set of wheels and another respray. A fuel injection system was fitted around this time, but the real modifications had yet to begin.  

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In 2019, a trip to the Bimmers of Sweden show changed everything. The car’s was so well received Magnus drove home with an award and a newfound fire to go back bigger and better the following year.

“My ultimate goal was to get a four-cylinder M3 S14 engine but I went with the more accessible six-cylinder S54 engine.” At that point Magnus hadn’t seen anyone in Sweden attempt this and he was committed to keeping the exterior standard, so there was no opportunity to move the bulkhead back or add a bonnet scoop to make room for the motor. “Everything has been touched on this car but it’s not supposed to show. I guess you can call it luck that I got some extra months because of the pandemic, instead of Bimmers of Sweden being held in May it was moved to September,” he says. “I put down an insane amount of work to finish the build in a year.”

 

Fitting the engine was a major job. “The engine was totally rebuilt and all parts refurbished: new pistons, connecting rods, bearings and gaskets replaced.” Obviously with the increase in power, everything else needed to be upgraded to match. 

“Getting the diff, gearbox and engine in a straight line was one of the hardest parts,” he explains. The transmission tunnel had to be customised to get everything to fit, as well as reinforcing the floor and creating new mounts for the engine, gearbox, diff and pedal rack. This is why Magnus fondly refers to the 2002 as the worst car he’s ever owned thanks to its infuriating mechanical challenges and near constant drain on his bank account. But it wouldn’t be a project car if you didn’t want to throw a spanner through the windscreen at least once a month. “I’ve changed engines in cars before but nothing of this scale,” he says.

The rear suspension was completely rebuilt to lower the car and improve handling. “The coilovers are Öhlins that were originally made for a BMW 1M. It was kind of a win or lose situation, they were either going to work or not work at all, luckily they worked.” Originally, the 2002 had drum brakes so for obvious reasons these were ditched and replaced with the biggest discs that would fit inside the 17in wheels.  

After ironing out the assembly issues, dyno testing showed 343bhp at the motor and 270bhp at the wheels. The drive now? “Wonderful and life-threatening. To drive something that’s so loud, vibrates so much and is so scary and yet so amazing is weird but fantastic,” Magnus says. 

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Inside, the interior has been given a monochrome makeover with black BMW Performance Recaro bucket seats, new door cards, a painted headliner, and a custom leather-trimmed centre console with a touchscreen to control the Maxx ECU. The dashboard has a mix of original and replica gauges, and the standard steering wheel was swapped out for a refurbished Momo Prototipo steering wheel from the ‘70s.

“I had to learn everything and have a lot of patience," says Magnus. "A lot of things were rebuilt again and again just to make everything perfect and the way I wanted.” 

Along with friends and family who lent their expertise, a huge supporter of the build was Magnus’ father whose name is etched on the rear-view mirror. “In 2023 my son and I made a tribute trip to my father to Wroclaw and exhibited the car at Ultrace. I never would’ve dared to dream that my car would be shown there but he encouraged me to dare.”

BMW M02

Specification

Engine: BMW S54B32 from an M3 E46 mounted in modified Andersson Steel & Speed motor mounts. Block bored to 87.25mm Wiseco pistons, forged with standard compression. Balanced original crank with coated bearings, weighted Pauter cranks. Renovated original top, straightened, milled valve seats, ground original valves, original camshafts. Modified intake with self-constructed funnels. Ferita stainless exhaust system with extra cut out. Maxx ECU Race engine management, Nuke Performance 790 cc fuel injector, Do88 radiator, Spal electric fan, custom made electrical system by Dennis Andersson.

Transmission: ZF "Diesel box" from BMW. Tenaci 184-mm two-disc sintered plate clutch and hydraulic treadle bearing. M3 E36 diff with diff brake, Sellholm Tuning drive axles shortened M3 E36 gimbal. Own lever rack.

Chassis: Öhlins R&T coilover shock absorbers for the BMW 1M with specially ordered Öhlins springs. Boxed BMW 2002 Tiillink arms, front struts modified and shock absorbers rear custom-made after the R&T dampers. Millway top storage forward. Sellholm Tuning anti-roll bars and Strongflex bushings.

Brakes: Tenaci 320-mm discs front and 280-mm rear with six-piston callipers all around. OBP pedal rack with brake balance intended for M3 E46. Hydraulic P-brake.

Rims: Alpina split rims, custom built by CR Custom Wheels in 8.5x17” front, 9.5x17 rear.

Tyres: Nankang AR-1 R tyres, 215/40-17 front, 235/40-17 rear.

Body: Torpedo wall modified and engine compartment plate newly built on a smaller scale to accommodate the engine, radiator and expansion tank. Custom made transmission tunnel, reinforced floor and mounts for the engine, gearbox, diff and pedal rack. Drawer floor raised to hide silencer. Clean scraped and undercarriage treated with Hagman's undercarriage products. Genuine BMW 02 original spoiler front and Turbo expansion. Rear section adapted for the M3 E46 style exhaust.

Paint: Newer BMW original 354 silver colour.

Interior: BMW Performance Recaro seats, repainted original door sides, custom made centre console with screen to control the Maxx ECU. Autometer metre. Refurbished Momo Prototipo 70s steering wheel. Belts with M stripes from newer BMW models.

Thanks: Torgny Granberg (welding, sheet metal, etc), Dennis Andersson (electrical and ECU), Figge Ohlsson (varnish), Peter Franson (engine renovation), Andreas Friberg (parts), Fredrik Ström (alu welding).

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