BMW - 2002 AD - Come rest your eyes on Los Angeles' recognized classic BMW parts and service authority. 2002AD.

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Where to go when that beloved 2002 throws a rod, or bites the dust

The tears still well in my wife's eyes when conversation turns to a loss of her beloved BMW 2002 -- a classic 1972 model, in Riviera blue, that came to a fiery end on a Venice street corner in September, done in by a faulty fuel line and a rougue spark.

Had she only met Jim Compeau sooner, it might have been a different story. For 15 years, Compeau, 60, a former math and science teacher, has been dispensing his encyclopedic knowledge of the peerless Beemer, along with a seemingly endless assortment of parts, from his open-air warehouse, 2002 A.D., in Sun Valley.

For aficionados of 2002s--or 02s to the initiated--Compeau's mud-splattered, debris-strewn acre is a godsend. Stacked two and three high, Compeau's retired 2002s serve as organ donors for the estimated 10,000 to 15,000 of the boxy sedans still on the road in Southern California (a number rivaled only in Germany). Compeau's establishment is a place to make repairs, meet up with kindred sprits and take advantage of free advice. It's also the place to find that water pump, steering wheel or radiator cap that simply can't be found anywhere else.

The 2002 was manufactured between 1968 and 1976 and inspires in its owners fierce, cultish loyalty. "In 1976, I got my first 2002, and I haven't cared to mess with any other car since," says Compeau, who attributes the car's allure to its "handling, durability, excellent vision, wieght-to-power ratio and mechanical straightforwardness.

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"Jim has got about 150 02s, which is probably the largest collection in one place in the world," says Bob Inthout, a former aerospace engineer whose business, Datsun and Toyota Dismantlers, shares the lot with 2002 A.D. "For guys scraping the money and barely keeping their cars together, Jim is like their dad--he'll do anything to keep them on the road." But Compeau's run at Los Angeles's resident 2002 guru may be hitting the brakes. He recently learned that he has lost his lease and, instead of relocating, is leaning toward selling his inventory and retiring to Oregon to tinker with his collection of high-performance 2002s.

"Oh, wow, you're leaving?" customer Wayne Bruce gasped when Compeau told him the news one recent Saturday. "Without you, I guess people will just start selling their cars."

For what it's worth, Compeau made the only fair offer for my wife's 2002 after its self-immolation. What others saw as just another burned-out hunk, Compeau recognized as a love lost--and potentially somebody's future love.

"Tell her not to worry," Compeau told me. "I've got a buyer for it in England. It will live again."

--Darell Satzman
Los Angeles Times Magazine

909-629-1955 outside of the USA