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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
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."
Los Angeles Times Magazine