tire stickers

Old vehicles have a way of capturing moments in time & bottling-up vivid memories & nostalgia. They have a way of transcending their mechanical/utilitarian nature, and becoming sentimental family heirlooms… passed down through generations. Such is the case with this 1976 BMW 2002 owned by James Elgie & his son, Johnathan. This car has been in the family practically since it rolled off the production line. But what makes this BMW 2002 truly special isn’t just its history, but the incredible journey it’s been on through the years. A journey fueled by passion, resilience, resourcefulness, and a fair bit of stubbornness.

old school BMW

rat BMW

A crash-course in family history…

Let’s take a quick crash-course into the Elgie family & how this BMW 2002 entered the equation. There’s three generations at play: 1) James Elgie (the grandfather), 2) James Elgie (the father), and 3) Johnathan Elgie (the son).

vintage BMW

drift car

The story of this BMW 2002 begins with… 

Grandfather James Elgie’s best friend, who purchased the car new. He installed an Alpina “Pig Cheek” widebody kit soon after. The widebody turned the BMW 2002 into an early & immediate standout on the streets. But its fate took a turn for the worse when it was involved in an accident. Rather than seeing the spritely 2002 go to an early grave, Grandfather James Elgie seized the opportunity to buy the car, ensuring that it remained within a circle of close connections. This marked the beginning of the car’s integration into the Elgie family.

lowered BMW 2002

As far as gearheads go… 

The Elgies have always been drawn to cool cars & motorsports. Grandfather James was a mechanic for a long time & raced go-karts, boats, and motorcycles. Eventually, he helped people build race engines and circle-track cars. Father James picked up the passion and got into drag racing. He and his father built a Ford LTD with a 351 engine, and used to take the BMW 2002 out street racing… “spanking Hondas back in the day.” James (the dad) was always a leadfoot. He owned some FoMoCo vehicles – like a Ford Taurus SHO & Foxbody Mustang. And the Foxbody landed James at his first drift event in Cordele, GA. He got hooked, which ultimately steered the BMW 2002 on its current drift-focused trajectory. However, when the popular Turner Field drift events stopped (at the old Braves stadium in Atlanta)… so did the 2002 build.

BMW 2002 drift

wide BMW 2002

Like his father & grandfather…

Johnathan (the son) caught the racing bug early. He began racing go-karts for some time, but the thought of that unfinished BMW 2002 kept stirring in his mind. Eventually, Johnathan and his dad grew tired of the competition. The redundancy of it was starting to suck the fun out of car culture. But there sat that BMW 2002… in all of its gritty, unfiltered, dusty, tenured glory. It was time to bring it back, and the car was officially resurrected in 2017.

drift BMW

Today, the BMW 2002 boasts a raging 160 horsepower… 

Totally unfazed by the fact that modern cars make more power, this BMW doesn’t care. And it doesn’t need to care. It tips the scales at a mere 2,000-pounds. Achieving this weight required gutting the car & replacing various components with lighter alternatives. Examples include the lexan windows, aluminum door cards, and aluminum racing seats. A fuel cell replaced the standard gas tank. And every modification was a family effort. James explains… 

“Whether it was done right or not, we learned by trial & error. It’s never been touched by a shop.”


The transformation of the BMW 2002 into a drift car 

Was initially met with skepticism. Johnathan recalls his dad seeking advice from the drifting community, and being told that the old BMW 2002 would never work well as a drift car. Ironic – coming from a motorsport that originated in style & expressive driving. The doubt ignited a spark in James though… 

“When they told me it couldn’t be done – that didn’t sit well with me. So, the build began. And honestly, proving them wrong was one of the main reasons for even trying to do it.”

BMW 2002 drift

This BMW 2002 runs… 

13×8 wheels wrapped 205/60/13 tires. It has Volvo 240 brakes up-front using E21 rotors. And the car still retains the stock drum brakes in the rear. An inline handbrake setup & a manual brake bias adjuster ensure precise-enough control, while the absence of power brakes or steering provides a truly physical/authentic driving experience. Staying true to its roots, the car is still equipped with a stock 4-speed transmission.

lowered BMW 2002

army green car

ACT clutch

Despite this BMW 2002’s imperfections… 

James cherishes the build process. He admits…

“There are probably a lot of things I would have done differently, but at the time we were building it, we had a blast. That moment we got to drive the car after it was all put back together put a smile on all of our faces. Taking it to the track for the first time, testing it out – those moments are priceless.”

A lot of times, perfection is found in the imperfect. And a lot of other times, the real sweet-spot of car culture is lost somewhere in the pursuit of perfection. Is this BMW 2002 a perfect specimen? Hell no. But it’s alive, it’s survived, it’s real, it’s raw, it’s rowdy, and it’s physical. It smells & it rattles. It’s both slow & fast, it’s both hacked & brilliant… it’s perfect. 

Olive drab car

02 BMW

A legacy in metal…

One of the most unique features of this BMW 2002 is the custom strut tower brace. Johnathan’s grandfather crafted it from one of the car’s bumpers. “He even put the BMW logo in the middle… a literal one-of-one piece.” Johnathan beams with pride. It’s stuff like this, that symbolizes the heritage of this 2002.

BMW hood scoop

BMW 2002 grille


For the Elgies, the BMW 2002 is far more than just a car 

It’s a rolling testament to their family’s dedication to automotive culture. A fuel-breathing family photo book. Johnathan fully intends to pass the car down to his future children. And in a world where modern cars have largely lost substance & character (and are becoming disposable), the Elgie family’s 1976 BMW 2002 stands as a monument to familial bonds, loyalty, creative-care, and resourcefulness. Whether tearing up the drift course, or sitting in the garage awaiting its next modification, this BMW 2002 is a vibrant part of the Elgie family’s legacy.

Photos by Kurt Stovall

classic BMW

1976 BMW 2002

Volvo 240 front brake calipers

E21 front brake rotors

Dual Weber 45mm carbs

SPEC clutch

lightened flywheel

ported head

unknown cam from the ’80s

E46 chassis-mount short shifter

custom made front control arms

3.91 welded diff

Custom-made US-spec bumpers were crafted by merging parts from two additional bumpers. This involved cutting the ends off & welding them onto the main bumpers, then fitting them closely to the car. The approach was chosen over the expensive Euro bumpers

Ground Control coilovers

Cut bump-stops to achieve more angle

Steering box still installed instead of a rack and pinion

Wilwood hydro handbrake

Foxbody SVO Mustang hood scoop feeding into the carbs

classic BMW kidney emblem

widebody BMW 2002

BMW 2002 13 inch wheels

BMW drift

Another like-minded BMW 2002 (previously featured)

rat rod BMW 2002

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