If you’re local to California’s Bay Area, you might remember when a favorite spot for automotive events was on Alameda Island. With the beautiful San Francisco skyline looming in the background across the Bay, it was an ideal venue when it came to photography.
A few years back I found myself at the final Cars & Coffee San Francisco event that would be hosted on the outskirts of the defunct naval base with an old Nikon FE2 and a 50mm f/1.8 manual focus lens. It was here that I first saw Mike Le’s old school BMW combo, and I had to spend a good couple minutes taking it in.
I only took a handful of shots at the event, but a year later I tracked down the owner of the BMW duo and asked for a proper shoot, something that took us nearly another 12 months to accomplish. A good four years before the car’s debut at C&C SF, the event which itself was two years back, Mike picked up the car in decent condition with the engine already swapped.
The 2002 itself took a few years to go through under Mike’s care, complete with a matching R75/6 which he received in stock trim. Both the car and the motorcycle were originally built in 1975, and both have been drastically altered in the time since.
Both hark to a far simpler era, delivering a much different feel as you cruise down the road — rubber sticking into the asphalt and the sweet smell of spent fuel buzzing out the tailpipe — than any modern equivalent might.
Mike tells me the 2002’s name is ‘Sarah,’ after Sarah Winchester. Madame Winchester was the owner of the local ‘mystery house’ attraction, a 160-room mansion which was continuously remodeled at the direction of spirits until Sarah’s death in 1922. Make of that what you will.
The R75/6 is called ‘Estelle’ after Mike’s little sister, and he says he calls the Kendon single stand up trailer… ‘trailer.’ You’ll quickly notice extensive attention to detail has been maintained through all three items, with a number of coordinated design cues on each.
And, he’s got a Lego build to match. It doesn’t really surprise me, as it seems a certain level of attention to detail always comes along with a well-built 2002.
You might think the trailer implies that Mike either doesn’t ride the bike, or just brings the pair out to shows, but nothing could be further from the truth. Mike’s only other car is a slant-nose Porsche 930, meaning both BMWs see plenty of miles as simple commuters.
While some can’t stand the drive to work (who likes traffic?), when the road opens up all three options bring a special experience through the wheel (or handlebars) and into Mike’s hands.Sarah
Looking more closely at the 2002 yields a very obvious series of tasteful choices, including the immediately noticeable BBS E76 wheels tucked into Turbo flares, and a Turbo spoiler out back.
Inside the 15×9-inch E76s the front discs have been cross-drilled, while the rear drum setup has been borrowed from an E21.
Back in the front, a Jaymic Turbo front bumper finishes off the aggressive look of the once-cute 44-year-old BMW that’s been lowered with 2002Tii front hubs and Ground Control coilovers. To keep the ride predictable and responsive, upgraded sway bars have been added alongside the other modifications.
Out back, the setup is similar with Ground Control coils and sway bars again. While definitely harsher than the original factory setup, it isn’t so irritating that any road conditions really make you want your drive to end.
Meanwhile, under the hood resides an M42 motor from an E30 topped off with a DBilas independent throttle body setup complete with an ECU tune. Besides the ITBs and a coil-on-plug conversion, the engine remains stock.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 naturally aspirated horsepower announce their job is done out the back end of a Scorpion straight pipe.
From inside, the glossy wood surface of the Nardi Classic steering wheel contrasts nicely with the aged shift knob. Knicks in the wood represent thousands upon thousands of upshifts and downshifts by Mike and everyone else who’s driven the car over the last four decades.
Under the salt and pepper carpet, the 5-speed shifter connects up to a stock E21 gearbox which eventually sees a 3.73 final gear ratio, making the old BMW a lot more peppy.
It’s plenty to pull along his motorcycle, thanks to help from Lucian Hood for adapting the trailer hitch to the small frame of the BMW.Estelle
As for the R75/6, most of the bike’s internals remain stock, with the areas that Mike’s chosen to modify carefully coordinated to result in a completely non-factory look.
The wheels are comprised of 19 and 18-inch Akront aluminum rims with vintage gold powder-coated wire spokes from Woody’s Wheels, wrapped up in Michelin rubber. As for the ride, the suspension has been altered with lowered front forks and Red Wing rear struts behind the seat. From the shiny wood grips and Motogadget bar-end turn signals to the café racer seat and rear subframe, like the other BMW, the entire bike has a cohesive feel on its own.
Sitting next to (or pulled behind) the 2002, the grey paintwork, while conservative, still jumps out at you. It’s from the BMW Individual color book originally intended for the F10 M5 and looks proper on the classic bodywork.
Add the trailer to the mix and you’ve got a real set. Poke around to take in more details and you’ll notice that all three have had a third brake light added to the bottom left of each platform, among other more obvious themes.
Seeing as how Sarah, Estelle, and Kelly (the Porsche) are Mike’s only means of transportation, a certain not-insignificant question comes to mind. ‘Are they actually reliable?’ I asked.
Mike didn’t hesitate to answer, readily saying that “each vehicle has left me stranded numerous times.” In fact, the 2002 once broke down on the side of a bridge, causing a major traffic jam which Mike’s roommate, having left a half hour after Mike, found himself sitting in. “He drove by and flipped me off,” Mike laughs.
Owning vehicles like these is a labor of love, especially if you’re enjoying them every day of the week. This not the most practical choice, it’s not really convenient, nor is it economical. There are plenty of reasonable options that Mike could go for, but at least until now the temptation hasn’t gotten the better of him.
I can see why, too, because there’s always something about a classic. For this matching trio, I’m sure it’s at least doubly so.The Classics