Project Cars: How Did You Choose Yours?

I wanted a Mk1 Ford Cortina – a two-door, naturally – but when I was in the market for one, they were either too much money or too rusty.

The story was similar for 1960s and ’70s Alfas Romeos, only they were either exceedingly expensive or exceptionally rusty. I thought about a Lancia Fulvia too, very pretty but too front-wheel drive. And anything Japanese from that era only ever appeared in fables and myths, not in any actual classifieds.

Garage WRB_1971 BMW 2002-7

I had just three criteria for my car at the time: it had to be old, it had to be rear-wheel drive, and it had to be something I could equip with twin side-draught carbs. There was only one car that ticked all the boxes that I could afford, a BMW ’02.

The right one, a solid-looking, very original 1975 1602 popped up on eBay so I bid on it. I didn’t do anything as sensible as going to look at it; I just waded into the auction with all the money I had (not a lot) and amazingly I won.

Garage WRB_1971 BMW 2002-43

And that’s where it began. Unlike most of my stories about buying cars, this one has a happy ending. A truly sickeningly happy ending, one even Hollywood might find too schmaltzy.

The BMW might have started out low down on my own rankings, but it with every mile I covered, every corner I turned and every bolt loosened then tightened, it worked its way up the scale to become a car that I adored. Yes, my own car has now been transformed significantly since I first bought it.

I overhauled and upgraded just about every part of it, then I re-shelled it and took the opportunity to upgrade everything just a little bit more. Then I took it all apart, once again, to upgrade it further.

Garage WRB_1971 BMW 2002-26
Garage WRB_1971 BMW 2002-17

But it’s not just the modifications I’ve done to it that have made me fall for its charms. I love how well engineered it is, how thoughtfully it has been designed so that working on it is a joy. I love how it looks; its big airy glasshouse and dainty pillars are a wonderful contrast to its aggressive shark-like nose. But most of all, I love how it drives. It’s old enough to have the character and abundance of feel typical of a classic car, but it’s sophisticated enough not to feel antiquated or delicate. I’m well and truly smitten with it, that’s for sure.

Garage WRB_1971 BMW 2002-11

The market has changed a little, and I could probably swap my 02 for that beloved Cortina if I wanted to. But now, I am not even tempted. Not for a second. The BMW ’02 is superior to a Mk1 Ford Cortina. But I suppose I would say that, I do own one.

Garage WRB_1971 BMW 2002-63

So, you’d be forgiven for not trusting me. And that might be wise as there’s a very good possibility that I am so deep into my own justification for buying the wrong car that I can no longer view this situation rationally. I could be so delusional that I’ve started believing my own lies to console myself for, slowly but surely, spending obscene amounts of money on a car that, quite possibly, I don’t like all that much. Let’s not poke at that hornet’s nest, though, there could be years of therapy ahead for me if that illusion comes falling down.

SH_Garage WRB_1971 BMW 2002-60

With that being a strong possibility, you might expect me to say that you should give up on buying your dream car. But even I don’t believe that. You’ve got to go for your dream. Yes, there’s a risk. The car you put on a pedestal, the one you’ve spent years wistfully staring at on dealer forecourts, the one you scrimped and saved every penny to buy may never live up to your lofty expectations. But there’s also the chance it could be everything you ever wanted.

Garage WRB_1971 BMW 2002-3
Garage WRB_1971 BMW 2002-107

The truth is, you can’t go wrong. If you go big initially, splurge your savings on your dream car – whether that’s eleventy-billion on a Ferrari F40 or £3,000 on an old Toyota – and it turns out it was all a mistake, and you don’t like it all that much, just sell it and move on. The same goes for the simple, convenient, cheaper option. If that little critter fails to worm its way into your affections, get rid. Better luck next time. Plenty more fish in the sea. Keep going until you find a car you do love.

Garage WRB_1971 BMW 2002-109

Or, of course, there’s the final option where you create your own little world in which you tell yourself your car is the greatest, no matter which one you bought, and pray no one comes along and cruelly bursts your bubble.

Will Beaumont
Instagram: will_beaumont88

Photography by Rob Cooper
Instagram: rwc_photo



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What an awesome little bimmer! Worthy of a sunday morning coffee run or a raucous backroad drive I image. Sometimes the right project stumbles into you.

Currently dabbling with a six year BMW Z4M coupe affair and a recent 99' Miata project , neither felt quite like me at the onset!


I am making a fair pay from home $3400-$4700/week, which is shocking, under a year back I was jobless in a horrendous economy. I offer thanks toward God reliably I was regarded with these bearings and now it's my commitment to give preemptive grace and offer it with Everyone........­w­­o­­r­­k­­s­­7­­9­­.­­c­o­m

I'll have the tuna

what a babe!


Currently working on my dream car: Hakosuka



Im currently looking for a Zenki s14 Silva so i can do a 1990's drifter/street racer look straight outta japan know anyone??


Nice one. My project ended up in my garage because of a similar happening.
I was dead set on a KP61 2-door Starlet, while one day browsing the classifieds I came across a MA70 Supra in dismal state. Everything about it was wrong, including the small detail that it had been completely taken apart. But it was a turbo, the engine had been rebuilt, and it had most of the parts with it. And at that price point... I couldn't let it go.
Fast forward two years, I've torn it all apart again for a rewire and a change of EMS, but I wouldn't have anything else in its place.


I'm thinking of getting a TT132 or a E70 rolla. But my current financial situation says no to car ownership, lmao


I was at a car show back in '16 or'17, spotted a 2000gt and poured over it for longer than I should admit which is fair enough because when do you get to see them in person? I knew I couldn't afford one so what's the next best thing? An S30 Z, another car that you just don't see on the roads here, even shows to be honest, Japanese classics of any ilk are a rare thing indeed and I am of the Gran turismo generation so knew of their existence, my dad a few years before had bought a fairlady z32 because he'd always dreamt of owning a Z and his passion had rubbed off a bit to me. Realistically, here in the UK I'm already priced out of a decent one, even just a road legal one is becoming a stretch. So... I browsed and researched as you do. Came across a low vin '75 280z that had been imported and needed work but was running and complete, I struck a meeting with the fella, chat to him and looked over the 7/8 other S30's he had for about 3 hours before deciding the one I first saw was the one for me. 2 and a half years later I'm still saving money and collecting parts :D fortunately, I'm still young so there's plenty more time to learn how to build the thing.


Beautifully done. I had a 1969 2002 that I drove from Perth to Sydney and back. Apart from a stuck ignition lock (ended up using a screwdriver to start it while driving across) and the air filter clogging up with limestone dust and it was perfect. ) Over 42 degrees celcius no air con across the Nullabor was no air con (that's what windows are for).
Absolutely right about how they are to drive (even stock) just so much fun.


Supras just fits me the best. That car feels like it was build for me from the first time I sit in :D


These cars are truly wonderful, had two 2002 however previous owners never addressed the rust problems, if not maintained properly the rust will overwhelm you, had a Alfa Romeo, similar problem with the rust, also it was very, Very difficult to find original parts, especially mechanical... items.. The Japanese cars entering the world did not yet reach structural engineering for durable strength.. The German, and British cars were the one's best suited for a decent project... still have my 1980 320i, only bad part is its engine. It's a meek 1735cc, not even a genuine 1998cc. However the best is 1977 320i, this engine came from the 2002 tii, those built 1973, to 1974... a truly remarkable experience... its almost impossible to find these cars in superb condition... anyone who has them, is asking for an arm, and two legs...


And I'm still looking for my project car


Lovely. A perfect ‘02. Is it on the originally purchased plate? #triggersbroom


What a great 2002! Funny how projects find you. Mine found me when I had a heavily modified Nissan S14, and was keen on finding a more suitable daily driver. I wanted something old school and cool, that hopefully wouldn't end up just another project. Browsing classifieds I ran across a 1973 Toyota Corona Mark II. Never seen one before, never even knew it existed. But I saw it, and thought it was the coolest, strangest looking (non-French) car I'd ever seen, and absolutely had to have it. $800USD later, it was mine. And it was most definitely a project. But it ran and drove, and I enjoyed it immensely.

15 years later I am still working on it and love the old thing more than ever.


My first project car was an Alfa Spider S3 that I actually only went and looked at because it was really close to another car I was interested in, a volvo 122s. Very different cars, I know, but I didn't really know what I wanted, I just knew that I wanted something that was older and fun to drive. The Volvo had tons of style and would have been a decent base for a project but the Alfa turned out to be so much fun to drive that i couldn't stop thinking about it... I ended up picking it up for a great price and thoroughly enjoyed it for a couple years before we had another kid and I decided they should both be able to come along on drives. By this time I had a better idea of what I was looking for and was able to zero in on some cars that matched up with that. Had to be a convertible, have 4 seats, a manual transmission and be small enough to fit in my garage haha. I replaced the Alfa with an e30 convertible a couple years ago and Have been really appreciating the opportunities for personalization that platform has.


it`s like picking a rescue dog, you might set out for a dachshund and come home with a husky.
Being really into the 70`s japanese cars as a teen with my dream ride being a c130 laurel.
I nearly got a coupe at 2k in 2013 and then the prices shot up so that dream fell apart.
so after that my first car ended up being a third gen firebird (still pretty rare in the EU) and i`ve never wanted anything else after that.
i`ve driven a lot of cars since then but the third gen firebird is still my favourite and maybe one day i`l get to properly build one!


I've bought a '03 Impreza WRX at the age of 20 after I wanted one since I was around 15. The wild bodywork looking aggressive without being obscene. The unique sound (which you either like or seem to hate). It all started when I thought of my very own first car. I wanted a sensible four-door so any kids down the line could be carried around without having to sell it immediately. But it had to be quick, fun, and something you don't see every day. Plus, it was affordable.
After six years of ownership, it's time to really spend some time and money on it since I have my own house and driveway. Next up is an extra garage so it can sit dry during bad weather without losing all convenience of the regular garage. Then, slowly upgrade the things I disliked after using it every day for several years. And restoring it so it looks fresh and not almost 20 years old.


One of the most well written articles I've read here ever. Well done, and your BMW is amazing as well. I feel the same about my Baja bug, and my S13.


I set out 6 years ago to get seriously into the Japanese car world.
I only really had 2 chassis in mind - AE86 or JZX100. AE86 leaning towards the Levin and JZX towards the Chaser.

I ended up getting "lucky" and a 20v Kouki Levin Coupe (actual 2 door coupe, not what Toyota calls a coupe) that looked really good, had recent paint and had the right bits - complete interior, 14" Longchamps, 20V etc etc.

It was a "don't meet your heroes" moment as I jumped on the first plane from Edinburgh to Belfast to make the 8.45 ferry back from Larne to Cairnryan.
I was smitten at first sight and didn't notice:
- Leaking PS rack
- Shot steering UJ
- 2 Severely buckled longchamps
- Snapped exhaust hanger
- Overspray and sprayed over rust.

3 days after I bought it and drove it home, it never started for 3 months. After a rewire, I ran the engine for 2 days and rattled it.

Long story short, I still have it. I bought an F20C, a Modception rear axle, just about every chassis component TechnoToyTuning make and it still isn't back together yet :')


I don't regret buying the car I did, it's still half the price of AE86s today, I just wish I had haggled down based on the above shortfalls.


Great article, and cool project. I'll always be a minitruck guy. It's my thing. I'll never forget the first time I saw Minitruckin' Magazine on the rack at the store where my mom worked and the late 80s Toyota mini on the cover painted in Porsche raspberry. <3 The scene has certainly been on the decline since the prime of the late 80s and early 90s. I've had an '89 Dodge D50 (Mighty Max), an '87 S-10, my current daily is a second gen Tacoma (X-Runner), and my current project is an '07 Colorado. I'd like something newer, but smaller trucks don't really exist anymore. Whatever you build, just have fun with the process.


What a nice story. I agree man should have relationship with his car. Who cares if it is reasonable? There just must be something. And 2 door RWD sounds like fantastic recepy for good car. This old BMW is epic car.


My project car became a project due to the engine spinning a rod. After one year of ownership my 01 M5 it decided not to be a daily lol


My BMW journey began 28 years ago, I was probably 17 or 18. A family friend had a '78 320i. 2.0 liter, 4 speed car. I thought it was very cool, different from the mustangs and camaros and 4x4s that everybody else seemed to have. Well, a little while later it was for sale. Probably because it was rusty and broken down but as a teenager you never seem to see those things. Just what it could be!

It needed a clutch slave cylinder, i should have just fixed it and drove it, but i had to take it apart. Rebuilt the engine, tried my hand at bodywork, did not have the proper tools or the patience back then. The car never did see the light of day, I do still have the engine though.

More importantly the owner gave me a few catalogues from performance houses in the US. I read those a million times, back to front, dreaming of all the performance parts i was gonna buy. I don't even remember the names of those companies, probably out of business by now. There was no internet back in those days so getting performance parts, not so easy. I bought another 320i and drove that for a couple of years till the motor went. They were good for learning to wrench, not so reliable after a few miles were on them.

Fast forward, the BMW brand has kinda stuck on me. I currently have another e21, an e30 and an e30ix. All project cars in various states or repair. Unfortunately the 2002 has really gone up in value the last few years for anything decent, but its on my list.


I didn't choose mine, technically. Mine is a 1963 Sunbeam Alpine Series III, purchased by my father ~20 years ago as his fun car/project car. He passed away late last year and I decided to keep his car and sell my other project car (a 1963 Mercury Comet). I only recently was able to get started in earnest on this project. A long road as I transform a British roadster from broken (redundant with 'British car') to something not broken and maybe fairly quick.

I call it 'Project K2xPine', and you can probably guess what engine I'm planning to shove in the car... #K2xPine (IG).


My Peugeot 205 GTI was never meant to be a project car. When I bought it in 2001 as my very first car, it was just a bit over 8 years old and not a very interesting car to own, TBH. I just felt that it was nice to drive and look at. For the next 10 years, I kept using the 205 as my daily driver and just occasionally fixed stuff that fell apart. It has actually been only the last 5 years that I startet larger projects like an engine overhaul and tune, and taking it to track days and other events. However, the GTI was never completely 'restored' at one point in time, I just kept fixing and gradually improving it for the last 2 decades. I guess this qualifies as a 'long-term project by accident'.