About a week ago, I received an e-mail from Simon Cooper, president of the Boston BMW CCA chapter, which read:

Mr. Cooper:

The owner of an auto shop here in Eliot Square, Roxbury, suggested I get in touch with you. In helping my sister dispose of some of the “artifacts” her recently deceased husband had kept, I went to the auto shop to inquire if they could use a small collection of interior parts for a 1972 2002tii. My brother-in-law had already sold the car before his death, but did not pass along these parts. [There are] some dash items; grilles for speakers; and many parts I can’t identify.

We want to give them to whomever or we’ll soon toss them.

The auto-shop owner says he hasn’t seen a BMW of this vintage for some time. He said your chapter might be able to help us make a connection. Any ideas?

Thank you for your consideration.

Judy Powers

I replied to the e-mail and informed Ms. Powers that I would gladly help her sister clean house of whatever old BMW 2002tii parts there were. We arranged that I would go over there at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Now, about five years prior to this, I’d answered a similar call for help from an old-school BMW CCA member, Kimber Hamlin. I’d actually never met him, but Yale Rachlin had mentioned his name to me many times. When I drove up to Vermont and helped Hamlin clean out his hoard of 2002 parts, one of the items was a transmission from a 2002 Turbo. I can’t recall the circumstances under which it had been removed, but it was in a factory crate and reportedly in perfect working condition.

Hamlin exhorted me to load it into my wagon and be done with it. “I can’t simply take this,” I said. “I’m certain it’s worth money.” And it was; I wound up selling it for him and splitting the proceeds. Although I didn’t say so in the e-mail to Ms. Powers, I certainly had it in my mind that if any items were of windfall value, I wouldn’t simply pocket the money; I’d kick some of it back.

I showed up in Brookline at the appointed hour and met Judy and her sister Marty. I learned that Marty’s husband, Frank Farlow—the original owner of the tii—was, like me, a long-time Boston CCA Chapter member. He had his tii serviced back in the day by Michel Potheau at Circle Tire. He’d been to driving schools at Bryar and Lime Rock. He’d gone ice-racing. I was surprised, with the common circles in which we ran, that we’d never met—but then again, for many years I’d been hiding under a rock, BMW-event-wise; it’s really only since around 2010 that I’ve crawled out and become more of a social butterfly.

The parts “hoard” was in the living room. It had already been whittled down somewhat; Marty said that there had been a set of wheels and a bumper, but someone else had already taken them. What remained were six cardboard boxes. Three contained old Roundels (including, apparently, a full set of the original half-size ones), and the other three held assorted parts. It was actually perfect: There was nothing big and greasy. I could simply load the six boxes into my E39 530i and check off that the good deed had been done. And that’s what I did.

But then Marty showed me one more item that was un-boxed: a roof rack. And not one of those giant Daktari-style cargo baskets, either—a small, tasteful roof rack. Marty explained that they’d had it on the tii during a big road trip they’d taken.

I’m not really a big fan of roof racks that destroy the tidy lines of little cars, and I bristle at what appears to be the trend of putting them on 2002s and E30s, and then mounting bicycles on them that are never ridden, like giant hipster roof ornaments, but this thing was just adorable.

I fit the roof rack neatly behind the E39’s front seats, said my goodbyes, and drove home.

When I arrived home, the roof rack went directly onto Louie for a test-fit. I fell instantly in love with it. It was perfect. It didn’t overwhelm the car. And its patina was nearly identical to Louie’s chrome.

I posted the photos below on Facebook. Friends soon chimed in that it was probably an Amco roof rack, sold by the same company that made the curved “Amco bars” that grace many 2002s’ front and rear bumpers. I did a little research, and confirmed that that’s exactly what it is.

[insert pic: img_1208]

Now, it’s an odd thing to go through someone else’s stuff, particularly someone who has passed away, and extra-particularly someone whom you did not know, whose stuff you wound up with through a combination of mitzvah (good deed) and enlightened self-interest. I mean, let’s be honest: If I found a new-old-stock warm-up regulator for a Kugelfischer pump, or four new-old-stock injectors, it would be party time. (Actually, for something like those items, I’d probably feel it was too much of a windfall to me; I’d probably feel honor-bound to tell Marty, sell them for her, and split the money, as was the case with Kimber Hamlin’s Turbo transmission.)

I’ve found that in these circumstances, there’s a combination of reverence and practicality that takes over. You can’t simply leave stuff like this in boxes like a shrine to its former owner; I have enough of my own stuff in boxes. You need to go through it, and, at least at some level, separate the wheat from the chaff, and use it or lose it.

So I pulled the six boxes out of the E39. The three with Roundels went directly into the basement, next to my Roundels, for a sorting project I will likely never complete and that Maire Anne will probably give away when I die. Then I began looking through the three boxes of parts.

The first box held a pair of rubber bellows, lined with what appeared to be asbestos. A search of the part number revealed them to be for the heater boxes on an air-cooled VW. Frank must’ve been a Beetle guy as well. Although the bellows were in very good condition, a quick search on eBay revealed that their value was not high enough for me to deal with packing and shipping asbestos. I donned a mask and gloves, put them in a plastic bag, and threw them away. In the same box was a set of cables. I assumed that these were for heater boxes as well, but when I ran the part number, I found that they were handbrake cables, also for a Beetle. I put these aside for possible resale.

The second box held the non-descript “speaker grilles” referred to in the e-mail. I tossed these. Below them were a pair of oddball early Advent EQ-1 powered equalized speakers, a single EPI LS-70 speaker, and a pair of LS-70 speaker mounts. On the one hand, I have a whole shelf of obsolete car-audio stuff, and I don’t need more. But on the other hand, I used to be deeply into car audio, and have a soft spot for stuff like this. I put the audio items with their brethren in the basement and resolved to try to find them a good home.

But it was the third box that made me smile. In it was a plastic case and two bags. The plastic case contained a Heathkit CI-1080 exhaust-gas analyzer. Nowadays, if you need to know in real time how lean or rich your engine is running, you weld a bung to your exhaust head pipe, thread a wide-band oxygen sensor into it, and connect a dashboard-mounted air- fuel gauge to it; but back in the day, units like the Heathkit were the shiznit. The advantage to it and units like it is that its installation is temporary; you power it by clipping it to the battery or plugging it into the cigarette lighter, cajole the tail-pipe sensor into hanging there, and go drive. I will likely use the Heathkit on Louie at some point to benchmark how it is measuring in the lean/rich spectrum.

The first bag contained a variety of odds and ends. None of the items was terribly valuable, but they were all beautifully organized—black console screws and their little cup washers, the little clips they screw into, door clips, the special mirrors screws and their retaining clips, rubber grommets for the firewall, all in individual zip-lock plastic bags. Frank Farlow was clearly a methodical, fastidious, well-organized guy. I can guarantee you that when I die and someone goes through my stuff, no one will say that about me. (I hope they’ll say, “He was very generous with his time, and quite kind, and funny as hell,” but you can’t tell that from a guy’s stuff.)

When I opened the second bag, I nearly gasped at my good fortune. It was a complete set of coolant hoses—not simply for a 2002, but for a 2002tii! In my road-tripping Louie home, I’d replaced the handful of hoses that obviously needed attention, but I hadn’t replaced them all. I didn’t even have spares for them all. And now I was about to get into Louie and drive him nearly a thousand miles each way to go to the Vintage in Asheville, North Carolina. I took the bag of cooling hoses and put it directly into Louie’s trunk, and smiled.

So, with his cooling hoses in the trunk and his rack on the roof, a bit of Frank Farlow is going with Louie and me to The Vintage. After all, you never know when Louie might blow that hose to the warm-up regulator, or when I might find something big I really need. Like a door. Or a nose. Or a Turbo transmission in a factory crate.—Rob Siegel

Rob’s first book, Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic, and his new book, The Hack Mechanic Guide to European Automotive Electrical Systems, are available through Bentley Publishers, Amazon, ECS Tuning, and Bavarian Autosport—or you can get personally inscribed copies through Rob’s website: www.robsiegel.com

And stay tuned for Rob’s upcoming book, Ran When Parked: How I Resurrected A Decade-Dead 1972 BMW 2002tii And Road-Tripped It A Thousand Miles Back Home—And How You Can, Too.