When Imperfection Is Perfection

For some, classic cars are best restored to original. Others prefer them in "car show quality." Some like to race them. Many just enjoy them, like Emily Marton, who sees her 1968 BMW 1600 as a canvas for expression.

That makes sense for the long-time art teacher and artist. It seems that the previous owners of her vintage BMW saw it the same way, if not in a very different way.

"When I bought this car, it had pieces from every era of the 2002 zip-tied or even velcroed onto it, kind of like a Frankenstein car," Marton recalls. "I did not buy it intending to turn it back into a pristine 1600, but I certainly had work to do. I wanted to make it unique, my own, not bound by stock parameters."

The 2002 (and its 1600 predecessor) have certainly been canvases for personal expression, but so have other cars. But like so many of us reading this, the B-Sedan style wins the day.

"I have not always been into cars," Marton explains. "I don't come from an automotive family, but toward the end of high school and into college, I got into cars. I obviously like driving them, but I think they're such unique and fun examples of design and expression. Millions of people buy a car as a mode of transportation, but I think it's fun that you can make so many choices of this machine that's inevitably a huge part of your life, taking you places, tying you to people, helping you build relationships.

"The first BMW I loved was actually an E30," she continues. "I loved them from the beginning, but I didn't really know all the cars at that point. When I saw the 1600s and the 2002s, I thought, 'That car is so cool!' It's hard to pinpoint why, but they're so simple and cute and at the same time, elegant and beautiful. I love the proportions. And for BMW fans, they have a fun story with BMW—it's the car that gets a lot of credit for saving the brand."

While Marton appreciates the 1600 and 2002, she sees these admirable traits in other cars from era, too. "The car exudes simplicity, representing a cool era," she continues. "I find myself loving a lot of similar cars from the 1960s. Alfa GTVs are also on my bucket list but those might be unattainable at this point. The shapes from that time, though, can be broken down into simple, recognizable aspects. With 02s at least, the glass is so expansive, you almost don't need the mirrors. You just glance over your shoulder and can see great. I love that fishbowl feeling of being in the car as well."

Sure enough, while we were out for a quick photo shoot, we saw countless people gawking at the car and giving thumbs up along the way.

"I love the character this car has. It's a full-sensory experience," Marton explains. "It involves smell, sight, touch, and sometimes not on purpose. It smells like gasoline half the time, sounds like a school bus—but a way more endearing experience. The other thing about this is that it's slow. You can beat the [----] out of it when you drive it. You can be aggressive and it seems to prefer to be driven that way."

Generally, those traits aren't the most sought after, but they sure resonate with a lot of people. "It's fun because people love seeing this on the road, even people who don't care about cars. There's always a guy who says, 'This car reminds me of when I was in high school and my buddy had one…."

Some people go looking for a 2002. And sometimes the 2002 finds its next owner. And this was a smart little B-Sedan that found a great owner. "I wasn't really planning on buying one of these," Marton recalls. "I moved out here to California from New Jersey in 2015 and started teaching at this tiny private school making like no money. I had a couple of roommates and saved up some money. I'm addicted to searching classifieds--Craig's List, Offer Up, Facebook Marketplace. I'm not necessarily looking for something. It's more like, 'What can you show me?' but it always sort of included looking for 2002s because it was my dream car.

"One day, this one happened to come up on Orange County or LA classifieds and I thought, 'Wow that's kinda crazy because I actually have that amount of money in my bank account.' I showed Michael. The ad was horrible; maybe four to five pictures and all tinted blue, horrible pictures. All the ad said was 'BMW 2002 for sale.' We had this crazy notion of 'Well, what if we did go to see it, you never know."

"I took it home," she continues. "It's not a perfect car. It has rust in some typical places and it's quirky…not a car you want to look at from six inches from the surface. But for someone who moved out here and had opportunity to buy this dream car that I thought was unattainable, I don't even care that it's not perfect. This is so cool that I actually have this car, and to this day, it's still like that. It's harder to be here in Stanceworks and see all of these insane builds come to life and think "oh, I need to do a lot of things to this."

She definitely has made it unique—a good unique, as opposed to how it was when she drove it home that first. You'll see new wheels—wheels that you don't see often on an 02, or anywhere—an Emily-made interior, new trim pieces, and more personal touches.

"I definitely have been having fun making this car better," she explains. "It's come light years from where it was when I first got it. I knew the undertaking of fixing the rust on this car was too much for me to handle, but for the right person, this car would be a gold mine, like a jackpot. But in terms of what I want to do and my priorities, doing a rust restoration on this car is not really what I'm after."

"Eventually, I started to entertain the thought of finding a nicer shell or a nicer car and then selling this one. I bought this other shell from Rey Rivera. It is legitimately everything I wanted. It's still a 1600—a 1967 1600—and happened to be the same color (Chamoinix). It has some surface rust, but there's no rot on the car. Everything is bone dry…of course it come from Rey, so it's not going to be a piece of junk. The hope was I'd finally say, 'Ok, I have some options here. I can either cannibalize this first car that runs and drives and put everything into that shell and kind of have fun and paint this car when I want to paint it and do the interior again. But that vision fell onto the back burner, so I don't want to invest too much more into this if I'm not really sure what its future holds. So, for the past couple of years, I've just been enjoying it as it is because it runs and drives and it's fun and it looks good!"

Two of the highlights of the car have to be the wheels and the interior. "I put the wheels on about four years ago," she explains. "A lot of time, you'll see them on VWs like Rabbits, but I love that they're 13s. I think 13s are so proper on 2002s and 1600s. I like the tiny wheels and bigger tire look on these and these Ronal Racings were kind of like a dream wheel. I wasn't really expecting to stumble upon these but happened to find a disassembled set in Germany and bought them from overseas and had the shipped here. The trouble with them is centers are magnesium so you can't powder coat them so the only way to paint them is to spray them by hand. They were black when I got them so I sent the lips and barrels to get repolished and then we have a friend named Sean who is a very talented painter who painted them Bristol gray, an original BMW 2002 color. Centers are Bristol gray, a fun tie-in. I love the way they look and the way they fit for the most part. Michael has had a couple of sets of these on various cars as well so it's kind of fun to have a teeny tiny set in the shop."

The interior was begging for improvements, some so bad that it would send others fleeing. But Marton was up to the task. "The interior was disgusting," she confirms. "The carpet was clearly the original—remember, this is a 1968 car! It started as a black interior, but the door cads were delaminating from the panels, the cardboard was waterlogged, and the back seat must have been redone at least once even though the fabric was still faded to purple. The seats were broken, the steering wheel had a BMW emblem from the exterior of an E36 velcroed to the center button and baseball grip tape wrapped around the entire steering wheel.

"I gutted the interior," she continues. "I really loved white on blue. I thought marine blue is such a beautiful interior color. I sourced door cards and got a new steering wheel (Fusina from Vintage Volante in the Netherlands). This one is typically found in Porsches, but the horn button on this one has a square BMW button that caught my eye. The seats were re-covered at local shop in Huntington Beach. I chose perforated centers and smooth marine blue bolsters and head rests. I was thinking of so many options for the carpet. I chose salt and pepper blue from Esty."

If you've peeked at the pictures already, you know that Emily and Michael rarely venture out without Chloe, their pup. So while she was thinking of addressing the interior, she went pup- specific. "The final piece was rear seat delete," she describes. "I felt that the back seat bulked up the car, made it feel more crowded. I'm not toting people around with this so when I saw people on the forums with the rear seat delete and then saw that Esty sells that rear seat delete kit with the carpet, I did that when I ordered the carpet. It cleans it up a bit and when Chloe is in the car, she likes having the flat platform—it's stable for her to sit on."

The car came with a 2.0 motor in it that she has left in there. She's not averse to getting her hands dirty with the car but loves driving it even more. "I love driving this car up and down the coast," she adds. "Pacific Coast Highway is so fun with this car! All the windows let you see everything. I feel relatively safe on PCH where there are lots of fun cars versus driving on the freeway. If I'm doing more of a scenic drive, if I need to get there quickly, I'll take the wagon."

Her first BMW was a six-speed 128i that she got in 2014. It was totaled when a truck pushed another car right into it. She has since acquired that wagon, a white F31 Touring, making for a pretty potent two-car solution.

"The furthest I've driven the 1600," she continues, "is maybe SoCal Vintage about 70 miles away. I'm not super confident in taking it on a super long drive. It's never broken down yet, but I don't want to be 300 miles away when it does. SoCal Vintage was a good drive, but when I make those drives, it's better to be with people in a caravan."

For Marton, the quintessential drive would be with Chloe out on PCH. We might want to rename that rear seat delete actually the "Chloe Seat Mod." Be sure to wave to both of them when you see them on PCH!