Gets laid off, starts building BMW hot rods

Igor Polishchuk isn’t like a lot of custom car guys. He didn’t grow up dreaming of owning his own shop and transforming neglected automobiles into powerful works of art, like he does now. That became a reality only after Plan A ran out of gas.

“I wasn’t really into cars as a kid,” said Polishchuk, who emigrated to the U.S. from the Ukraine at the age of 8. “My dad (George) was a machinist, so he brought cars home. I was interested, but I was more into computers.

“I raked a lot of leaves to earn enough money to buy a Gateway,” he said with a laugh. “I eventually got a degree in Computer Information Science, but after a while I just got tired of getting laid off.”

So Polishchuk, still only in his early 20s at the time, turned to something else he knew a little bit about. In August 2002, he opened CAtuned Motorsports in Sacramento, Cali., “more as a hobby, mostly as a place to work on cars. But it really took off.”

Indeed it did. In addition to working on other people’s automobiles, CAtuned has gained plenty of notoriety for its many BMW projects, from E30s to M3s to 2002s. CAtuned – which including Polishchuk employs five people – has appeared in S3 and Performance BMW magazine multiple times and has also been featured in Japanese and Russian publications. It also had to move from a 6,000-quare-foot building to a 10,000-square-foot building.

The shop’s latest project is a 1973 BMW 2002. When finished, it’ll be powered by a BMW M20 engine built for turbo and bored out from 2.5 to 3.2 liters.

“Ultimately, that’s way too much for what the car needs,” admitted Polishchuk, who said the 2002 will be stripped to about 1,800 pounds when finished. “Detuned, it will easily be around 400 hp. It has the potential to be 600-plus, but I doubt we’ll do that.” After all, it’s a car built for street-use.

Polishchuk said his team is also adding an air-bag set up, smaller tires “a little closer to period correct,” and welded-on fender flares.

They began the project in February and – by “pretty much working around the clock” – expect to complete it in time for the Bay Area 02 Swap and Show on May 7 in Brisbane, Cali., or Bimmerfest May 28-29 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

“There’s a big market for classic BMWs. We’d like to do more, but it takes a lot of time and money,” said Polishchuk, 35. “The most important thing is that we’re still doing what we love to do. We’re able to pay the bills and still have the creative freedom to do what we want.”

One of those things is creating custom parts – “pushing the envelope a bit,” as Polishchuk calls it. “We’re taking more of a custom route, kind of like a hot rodder would, with custom door handles, pull trim, custom turbo fans – stuff that no one is doing.”

To see more CAtuned builds, check out www.catuned.com.