Kyle Van Hoften spends his days commuting through Southern California’s infamous traffic. His waking hours, like those of most working parents, are highly regimented: work, kids’ soccer practice, gym, grocery store, home in time for dinner with the family. When he gets in his daily driver to meet these demands, there is always a destination and a deadline. Very little is left to chance.

When Van Hoften gets into his 2008 BMW wagon, he rolls up the windows, locks the doors, connects his phone to Bluetooth, sets the climate control and engages the cruise control. In all of this, Van Hoften is comfortably isolated from the world around him and relatively removed from the pure driving experience—cut off from life outside his car as he goes about his days.

BMW 2002 steering wheel
Driving a BMW 2002

BMW 2003 front 3/4 lights on

Once inside his 1973 BMW 2002 Tii, however, Van Hoften is released from the weight of responsibility. He doesn’t have anywhere to be. He just has the steering wheel in his hands and time to unwind. He breathes a little deeper, feels his shoulders relax, and opens himself up to whatever comes next.

In the 2002, Van Hoften is more a part of his environment. The 2002 has no air conditioning, no stereo, and the sound deadening is…effectively nonexistent in a 1973 German commuter car. The car’s spacious greenhouse and pencil-thin pillars yield a clear, unobstructed view of the outside world.

“This car creates its own sense of serendipity,” says Van Hoften. “The whole goal of driving the 2002 is to not have a goal.”

BMW rear crossing the bridge
BMW 2002

BMW 2002 at sunset
BMW hood badge

Not surprisingly, the enjoyment his 2002 provides is about more than just steering, braking, turning. An avid photographer, Van Hoften frequently spots vistas perfectly framed by the 2002’s big front glass and squared-off hood, and he pulls over for the photo opportunity. Or perhaps he’ll hit the brakes on some quiet back road and make a U-turn, heading back to explore some roadside attraction that he had never before noticed while speeding past in his daily driver.

All that said, the 2002 Tii serves up big helpings of driving fun. Originally intended as entry-level economy cars, the 2002 offered a surprising amount of fun and performance for its price, and that goes double for the fuel-injected Tii model. The design stood the test of time, too: Steve Jobs allegedly drew inspiration from this era of BMW (both cars and motorcycles) when developing the iPhone.

BMW 2002 at the beach

Van Hoften values the new friendships that result because a random stranger strikes up a conversation with him about the car. He loves that his teenage daughters love riding in it and even gin up excuses for him to take them out for rides (‘Of course we don’t need frozen yogurt, Dad, but wouldn’t it be fun to go get frozen yogurt in the 2002?”). He can’t get enough of the smiles that the car creates—whether on his face, on the face of his passengers, or among the other drivers who honk and wave when they encounter him on the roads.

As Van Hoften puts it, the car simply creates an enthusiasm for existing.

red BMW 2002 front 3/4