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The Beast of Both Worlds

story by Tony Sestito • photos by Kevin Adolf

Han Solo and Chewbacca.

Kirk and Spock.

E.T. and Elliott.

For our favorite odd couples, coming from different planets (literally, in these cases) only seems to enhance their chemistry. Despite their fundamental differences, they manage to communicate, connect, and work together better than they do apart. In the process, they uncover surprising similarities between themselves. In the sporting car world, swapping bits from one car to another is as common as oxygen. But to create true automotive chemistry, it helps to begin with a bold, unexpected pairing. That’s what Diego did.

Diego Loza, who hails from Burke, Virginia, loves both BMWs and Hondas. He’s owned a few of each over his 24 years on this planet, including a BMW 2002 and a Honda S2000. It wasn’t until relatively recently, however, that he thought to combine them.

Bavarian Sledgehammer

About four years back, Diego started hunting for a project car so he could join his buddies at local high-performance driving events. His search ended when he plucked a tired 1970 BMW 2002 out of the mountains of West Virginia. The car was a roller and a bit rough around the edges, but it would serve as a blank canvas for a cool purpose-built track car. The car eventually evolved into a total track rat, powered by an E36 M3-sourced S52 inline-six. Diego dug deep into the BMW parts bin to modify the suspension, installing an E30 subframe and E46 brakes. He even gave the car a custom wide body, which he fabricated himself.

Many gearheads would be proud to own a car like this. But Diego wanted more. He gauged the car’s performance against that S2000 he once had: Compared to that Honda, Diego’s track rat was more of a sledgehammer than a scalpel.

What made his modified Bimmer such a handful? Well, it weighed in right around 2000 pounds, and with the big-six up front, the car was largely imbalanced. Diego tried to position the engine as far back as he could, but the car still had a tendency to snap-oversteer. After dealing with the car in that state of modification for a while, he decided to get a little crazy.

Just over a year ago, he had an idea to make a great pairing of his own: a classic BMW 2002 body nestled atop a modern Honda S2000 chassis.

Diego had a fondness for the sharp handling characteristics of his old Honda S2000. Mating that improved suspension geometry and crisp, high-revving powerplant with the classic looks of the 2002 would be a match made in sports car heaven, he reasoned. But would it work in the real world? Short answer: Yes, very much so.

Birth of the S2002

Diego already had a perfect donor body in his 2002, and after a little searching he found the ideal chassis donor: a stripped Honda S2000 roller he bought from an S2KI forum ( Price: $700.

He took some basic measurements of each car and found that they were close enough in terms of length, width and wheelbase to go forward with the project. The wheelbases were 94.5 inches for the Honda and 98.4 inches for the BMW. The overall track widths were only about 4 inches apart, with the Honda being a bit wider.

Diego’s vision included Honda S2000 power, and he again found what he needed on that S2KI forum: a 2005-spec engine and matching six-speed transmission. To recoup some costs, he sold off the BMW drivetrain bits.

Now he needed a place to work, and after some careful negotiations with his mom and dad, Diego rolled both the 2002 and the S2000 into his parents’ garage and started cutting. “I grew up in a lower-income neighborhood when I was in my teens, before living in Northern Virginia,” he explains. “I said, ‘Mom, Dad, please let me build a car. It will keep me off the streets.’ They said, ‘Can’t argue with that, go insane,’ and I did.”

He fabricated a square-tube frame to connect the S2000 chassis bits, tying the Honda’s stock front subframe and transmission tunnel to the rear of the car. The result mimicked the factory Honda X-bone chassis. From there, he mated the BMW’s body to the chassis, adding some extra bracing throughout to keep the car from being a wet noodle in the turns.

Inside, the old adage of adding lightness came into play. Diego fabricated aluminum floor pans and installed aluminum racing buckets to serve as seating. Other than the BMW’s dash, there’s not much else inside.

The factory S2000 gauge cluster takes residence behind the steering wheel, while a set of Tilton racing pedals sprout up from the floor. There’s no radio; the only soundtrack available is the auditory awesomeness of that F22C climbing to the limit before every shift.

Outside the car, Diego opted to ditch the paint and spray the 1970s Bavarian metal with a clear coat from KBS Coatings. The rough, bare finish told a better story of the car’s history, he thought, so he opted to leave it on display for all to see.

Dynamic Duo

Diego ventured into unchartered waters with this project, and the result could have been a disaster. Is he happy with the results? Very much, he says.

The transformation left the car with only 48 percent of its weight up front. The snap-oversteer is gone. Plus, the Honda engine revs for miles. While Diego misses the smooth torque of the inline-six, the F22C’s 8700 rpm redline and the absolute precision of the six-speed transmission make it easy to form an intimate connection with his new creation.

Since finishing the build, Diego has been putting it to the test on local tracks. This “S2002” has been to Summit Point (both the Shenandoah and main circuits), Dominion Raceway, Road Atlanta and VIR. And you see that license plate? Yes, this thing is road-legal, and yes, Diego drives it all over the place.

The S2002 is the perfect mix of old and new, something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a car that wears its history on its sleeve but reveals its hidden modernity when you get behind the wheel. With its razor-sharp driving experience, it rivals cars rolling off the assembly line today. One could say that it’s the Mulder and Scully of vehicles, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

“I said, ‘Mom, Dad, please let me build a car. It will keep me off the streets.’ They said, ‘Can’t argue with that, go insane,’ and I did.”

“And you see that license plate? Yes, this thing is road-legal, and yes, Diego drives it all over the place.”

This article is from an old issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Get all the latest how-tos and stories for just $20 a year. Subscribe now.

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View comments on the GRM forums
icaneat50eggs Dork
4/5/17 12:15 p.m.

I think I'm in love, or at least lust. How much does it weigh?

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham Associate Editor
4/5/17 12:17 p.m.

In reply to icaneat50eggs:

Diego says it weighs 2450 pounds wet

Cactus Reader
4/5/17 12:59 p.m.

In reply to Ed Higginbotham:

That is kinda portly for an 02. Alternatively, it's a light, cooler looking s2K.

The weight isn't insanely out of line, the stock drive train is very light in an 02, almost all improvements add weight.

HapDL New Reader
4/11/17 10:00 a.m.

Neat car, nicely done home build, gotta give full props for a difficult job well done. BUT. I just think this thing would be at another level with a good paint job and some graphics. Doesn't detract from performance and makes the car even that much more appealing. MHO only.

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