How to find rare and elusive parts for your classic car
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My plans changed upon learning that there were reproduction (probimmer.com) of the original 'Sports Packet' fog light brackets that bolted to the hood supports behind the grill, eliminating the need to drill holes in the bumper. I decided that I liked how they looked, despite the lack of fog.
Being an old fart, who had owned 2002s back in the Seventies, I had fond memories of what was supposed to be the correct fog lights for my 02;round lights with chrome housings and approx. six inches in diameter, originally manufactured by Hella. The original Hella 160 series of lights are have been out of production for a long time and the replacement 500 series Hella lights have ABS/plastic black housings, that lack old school charm and are not period correct. That option was also too easy, especially if you are of the mindset that a difficult acquisition enhances emotional value. This pathway through No Longer Available, and difficult to find parts New Old Stock parts is familiar to the well worn traveler of vintage BMW restoration, and after spending many years working for the prop dept. at Saturday Night Live finding strange stuff, this is a territory I was familiar with.
I began my search on one of the best USA based BMW 2002 forums, 2002faq, and posted a request on the 'parts wanted' section.
If you are unfamiliar with enthusiast Internet forums, virtually every automobile has an enthusiast group and is an invaluable resource for parts, and information. Unfortunately the one set I was offered were a slightly later model with plastic support brackets, and there were no fog light covers. Worried that I might never find another pair, I purchased them anyway. I later ended up selling them for a slight profit.
My search continued on EBay, USA, UK, and German. I have previously purchased BMW parts on foreign EBay sites and have found them to be a great resource, if done carefully. One of the first prerequisites I have is that the seller accepts PayPal, which avoids timely and expensive bank transfers, and offers security if the item does not arrive or is defective (not that I ever had that happen). I also prefer if the seller is using EBay International shipping, which offers package tracking and a reasonable price. While I do not hold hard and fast on those rules, especially if it an extremely rare item, a high seller rating can help ease any uncertainty. One of the advantages of buying on an International EBay site is that some parts, while popular and highly sought after is the USA market, might not be as valuable in other countries. Fog lamps, for example were a lot more popular in Europe and were fitted as original equipment on a wide range of cars.
The proximity of the Manufacturer, Hella in this case, could mean that those parts were more widely distributed in Europe.
I was fortunate enough to find a pair of Hella 160 that were new and in the original packaging on the EBay UK. The seller accepted PayPal and EBay was the designated shipper for international purchases. The price was about half of the used sets I had found in the US or German sites, and the posting had few views and no bids. As anyone who has used EBay knows competition can be hot, and can lead to bidding frenzy and an expensive purchase, or lost opportunity. From the limited number of BMW 2002 items for sale in the UK, I was hoping that a tepid UK market for all things BMW 2002, was tepid at best, and I assumed most USA bidders were afraid to bid there. Thankfully only one other person posted an early bid, and I ended up owning a set of New Old Stock Hella fog lights for less then half of what I might have paid in the USA. They arrived about ten days later in perfect condition.
As my fog light purchase was not in kit form I would also have to source a 4-pong power relay, an illuminated fog light switch, wiring and a fusible link.
In order to stay period correct I would need a Hella fog light relay that had a round metal housing. These were commonly used on European cars of the period but had been subsequently replaced by a square plastic relay that was easy to find. Maybe that would look correct on a 1978 Yugo screwed into the inner fender with a rusty screw. I went on EBay again but when I set my search parameter on "Fog Light Relay" I got over 6000 choices. Adding 'Hella' to the search yielded about 30 examples of the little black cube. I would need to narrow the search further. I went to Google images and found a picture of the original relay in a box and noted the original Hella part number 4RA 002566-08. Amazingly there was one for sale, New Old Stock in the original box with instructions that were dated 1973, and located in Indiana, and it was only 18.00$. Funny thing was that the listing was titled Relais, so that it was probably overlooked due to the odd Germanic spelling. I had similar luck with EBay finding items that were miss-spelled or listed for the wrong car. I purchased a E30 M-Technic dead pedal that had been mistakenly listed for an earlier model 3-series (E21), and no one else bid on it and I purchased it for about a tenth of what a correctly listed one would go for.
Unfortunately I had little luck finding the correct BMW fog light switch. I posted a note on the 'parts wanted' forum on the 2002faq, and eventually purchased a used switch for about a third of the overpriced BMW original. Upon receiving it I was not happy with it appearance, the small polished ring was faded, and the button did not feel as firm as I remembered the original to be. Further research on the web revealed a whole bunch of posting on how to fix it, and I concluded that due to its vulnerability to premature failure, it was better to buy a new BMW switch, and I would not have to worry about it failing in the future when it would most likely be unavailable new.
I would have to crate my own wiring harness with the correct connectors. A few years earlier I had purchased a bunch of new BMW parts from a dealer that had closed in the Eighties, and one of the parts I was not able to sell was a set of wiring harness for retrofitting an AC on to an old E12 5-series. I was able to use most of the wiring without cutting it, and had the reliability of new BMW crimped brass connectors. I also purchased a wiring harness for the fog lights on a 80's model 7-series that I purchased on EBay from a seller in Egypt. The parts and shipping came to less then 20 bucks, came in about 2-weeks, and I was able to use most of it.
Easiest to find was a period correct Bakelite inline fusible link that I purchased from a VW parts vendor.
Installing the parts took a lot less time then acquiring the parts.
Now all I need is fog.
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