As evidence, I give you the Dolomite Sprint, a unibodied Triumph sedan built between 1973 and 1980 and never sold in America. It is, I am here to tell you, in many, if not all, ways equal to or better than a 2002, even that classic Bimmer in its most desirable form, the injected 2002tii. How do I know this to be true? Well, I happen to own one of each.
In this corner, a 1973 2002tii with just over 32,000 documented miles from new. An original-paint (Malaga was BMW's name for the maroon hue), rust-free wonder with a mint interior, it was purchased a little more than two years ago from the family of Sam Smith, formerly of this magazine. I wasn't looking for a 2002tii, but when Sam's dad, Dan, sent me pictures, I realized that I ought to be. Quickly arranging a classic-car loan, I got the BMW trucked to my door before anyone could change his mind. Its condition is almost too good for the likes of me, and it drives the way I imagine a new 1973 BMW did.
Yet after a couple years' careful comparison, I think I like the Tahiti blue 1979 Dolomite Sprint shown here better. It's not so squeaky clean or so perfectly original. Indeed, it was re-shelled in England by its previous owner, a Leyland factory manager who happened to know where the last bodies-in-white were stashed when the marque expired. After its original body began disappearing in the traditional form of iron-oxide dust at about 65,000 miles, he pulled this one from his storehouse and set to work. I bought the car over the phone not long after its reassembly while on a trip to England in the summer of 2004. Phil Llewellin, the late Automobile Magazine scribe, on assignment with me at the time, sighed when I told him about my latest purchase and suggested a drink, which signified nothing with our dearly departed friend other than that it was almost dark and time for a pick-me-up.