Thursday, January 27, 2011

Locating Parts: The Process

To describe the process of finding a specific part I will relate the story of finding a new turn signal relay, one that took place last week.

One day my car's turn signals ceased to work and the logical conclusion was that the relay had failed.  I determined through talking to a couple of people that BMW had made 3 different relays for the 2000; a 3-pronged, a 4-pronged, and a 9-pronged version. I was informed that the 3 and 4 prongers were relatively easy to find but that the 9-pronged specimen was both expensive and rare.

The reason for this complicated scenario may be summed up due to BMW's efforts to comply with American hazard signal regulations in the 1960s.  Apparently the turn signals had to be interfaced with the hazard lights and so that is why they produced the 9-prong relay, which was placed only on cars that were exported from Germany to the United States.

I first contacted a German supplier; he was horrified at the notion that the 9-prong relay would be available in Germany - still feeling resentful about the interfering American rules, I suppose.

I then got in touch with some different American suppliers. Miracle of miracle, one of them had the correct relay sitting in the warehouse next to his office. He sent me a photo with which I verified it to be the proper part (by comparing the device to the old one that had been removed from my car). After I transferred immediate payment through Paypal he sent it out the same day via UPS 2-day delivery.

And so my problem, nearly insurmountable at first, was resolved.  In total I spent nearly two hours doing the research required to locate the relay.

The famous 9-pronged relay: 9-prolig relais in German

The idea behind the project

I own a 1967 BMW 2000.  This vehicle, part of the Neue Klasse, often referred to as simply NK, is one of the series that preceded the better-known 2002.  Also included are the 1500, 1600, and 1800 in their various permutations and sub-models.

Acquiring parts for these cars presents something of a challenge.  Forty years have passed since they were made.  While BMW certainly produced plenty of spares, finding them involves wading through many businesses run by sharky individuals, who think nothing of varnishing the truth in exchange for a profit.

Yet a world-wide network of reliable vendors does exist.  The downside is that buying items abroad and then having them shipped to North America is a dicey proposition because of Customs delays and general incompetence of shipping agencies, from the governmental ones such as the US Post Office and Deutsche Post to private companies like DHL and Fedex.

The goal of this blog is to recount stories about finding, buying, and getting replacement equipment for the NK 2000.

My own car, orignally painted Tampico and produced in January 1967

There also exist a few 2000tii vehicles but I know little about their engines; I believe they were the first fuel-injected cars BMW ever made.  But the body, chassis, and interior elements of all the models are essentially the same.  But as time wore on, BMW made minor changes to many aspects of the 2000, and parts that fit one year's model may not work for another.