Lunetta Bartz’s Labour of Love.

Interior designer Lunetta Bartz of MAKER design studio has a lime-green 1971 BMW 2002, which she has restored over almost two decades.

Published: November 2017
Video/Photos: Elsa Young

My parents had a BMW dealership, so I actually didn’t want to own a BMW because we’d always had BMWs as our family cars. But the BMW 2002 was different. My father used to participate in rallies and as children we knew what an amazing racing car the BMW 2002 was. When I was 11, we went to the BMW Museum in Munich and looked at all the vehicles – there was just nothing else like it.
  Finding my BMW 2002   I had a colleague who loved cars and we always discussed what we dreamed of having one day. He was an Italian car fanatic. I always said, if I had to get one, it would be a BMW 2002. Everyone knew I wanted to find a BMW 2002.   It was another colleague and friend, Greg Gamble of Tonic Design, who found this one. One day, he phoned and said: “I think I’ve found your car.” The owner was an American who had it parked in his garage. He said he’d owned it for years, but didn’t drive it and was ready to sell.   The gearbox and brakes were shot, but it was completely original. I’m a purist: I needed to find something that had not been altered. I wouldn’t have bought it if it had been modified in any way. So I bought a car that had to be repaired from scratch, which was fine. Of course, the colour blew my mind, too.

The car was created in the same year in which Lunetta was born: 1971. Lunetta believes the quality of cars in those days was exceptional.

The black vinyl and chrome interior detail is all original.

While much has changed since 1971, the BMW badge on the boot is as recognisable today as it was back then.

Interior designer Lunetta Bartz, founder of MAKER, in her 1971 BMW 2002 in the driveway of the Johannesburg modernist home that belonged to sculptor Edoardo Villa, which she and her husband restored and preserved.

The chrome petrol cap with its fin-like detail is one of Lunetta’s favourite features on her BMW 2002, and was the first part she restored after acquiring the car.

Lunetta says that when you turn the steering wheel, it’s as if you can feel time itself as all the little notches and chips that have accumulated over the years run beneath your hands.
When the original walnut gear-knob broke, Lunetta took it to a carpenter who used it as a template with which to turn an exact replica, also using walnut.
“Of course, the colour
blew my mind.” – Lunetta Bartz

The importance of restoration   When I bought this car in 1999, its petrol cap was broken. It’s one of my favourite design details – it has a little fin. So that was the first part I replaced. I knew the workshop manager at one of the BMW garages and he had a new one shipped from Germany.   Obviously, it would have been ideal if my dad had been around to be my mechanic, but my parents had moved to Cape Town by the time I got this car. Luckily, I found a German mechanic in Wynberg, Johannesburg, who helped with repairs for many years. Most of the interior was intact, but one front seat had a big hole in it. My mechanic knew a man who sourced vinyl, so they remade the front seats. About 10 years later, I had it resprayed that exact colour. More recently, we’ve had to machine all the callipers for the brakes.   Connecting with the past   My car is the same birth-year as me: it’s a 1971. I think the quality in those days was exceptional. Cars were made in a very different way then. It was proper industrial design: the whole process of making dies, casting… Of course, now it seems completely inefficient and they used so much material, but the parts lasted.   On the steering wheel, for example, you feel all the glitches from where it’s been used or bashed or bumped. It has the marks of all those years, and when you turn, you can actually feel the time.   The gear-shift was solid walnut. One day I was driving and suddenly it was in two pieces in my hand. I went to a carpenter, gave him the broken part, and he remade one in walnut with exactly the shame shape. It’s devastating when those things happen, but as long as you try get it as close as possible to how it looked, so aesthetically nothing is altered, you can reconnect with the past.

  The house in the background   A few years ago, Lunetta and her art-dealer husband, Warren Siebrits, were approached by the estate of the great modernist sculptor Edoardo Villa, who died in 2011, to become custodians of his house in Kew. They jumped at the opportunity. The house, which was designed by architect Ian McLennan in 1968, is a masterpiece of mid-century modernism.   Lunetta and Warren took the same approach they had with the restoration of the house as Lunetta had with her BMW. They set about meticulously restoring it to its original condition.   Just like Lunetta’s BMW 2002, there’s the importance of the design details, but just as important is the sense of the past – architectural and artistic heritage – being alive in the present. Lunetta refers to living in the house as “living inside a sculpture”. For her, the design and architecture of the past is something that informs your experience of the present in a visceral way. “You experience it,” she says. “You can feel it.”   And there’s something poetic in the thought that in the garage of this architectural gem is a contemporary automotive gem, just as lovingly restored. Some days, as she steps out the house, walks past a Edoardo sculpture and fires up her BMW 2002, she could swear it was 1971… somehow folded into the present.

“I’m a purist. I wouldn’t have bought it if it had been modified in any way.” – Lunetta Bartz