The subtitle of this might be: Or, In Which the Author Recognizes Her Needs May Have Shifted But Isn’t Sure Whether She Should Pull an Irv Gordon….
So! As some of you may know from my posts and what eventually will be part of my COAL series, I daily drive a 1989 BMW 325i Cabrio 5-speed, “Winston.” She was given to me as a family hand-me-down in the summer of ’99 with 62k miles on it, and since then, I’ve diligently kept her on the road. In fact she’s been my main touring vehicle for most of my music career, putting on just over 100,000 more miles in the last 18 years. Here we are just this last weekend in Hollywood, where I had an audition for a big touring musical.
She did the 800 mile round trip in typical fashion-no overheating on the Grapevine, averaging 74 mph on the 5 and probably 24 mpg. Not too shabby.
However, as strong as the engine and trans are, it’s the little things. The gas struts in the hood and trunk are dead. The weatherstripping and headliner are both shot. Replacement seats are unobtanium and I can’t find anyone I trust to restore them. The car suffered severe sun damage when it lived in Florida when it was my aunts’ car, and the leather is split in the back seat and the drivers’ seat. The soft top was slashed in ’05 in NYC, and I’ve had the factory hardtop on it since then, a part worth almost half the value of the car!
The car itself is pretty grand. It’s got an M3 steering rack, an LSD, a decent rear end ratio, and can beat almost anything off the line. It’s a hoot, takes corners like a champ, and I can fit my gear in it without issue. In fact, like fitted luggage of yore, I’ve only purchased amps that will fit into the trunk perfectly. I can get a 100 watt bass amp, my vintage Fender Princeton, pedalboard, lap steel, Telecaster, and bass all in the trunk with no fanfare.
But while the car’s mechanics are up to snuff — and considering its age and that it was always a northeast car, there is little rust — it’s starting to freak me out that the seatbelts are almost 30 years old, there are no airbags, and last week, I saw a low-mileage E39 525i for a great price, dealer maintained and no friggin iDrive.
But my E30 continues to hold value, even in its current state, and could theoretically keep on going, especially now that I live in the PNW, where rust is not an issue. So my question is this: do I keep DD-ing my ’89, trying to do some weekend resto work when I can, or put myself in a little debt and get a 2003 E39 to daily and make this a project car? My insurance won’t change much but I am wondering if any of this makes sense. A 4-door would be nice, as would airbags, but the reliability factor frightens me. I’ve heard the E39 is the last great BMW, but I don’t know anything about its long term rep. My E30 has only broken down once in my ownership of it (belts snapped leading to overheating), and has otherwise been like a Timex. I do 40k timing belt changes. The suspension is mostly new (aside from the struts, which are overdue). It’s a joy to drive. But I worry. Thoughts?