CC Capsule: 1997 BMW M3 – The Car I Want For My Midlife Crisis

Two jobs ago I worked for a company owned by a group of partners. Two of the partners used to take all of the IT directors, including me, to lunch once a month. One such day we were all going to pile into one partner’s giant luxury SUV when we came upon this delightful little BMW. When I remarked out loud to nobody in particular how one of these had been my dream car back in the day, the other partner said, “You’re in luck. It’s mine. You get to drive it to lunch today.”

Woot! But this partner is a jokester and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he thought I’d nestle into the driver’s seat and then balk at the clutch and stick. Most drivers these days would, present company excepted, of course. I wasn’t sorry to disappoint him. I drove stick the first ten years I was a driver, and it’s just like riding a bicycle. I had no trouble edging his car out of its parking space, through the lot, and onto the street.

The clutch was light and short, and the takeup point was strong. The shifter was notchy and sure. We weren’t going far enough for me to open ‘er up but acceleration in town traffic was snappy and satisfying. I have no idea what its 0-60 time is, but I’m sure a comparable new BMW can blow this 22-year-old car away. Who cares. Driving this car was a thoroughly delightful tactile experience. Everything about it was tuned to transmit pleasure – the feel of the road on my butt, the tension of the steering, the sound of the engine, and of course the feel of the clutch and stick. I want one of these just as much now as I did then.

I’d never so much as sat in any BMW before this. I’m not normally given over to luxurious or expensive things; I’m too practical and pragmatic.

I’ve wanted to write this up for more than two years now, but I botched the photo shoot I made of the car then and didn’t have a usable front three-quarters photo. This car’s owner lives in my town and I see him tooling around in it on fair-weather days. I knew it was only a matter of time before I found it parked curbside, as in the first photo.