This serialised Curbside Classic is the tale of a car that has become dear to me. The story features prominent and unnecessary swearing.
A couple of days ago, I locked the door to my car. I was wearing a long herringbone coat, driving gloves and my best black shoes (this isn’t unusual; I often dress like a jerk). A child, maybe 7 years old, approached me. He walked around my car and asked if I was a gangster.
“No, I’m in advertising.”
He seemed disappointed.
The first E28 I took notice of was in my university car park. I was walking to my car, at that time a hideous metallic gold Toyota Yaris, and spied a shark-nosed saloon tucked protectively into a corner. It sat low on deep-dished alloys from an E38, with leather Recaro seats, a dog-leg 5-speed manual, M535i badging and a come-hither chin spoiler.
It made quite an impression, but afterwards I drove away and more or less forgot about it for 2 years.
My old Scirocco Scala 1.8 carb
In the spring of 2010, a friend and I planned a great pan-European road trip. By then I was driving a MKII Scirocco, which while charming was plainly unsuited to the task of crossing a continent. I began checking Pistonheads ads for something more appropriate; it needed to be large, very comfortable, reasonably quick, not too thirsty, and hopefully have a bit of shagged-out retro cool. I would be doing all the driving, and wanted something with a manual transmission and rear-wheel-drive.
I went to see a few E34 BMWs and got unlucky. One was snatched from under my nose, another was a total heap (although the dealership promised to get it running if I bought it), and the third was a wonderful 535i that sent insurance skyrocketing out of our budget.
One day, entirely by accident, I clicked through to the E28s instead of the E34s. The shark from the car park popped back into my brain with an audible sound. One was for sale in London! It was only a grand (yes). Some cretin had cut up the rear skirt (no). It was a manual with a 2.8 (oh yes). It was beige (bugger).
I went to see it, and in a decision that I should have regretted for the rest of my life, bought it £950. Even the petrol tank was empty.
Still, there I was, lost in South London in a drug dealer’s BMW in May. People gave me nods, thumbs up, and there were headlight flashes from the ex-yuppie E30s that still litter the streets of London.
I made it as far as Hammersmith when the front right brake bound. I waited for it to cool and reflected on my prize.
Originally purchased by a doctor in Yorkshire, the car was a 528i SE equipped with a 181bhp straight six, a cloth ‘comfort’ interior, cruise control, hilarious traction-free metric tyres, a sunroof, electric windows, a Thatcher-era trip computer and check system, and only 79,000 miles on the clock. The engine was unbelievably smooth, and the clutch was unbelievably heavy. Wheel arch crust was minimal, and the jacking points were tidy. Ray Charles or somebody had left scuffs around the door locks, and the boot leaked.
I was overcome with a wave of post-purchase euphoria. I own a BMW! A world of possibilities was opening up before me. I could cut up bus drivers and single mums without remorse, double-park in disabled spaces and blow my horn at pensioners. Smokey burnouts and drifting heroics awaited me in my hairy-chested man’s car.
But I would never be free of the shame.
My spirits remained high as I reached the M4. For the first time in my journey, I hit 40 miles per hour, when holy god in heaven what the fuck!? The steering wheel was trying to dislodge itself from the splines! It was like steering with a Shake Weight. My eyes began to unfocus as I pulled into a service station, where I checked my wheel nuts and walked around the car, pawing at my face.
“I can’t believe I was so stupid! The brakes, this wobble; I should have driven faster when I tested it! Also, what’s that horrible whining sound in first gear? And couldn’t that stingy bastard at least have left me a fucking radio?”
I ate a packet of cheap nuts and braved the motorway again. At higher speeds the wobble was less violent, so I had the unpleasant choice of crawling the 100 miles home at low speed or doing 75 and hoping that none of the wheels would liberate themselves from their hubs. Spoiler: I lived!
On my return I had the wheels balanced. They were truly ragged ‘bottlecap’ alloys, missing chunks of metal from the centres and covered with a rash of wheel weights. Proper balancing largely solved the vibrations, and after a fluid and filter change I took the boat to the local B-roads to determine its true character.
Yes, but no matter what the pain, at least you’ve got a real BMW. Not one of the curent “Lexus with handling” abortions.
A child, maybe 7 years old, approached me. He walked around my car and asked if I was a gangster.
“No, I’m in advertising.”
AH HA! That’s exactally what a gangster would say if he was asked that question!
I am excited – I will get to live my 80s BMW fantasy vicariously through you! When I got out of law school and was looking for my first new car, I really wanted a BMW. On my fresh new lawyer budget, the 318 was a stretch, and the 325 was possible if I was prepared to subsist on rice and day-old bread.
The one I really wanted was this one. I was single and had no kids, and might have been able to afford it, but unfortunately, it was not big enough to live in. After a couple of years, I reverted to type and indulged my love of big American 60s metal, so I have never owned one of these. I am looking forward to the rest of your experiences.
It’s “I’m in waste management”. The great Tony Soprano..
Ahhh, ummm, I am actually in waste management. Does that make me a gangster?
Hmmmmmmmmmmm do you like cigars? Is your psychologist your mistress?
Oh wait, Tony wouldn’t drive an Acura… 😛
Nice! I also equivocated about a BMW around the same time as jpc. If we had been getting the same ones as you over there, the genuine “i” versions with motors that actually revved, I might have bitten.
The only 5 Series we got for a number of years was the 528e; which had/has its fans, but had a diesel-like rpm band. At that age, I wanted a propeller that really spun.
Looking forward to your saga. Nice to read about something more current than our old-guy memories.
Didn’t the 533i come over to the US in 1983 as a result of all the complaints from Bimmer enthusiasts about the 528e?
From Wikipedia: “533i: A North American only model sold from 1983 to 1984 in limited quantities in response to customer complaints that the 528e had lower performance figures than the 1981 528i that it replaced. Equipped with a 181 hp (135 kW) 3.2 L M30 6-cylinder engine as fitted to the larger 633csi and 733i, it produced 195 lb·ft (264 N·m). torque. The compression ratio was 8.8:1. Top Speed was 134 mph (manual). The 533i was the fastest sedan sold in the USA in 1983.”
Ah yes, the 528e. Or, as Car and Driver called it at the end of the new model road test, “The adequate driving machine.”
“Ray Charles or somebody had left scuffs around the door locks”
Line of the week, easily. 😉
Didn’t Ray Charles actually appear in a Peugeot commercial that aired in France?
Gorgeous E28. I *almost* got the parental units to buy me an ’87 535iS 5-speed for a college car. It worked out until my dad drove it. He proclaimed it as too fast and got me a Volvo 740 turbo, which apparently was sufficiently “not fast enough”.
As a result of that I went out and got my own Bimmer (see avatar) a few years back. 40 more horsepower than that 535iS and a 6-speed gearbox, but it isn’t as cool as an E28 at all.
BMW, a gangster’s car? Looks pretty tame to me. Buy a real gangster car like a 70’s Eldorado. In the US, they are relatively easy to obtain. I’ve had 2, a 75 white and a 78 grey, both mint one owners. The white one got hit in 93. I ran across the grey one in 2000. Funny, both had 33K on the clock when I got them. I still have the grey, now has 38K, never drive it much. Really tough on gas. A real blast to drive to the bank or golf course.
Didn’t think British people used profanity like their American cousins. Doesn’t offend me, just never thought of it before. Never thought herringbone coats would effect a gangster look, either. Seems to me, BMW and herringbone should evoke lawyer, doctor, or accountant.
Live and learn! Cheers!
Dave, if you had ever been to the UK, you would see the cost of fuel which runs at 1.35 pounds per litre at the moment. That is $8.00 per US gallon. Then there is the road tax on such a beast, which would be off the scale. Finally, there would be no place to park it and many roads not wide enough to drive it.
Only in North America is a 200 hp car seen as under powered. I can’t believe it when I see car mag-rags say a 300 hp car is not fast enough. My 260 hp car is absurdly overpowered 99% of the time.
Our Honda Odyssey Minivan is absurdly overpowered much of the time….
You need to watch a few Guy Ritchie films
“The steering wheel was trying to dislodge itself from the splines! It was like steering with a Shake Weight. My eyes began to unfocus as I pulled into a service station, where I checked my wheel nuts and walked around the car, pawing at my face.”
I think anyone who’s bought an old, used car has had one of these moments. I know I have.
So that’s what gangsters drove in England? Very interesting!
If you want a really good BMW, especially with right hand drive, take a trip to Japan. There are loads of them at absurdly low prices and in good condition, too. Their “Shaken” inspection system means anything with like 2% wear on it is replaced every two years. This makes from great used cars at really low prices. A friend of mine got a 1990 535i (left hand drive) delivered to Vancouver for $5000 (this is Canadian Pesos, equivalent to just over $400 US dollars) with 65,000 km on it. The car was and is flawless EXCEPT……
It is an old BMW. These cars need deep pockets, overdrafts, high credit limits and unlimited patience.
The most important factor in Old German Car Ownership is the intimate acquaintance of a short, plump, balding, 5’5″ German (Austrian or Bavarian also acceptable) guy named Rudy. Rudy knows German cars. He works out of an old, cluttered shop on the edge of town. There are many old wrecks of German cars outside. Rudy is always smiling and he wears dirty overalls. He works on Rudy time so you had better not be in a hurry to get your car back but Rudy knows how to keep these cars going without you going broke.
Here is the other factor, James. Keep your Yaris. The cockroaches will be driving it in the year 4544 AD. It is basically indestructible with any kind of maintenance. To enjoy the BMW experience, you’ll need to wait on Rudy quite a bit and getting pissed at him will not make him work one second faster. In fact, it will get slower. Thus, skulk in thy Toyota and take the Ultimate Breaking (oops Driving) Machine out for the Sunday drive.
And Paul, tongue is firmly in cheek. Please do not take this too seriously but I think that anyone who who has owned an old car knows of what I speak. Especially old German cars.
+100500 on Japanese sourcing and keeping the Yaris, but totally disagree on the deep pockets and Rudy thing.
See, been there, done that, 20 units, for both mine and my friends’s owning and driving pleasure.
The key is
a) having a reliable partner in Japan.
b) understanding of auction lists, the Japanese are very particular on listing all, even most minor, problems.
c) never even touch anything with Auction Grade lower than 4. Never go by the cheapest bidder unless you know fully well what to expect.
My personal record – 155USD for a 1990 SAAB 900T16.
Now the yen’s been Sumo-fat, deeming these searched less sensible money-wise, but if you are prepared to lose on exchange rate – it is THE way to go for a cheap Euro classic.
It’s a good idea to pick a color and interior that Rudy finds tasteful, since he will be seeing your car more than you will.
It’s always fun to drive by the German import mechanic shops (we have a row of such in Pasadena) and see the various models of impressive old Porsches, BMWs and Benzes parked there–since naturally, these cars aren’t out on the road very often given the time they spend with Rudy. (Not piling on–I love old German cars from an aesthetic standpoint, just have tried owning one and never will again.)
I strongly disagree with the characterization of the “Rudy” experience of owning a 1980s German car. Unless you’re talking about a 750iL. Those things are nightmares.
If anything, the Internet makes owning an old German car pretty easy, provided that one is willing to DIY repairs. Want an example? Go over to http://www.r3vlimited.com/board/forumdisplay.php?f=115 and check out the forums. There are excellent how-to’s for pretty much any procedure one can dream about having to do to an E30 BMW.
Rudy is called Hans here. Same guy, different name.
We have all seen him, so we can all form the same mental picture.
Or perhaps Rudy has a doppelganger.
In my own personal reality, Rudy was the Bimmer/Benz guy to stay away from! My Rudy had “graduated” from grease monkey to overseer of 2 or 3 grease monkeys as his business had grown from a dark, one stall “back alley” hole-in-the-wall to a modern facility fronting High Visibility Parkway! Rudy regarded any invoice under $5,000.00 as a waste of time. Used parts were cleaned up and sold as new, oil changes were charged for but not completed. No … my Rudy was a hindrance, not a help, but he always had a smiling face … and his doctor and attorney customers love him because, as everyone knows, having a genuine german working on your kraut can is akin to sending it back to das Veterland for a lube job!
Ah, but the British do have a way with profanity. Have you seen “Four Weddings and Funeral”? The first dozen words are F-bombs as the Hugh Grant character attempts to reach a wedding after oversleeping and his car won’t start, then drives past his exit. Hilarious!
Have you heard of Keith Richards and Ringo Starr?
An E28 driver wearing a herringbone coat and driving gloves is the equivlanet of a K5 Blazer driver wearing a sleeveless flannel shirt and Bass Pro Shops hat.
It just goes together so well.
I can’t help myself to not read this in James May’s voice.
Speaking of which, new Top Gear tomorrow!
I sympathize with you mate, I would have bought it too. Oh, that might be construed as an insult might-en it? Well none the less, it’s a beauty, I look forward to the next installment. And as usual, good writing as well.
It could have been worse. You could have bought a Jaguar XJS.
Yes, the ultimate nightmare. Well, not quite, the Austin Marina was the ultimate nightmare! At least the XJS makes a nice lawn ornament.
Pray why was the *Morris* Marina the `ultimate’ nightmare? Was it significantly worse than Lada, Cortina, etc.? It was a big seller over many years, so perhaps the British car buyers would be in disagreement with the motoring press here. It served people who wanted cheap transportation well. Yes it could have been much better, but it could also have been much worse (it could have been an *expensive* dud). For a company in such dire straits as BL in those days, and confounded by politics, I’d say the Marina was not too bad a product. The Motoring Press be damned.
Compared to that? The Marina was utter trash compared to the Japanese cars that were coming to North America in droves at the time. I suppose if I lived in a place that only had crap products available the Marina would somehow be seen a somewhat less crappy but compared to a Toyota or Datsun 510, it was complete trash.
Well, compared to the XJS, the Marina was arguably not the ultimate nightmare. 😉
> a place that only had crap products available
You said it! UK in the dark years. Until the Japanese achieved wide availability (and they’re not that easily available even now), the only cheap good cars to buy were Fords or Vauxhalls. Or Marinas, except for the good part. But they were better than the Ladas, and at least competitive with Ford and Vauxhall, and cheaper. Fleet buyers liked ’em, and they sold a helluva lot in Britain. A pity that BL was so seriously fubared by the end of its run that it couldn’t produce a good replacement, so it soldiered on, and the rest is BL’s sad history. Ford and Vauxhall (and VW), on the other hand, went from strength to strength.
PS: Was the Datsun 510 even available in the UK?
Having never lived in the UK, I wouldn’t know what cars were and were not available. Suffice to say my experience in English cars is sufficient to not want one!
The Marina was only ever an upgraded Morris Minor with none of the charm or competence of the Minor as a parts upgrade for Minors they are ok but as a traveling experience dont bother good shoes are preferred.
This link (from the Datsun owner’s club UK) seems to indicate that the 510 was not available in the UK:
We’ll have to wait for a British person to clarify this.
BTW, Ford, Vauxhall, VW and (surprise!) BMW still sweep the UK top 10 in sales. The lone Japanese car is the strangely named Nissan Qashqai.
Either Japanese cars are too expensive (prolly due to tax) and limited to grey market Skylines and such, or the Ford/GM UK stuff is up to snuff indeed.
Or local producers have been protected by tariffs and quotas for generations.
Excuse moi, but why are we supposed to go gaga over this auto in the first place? It is a cribbed design (Challenger+Corvair+Camaro with ugly slab sides and a boring rear), unreliable, expensive to buy and maintain, with lousy interiors (uncomfortable seats, low space, depressing colours, etc.) and not quite the attention-getter. It would probably get poor mileage too, so makes little sense from a practical standpoint. And why, oh why, does it have *4* doors? Its too expensive for a one-car family or the taxi trade anyway.
Sorry if this reads like a rant, but I really do want to know if there is anything to BMW apart from the brand. Apologies to connoisseurs of magic handling sauce. Does tight suspension make up for all else? If yes, why not a Skyline or Subaru?
When it comes to comfort and roadholding Peugeot/Citroen do a much better job they seem to enploy both at once
That may be, but Peugeots and Citroens are in pretty short supply here in the States. Maybe with Fiat and possibly Alfa coming back, we will get more Euro marques imported.
Peugeot/Citroen – the ultimate walking machine!
” It is a cribbed design (Challenger+Corvair+Camaro with ugly slab sides and a boring rear), ”
– I don’t see any of this.
– No, the M30 big six can easily go 300 or 400 thousand miles on the original top and bottom end if maintained well. The manual transmissions on E28s are bombproof. The 4-speed ZF 4HP22 automatic was the only weak point in the drivetrain; buy a manual transmission.
“expensive to buy and maintain”
– You can get a good used E28 for $5-7k USD. 535iS with a 5-speed manual and a limited slip differential. Maintenance is not expensive if you are willing to perform some of it yourself. It’s pretty cheap compared to a lot of Japanese cars (try doing a head gasket job on a boxer Subaru, then talk to me about difficult maintenance)
“and not quite the attention-getter”
– Well, duh. It’s a 25 to 30 year old BMW.
” I really do want to know if there is anything to BMW apart from the brand.”
-Yes. Drive any 6-cylinder BMW with a manual transmission from the last 30 years or so that’s not completely beat up and you’ll understand. But don’t take it from me, go to bimmerfest.com or another BMW forum and ask these questions.
“Does tight suspension make up for all else? If yes, why not a Skyline or Subaru?”
– I’ve owned a Subaru and driven a couple fast Subarus (WRXes). They have loads of power and grip but the handling precision of my 3 series isn’t there. Basically, they feel like a cheap Japanese economy car that’s really fast and handles well.
Hello Sam. Nice to see your avatar! I agree that BMW make cars that are good when new. No arguments on that.
But, please make myself more clear on the other points you mention.
-> Cribbed Design: The front-end is a direct lift-off from the stereotypical Pony Car. See the pictures of the ’71 Challenger and ’67 Camaro SS. This car even has a vestigial power bulge. Just pasting a kidney grille on top does not make it an original design. Moreover, the car *intends* to evoke the Muscle Car emotion, and has the power (in certain 6 cylinder models, sort of), so the design is likely not a coincidence. As for the Corvair influence, this has already been discussed in detail here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/automotive-history-how-the-1960-corvair-started-a-global-design-revolution/ Please help yourself to it.
-> Unreliable: You’re absolutely right the engine is very long-lasting. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the automatic box (as you rightly point out, there appear to be several types in use, is it specific?) Also, the car uses sophisticated components that become more failure prone with age, but it is true that this car won’t leave anyone stranded. However, Japanese cars of similar vintage have even fewer problems (anecdotal, based on others’ comments).
-> Expensive to buy and maintain: This is very true. These cars are expensive when new, and if (when) their resale value crashes it is usually due to excessive cost of spares, especially outside the EU. Trained repairmen are not easily available, and those that *are* available are too costly. It may be easier to repair than some other car, but that does not make it inexpensive.
-> “and not quite the attention-getter”: Good. You and I agree here.
Going to bimmerfest.com is slightly inappropriate when asking for presumably critical opinions isn’t it? Its like going to saabsunited for SAAB reviews. 🙂 But I get your message: Its about the drive baby!
Your experiences with Subaru are your own. But if a car goes really fast and handles well, isn’t *that* the point of the drive? Or is it `cheap Japanese economy car’ vs `expensive German luxury car’ that counts? Considering the views of many BMW owners, I’m inclined to think the latter, and your last statement only strengthens that. Anyway, I’m sure an inline-6 Skyline is more than a match for a 5 series, for less money and more fun, and I’m certain many will agree. These folks do: http://forum.bmw5.co.uk/topic/51838-bmw-vs-skyline/ but they could be wrong!
This brand of car can be bought here for well under $1000 pacific pesos and tend to make attractive lawn ornaments. The plethora imported from Japan used mean there are plenty about. Unfortunately Japanese driver treat them like Japanese cars and never check the engine so regular maintenance is ignored and while the interior and painytwork are often 5 or better mechanicly they are knackered before they land and once past their first Kiwi owner are worthless.
“Your experiences with Subaru are your own. But if a car goes really fast and handles well, isn’t *that* the point of the drive?”
No. The Subaru drives like a Japanese economy car with a big turbocharger, because that’s what it is.
“Or is it `cheap Japanese economy car’ vs `expensive German luxury car’ that counts? Considering the views of many BMW owners, I’m inclined to think the latter, and your last statement only strengthens that. ”
There are plenty of Japanese cars that are more fun to drive than a BMW sedan. The Honda S2000 is one. It has a proper front engine/rear drive platform that’s not adapted from an Accord or Civic, so it doesn’t feel like a tarted up econocar; at least to me. I’ve driven one, and that was an absolute blast. Who knows, I may own one in the future.
“Anyway, I’m sure an inline-6 Skyline is more than a match for a 5 series, for less money and more fun, and I’m certain many will agree. These folks do: http://forum.bmw5.co.uk/topic/51838-bmw-vs-skyline/ but they could be wrong! ”
The car featured in that thread is an R32 Skyline.
So you’re saying that it’s possible to get a R32 Skyline for less than the $7k USD that one would pay for a decent E28 5-series? Sign me up, I’ll buy one! With the AWD system, it’d make a great winter beater here in Seattle 😉
Ah, here we come to the used price comparison. In these parts, both cars (with similar specs of course) are to be had only as grey ex-JDM imports, and cost roughly the same. The clincher is the absurdly high parts cost for BMW vis-a-vis Nissan. As you can get used Beemers very economically, high parts expense is not that big an issue. Cheers!
I’d *love* to drive a S2000 some time, if only in a dream. 250hp from an unblown 2 litre 4!
Sam…Sam…Sam… Your obiviously surrounded by Bimmer nuts here so you might as well drop the Subaru and give yourself up – you ain’t changin’ anybody’s mind here! I have to say, if I had to take on a rice burner, it would be a Subaru, but arguing their finer points will be about as popular here as Rush Limbaugh giving the keynote speech at the next Democratic National Convention! If you don’t dig the 80s Bimmers, thats cool. Hopefully you have given yourself the opportunity to look over, drive, or at least ride along in an 80s fiver before condemning them? Like so many things, alot of their beauty lies in their imperfections. I like them because they still retained alot of the character of BMWs of the 60s and early 70s. Owning one is like seeing an old friend, always comfortable to spend time with, even if their advancing age is making them abit crochety – accepting that the bad is outweighed by the good. I’ve found that most japanese car fans are not interested in all this, they just expect a car to do what they wanted it to do, well, and constantly. When that ceases, it’s time to replace it. Nothing wrong with that line of thought, it just isn’t how a antique car guy operates. To some extent, break downs and failure are looked at as oportunities (not just inconveniences) to learn, share, bitch, build experience, and probably most importantly, allows man to bond with machine (and deep down every owner knows there is more to his machine than just metal and plastic). You might just think all of this is just horsehockie, which you might be right, but either way your time might be better spent checking out some of the Subaru sites than trying to change others minds. Just sayin’….
For many, many years I’ve been tempted to snag an E30 325i or is with a 5-speed manual.
Only problem is- I’ve become some accustomed to the seamless reliability of my ’95 LS400 and the plethora of Detroit dinosuars that I’ve owned over the years, that I’m more than a little hinky over the idea of taking on an aging German car.
I am in the same frame of mind. I wanted an LS400 because they are great cars and very reliable but the cost of fuel made me change my mind. I don’t need a V-8 where I live anyway. Actually, nobody needs a V-8. However, at USA fuel cost, I would be driving one for sure!
The Acura was a good compromise; reliable, more than adequate power and more reasonable fuel consumption. I would not consider a used German sports sedan. I simply don’t have the time to take care of it.
As a person who is pushing for a “re-formalization” of the workplace I think your description of attire is dead on. Bravo!
I haven’t owned that car but I have purchased “that” car. A buddy and I drove from Chicago to North Liberty Iowa to pick up a 1980 Eagle. It took 4 hours to get there, 7 and a half to get home..
Ah, I feel yer pain. I, too, have champagne tastes and a beer budget; and I, too, have been an owner of a Yaris. Currently, in my case.
Oh, woe is me!…this penury has taken me over in middle life, so I have little hope at this point of my ship coming in. But, happily for myself, I have come to know that an old fart in a BMW, is still an old fart, and just as unappealing to young lasses and other comely strumpets.
I, too, like to carve twisting roads; but my roadgoing experience has shown me that naught on four wheels can do what the most base can do with two. So I, too, have indulged in a BMW…in my own case, a cycle.
The Yaris is respectably new, and paid-for. And starts, with nary a complaint. The wheels roll well without welded-on tacks for balance. The economy approaches that of the two-wheeled alternative.
When I am left to my own devices, one fortnight a year, I ride the mountaintop, the canyon, the forest path…with my toy, my BMW. The rest of the year…I indulge in the dull reliability and economy with shame, as is offered by Toyota’s lowest offering.
I have learnt from friends, that the taste of week-old bread crust, daily, remains far longer than what nominal thrills are offered by such a dubious status-symbol as is a second-hand auto of Bayerische Motoren Werke.
Yes! I fully agree. For the sake of brevity I neglected to mention that before I bought the Scirocco and sold the Yaris, I owned a motorcycle for 2 weeks. My parents found out (getting a bike while in uni, while driving a car they paid for to stop me from buying a bike in the first place was rightly verboten. chalk it up to being an idiot) and it was gone in a puff of 2-stroke smoke. Amazing fun though. I’ll do it again when I’ve got the scratch.
I’d sure like to hear about the stroker!
Well it’s not a huge giggle but heyo.
The Yaris left me wanting excitement, and I had wanted a bike since forever. I had lived way under budget the previous year at uni and I had some money lying around. During the spring holidays I snuck off to do my CBT (necessary to ride a small bike in the UK) one day and buy my gear, keeping everything on the sly from the maw and paw.
So I basically just went to Birmingham and bought the first thing I saw (from a dealer). It was a 125cc Honda NSR from either the dark ages or 1993, I forget which. It was old and it was faded. But! In those days the exchange rate was good, and it was imported from Italy. It had an unrestricted exhaust so it put out 28bhp (or less) instead of the learner-legal 15. It was fast!…relatively.
Just as well I had to send it back, really. 3rd and 4th gear were disappearing fast.
Two weeks of smoky heaven! Or hell. Never had 2-stroke Hondas in these parts. Only very restricted Yammy commuters, and the RD350. Also 50s Jawa tech. I own a local Jawa clone (called Yezdi) even now. Two stroke 250cc with all of 13.5hp! Alas, new emissions legislation has killed off new two stroke bikes here, with no manufacturer willing to upgrade ’em.
It IS all about the drive. The balance and the smoothness are a revelation if you never drove one before. With a manual transmission, all the better. And if they’re in good shape they blow away a lot of the older iron you might otherwise be looking at.
The materials used in the car wear very well. Paint holds up even in the northern climes and interior plastics are sturdy. 25-year-old BMW’s still have a shine to their paint and no cracks in the dash. They will often rack up high miles and not look it. Of course, the same can be said about other premium makes like Mercedes, but try finding any 1980’s Japanese cars without rust issues. And you’d be pleasantly surprised at parts prices. Really no worse than a Toyota or Mazda, and the parts stores often supply OEM by default. If you blow the engine, you’ll pay. But everybody’s engines are expensive these days.
They can be fussy. Major components hold up well, but hit a pothole and you will certainly get shake-weight steering from the unbalanced or bent wheel. Brake discs sometimes warp providing all that stopping power (and BMW brakes do stop well). None of this stuff will strand you, but it will annoy and you’ll want to keep your car in full “Ultimate Driving Machine” trim especially if you know how well it drives that way.
Old BMW’s have a sophistication about them, largely due to the fact that the styling still looks good over time. They’re certainly not status symbols, but they can be a lot of fun while not being anywhere near the headache of, say, a Jag or even a Porsche.
That said, either find a good low-mileage one or a higher-mileage example that has had a lot of work already done. You’ll work on stuff, but no more than any other car of equivalent vintage.
This was my old car!!
I bought it off the original owner from Durham after watching it for 5 years passing by whilst standing in the bus stop waiting for the school bus.
I pestered him for years to buy it and I’d like to own it again…
I sold it in 2008 due to moving home.