Bimmer Lite - July 2008
A mourned E30 and a silver lining Cooper S
by Marc Biunno (aka Bimmer Lite)
Reprinted courtesy of Marc Biunno and Roundel Magazine
My first automotive love was a 1986 325. Okay, that's a lie. My first automotive love was a pedal-powered KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand) that talked to me as I propelled it around the poles in my basement. Our gravel driveway and the idea of me on the road with actual cars at the age of five meant that my race track was under my house, and on rare occasions, in the garage. So I suppose the E30 was my second car crush, but it was the first with an actual engine (the mighty ETA) and rubber tires.
And it was more than a car crush – way more. I can't look at an E30 to this day and not get that tell-tale lump in my chest. Sad as it is that these feelings arise for cars, if you're reading Roundel, you probably know what I'm talking about. A human can love a car. Whether it goes both ways is up for debate, perhaps fodder for theoretical physicists (But if we look we change the outcome! Doh!), so why don't we just operate under the assumption that the feelings are mutual; this allowance makes our world a little easier to understand, and it makes us all seem a bit more sane. There, I even convinced myself. Grand.
So I loved the E30, and it loved me. Last October, I wrote briefly about the relationship I had with “the red car.” Since I've divulged much of the story already, and the meat of it is your basic boy sees car, boy rides in car, boy cleans wheels of car, boy is smitten with car, type of narrative, I should probably start at the latest chapter. It's a good one, and don't worry, it eventually relates to Minis.
After nearly twenty years and close to 200,000 miles, the 325 left our family. It was a mistake, to be sure, but the bottom line is that the car was sold because I made a bad decision. Just like Noah fought with Allie to drive her away (The Notebook, people, come on---brush up on your romantic novels/films), I did the same to my beloved E30. I earned the right to drive the car for my performance in college – it was promised to me by my father should I earn a degree with honors. Now, my father isn't stupid; he made this “wager” at a time when academics were about as important to me as doing laundry is now. That is to say, I wasn't much of a student, so the chances of the red car being mine were slim and close to none.
But it did become mine. It's fair to say I worshipped the car. The oxidized paint would get polished at every possible opportunity, usually each week. My first post-college roommate would try but fail to understand what I could possibly be spending so much time doing almost every weekend.
I stayed religious about the car's maintenance, parked it in Guam no matter what my destination might be, and I swore to keep the car eternally because of what it represented and because it was virtually a member of the family. I cared about the car so much that I thought it would be a good idea to give it back to Dad when I didn't want to drive it 20,000 miles a year for my new commute. The plan made perfect sense in my head – give it back, then be reunited when I could feasibly (and financially) own two cars. The problem was that giving it back was a bad idea; it sent a bad message. It sent a worse message when I bought a 2005 Cooper S as a replacement and became infatuated with it immediately.
So you get where this is going. Shortly thereafter, the car was sold. As I sat in the car the day we'd say goodbye, I said to myself, “This car is going to come back to me.”
And come back it did. Three years later, right across the street from my condo, in the parking lot of a CVS, I spotted a red E30. For some reason, over the last three years I've checked out every E30 to see if it were mine, regardless of color. I barely had to inspect this one – the Supersprint exhaust, the lowered stance, the scratches I knew were there – this was my car. My walk quickly turned to a brisk jog as my heart dropped into my stomach. I investigated the car as if I was letting the current owner borrow it, only to be returned tonight. The paint was ignored, oxidized, and scratched. The body was dinged in new places. The poor car was wearing the same tires I left it with – Michelin Arctic Alpins on the original bottle cap rims.
First thing I did was call Dad. “This is our car, not a look alike; should I buy it?” Trust me, I have a great deal more motivation than money, but at that point, it didn't matter. I decided I wanted to own the car again. Never thinking that the neighborhood CVS would be the place for such an encounter, I stormed in looking for the owner. Trying to subdue my excitement to get the car back, to right a wrong, and to patch a broken home, I inquired with the owner (his son was driving it, how appropriate) and made an offer. I was close. Very close.
Just not close enough. The car, in its current condition, is worth about a grand. I offered $1,800 depending on a mechanic's inspection. The owner was “thinking more like $2,500 and no mechanic inspection.” Damn. The car is valuable to me, but it's not that valuable. Plus, this guy did what I would have done, too – hold on to something worth it. Fair enough.
So Noah and Allie end up together, but Marc and his E30 don't. No happy ending here; I have, though, learned something. I've learned not to sell something I love, and as much as I don't like to admit it, I've learned to move on. Okay, that's another lie – I check up on the car at CVS weekly since the owner's son is an employee. What's the penalty for automotive stalking?
In the end, though, the silver lining is my Cooper S, which is my new obsession. And no, it's not for sale. Ever.