Bimmer Lite - November 2007
I've done the unthinkable, but it's for the best
by Marc Biunno (aka Bimmer Lite)
Reprinted courtesy of Marc Biunno and Roundel Magazine
The bumper sticker on my new daily driver reads “My Other Car is a Mini Cooper S,” but the truth is that the silver E46 323i is the “other” car. It's the means to an end; I'm merely using it for the miles. The car means nothing to me. But alas, I have been and continue to be unfaithful. It pains me to admit it, but the love I have for my Mini has forced me to do the unthinkable and maintain another relationship with an older, slower, automatic (I hate myself) sedan.
After two years and 60,000 miles of motoring in my Mini, I decided to keep the car forever. This level of commitment is foreign to me, to say the least. At first, Vini (my car) was surprised; he didn't know what to say or do. He was so used to everyday duty, track events, and back road excursions, that he didn't know how to grasp intermittent usage. He threw questions at me left and right: “Do you not love me?”; “Why won't I be driven every day?” I remained steadfast knowing I had to sacrifice what I wanted now for what I'd want later: a lifetime with my pal.
This is really heavy stuff coming from a person whose longest relationship has been with a nine year old pair of Birkenstocks. In making the unbreakable automotive pact, I knew I'd have to obtain other means of transportation for my lengthy trip to work. What's the dream? A Mini for the commute and Vini in the garage. What's reality? There was a 323i in my family for sale at a really sweet price. What's the moral of the story? I had to swallow my pride and buy a car that exudes none of the enthusiasm, passion, and excitement for driving that my Mini does so well. This car is really a bore, albeit a necessary one. Vini likes to remind me that I'm some sort of uppity snob in my new (150,000 mile) sedan with its fancy leather interior, gratuitous heated seats, and truly repulsive automatic transmission. If he knew there were buttons on the steering wheel, I'd never hear the end of it. He brags about his six individually selectable speeds, his three pedals, and his frugal trunk space. His taunts hit me at the core.
I took my medicine, bought the 3er, and solidified a future with the car I really love. Have you ever had a car that you literally felt bad about driving so much? It pained me to ring out my daily driver down the straight of Lime Rock knowing that it would also have to traverse the ride to work on Monday. The potholes of New Jersey streets took life out of Vini with every hit. The car stayed outside, uncovered in the summer and winter. I'd move it away from trees during any rain for fear of falling, water-logged limbs (it happened to my '86 325). All this considered, I was acting in his best interests and did what I had to do. I'll rationalize this as a labor of love, and I certainly won't like the new car. Yuck - no chance.
As involving as the Cooper S was as a commuter, it was so stressful that something had to give. And for all of the pain, it will be a perfect forever fun/track car. It has timeless styling, exact steering, workable acceleration, gobs of handling, and did I mention timeless styling? I don't know what timeless styling is, but I'm sure the Mini has it. Also, the R53 is the car to keep since it represents BMW's first foray into the Mini world. Sure, the R56 might perform better, but I think we'll find that the R50-53 is the car to own.
So here's the plan: since I don't have a garage, Vini will stay under a cover during the week, and we'll play on the weekend. Now that he's not a daily driver, I won't hesitate to do all of the mods he wants me to do. He screams for a new suspension, whines for a 15% reduction pulley, and simply hates the fact that he doesn't have an L.S.D. You should hear him after a track session bemoaning his crude open diff., “I knew I'd be quicker with the L.S.D., great decision, Marc, you cheapskate.” I play it tough, but I know he's right and that he deserves everything he wants. I've had to hide the Wilwood brake kit that hasn't been installed yet; he'd go crazy if he knew I was holding out on him. During winters, I will try to find actual shelter for Vini. Sitting in the cold does bad things to people and cars.
Eventually, Vini will be a car suited for the track but still be capable on the street. Maybe someday he'll be track-only and will necessitate a trailer. I'm sure there's a savings plan somewhere I can contribute to for that goal. If I ever have kids I'll just take the savings bonds from grandma and grandpa and put it towards that. The kids won't be allowed to touch the car, and Vini'll just be another sibling. The wife will realize all of this and accept it. She'll be more than willing to share my affection after hearing stories of the sacrifices I've made for Vini. She'll think me a true man of passion while dutifully mending my Birks. We (the car and I) will live a happy life of motoring joy. When I'm too old to recognize my own body parts, I'll sit in Vini and just be delirious. He'll know who I am, even if I don't.
So maybe I should to admit that the 3er is making the master plan possible, and it might also be true that the car really does eat up the commuting miles well. But that doesn't change my true loyalty; just check out my bumper sticker.