I have a theory about how people form the close, sometimes fanatical relationships they have with their automobiles: As adolescents, we are imprinted with the indelible impression of the first car that kicks us in the pants. Imprinting is followed by acute automotive obsession and seems correlated with periods of intense hormonal activity. Adolescent males often imprint on things like Camaros and Firebirds, resulting in large numbers of 17 year olds with swollen adenoids driving oil-burning, tire-squealing monsters that give motorheads a bad name. Middle-aged males seem especially susceptible to a virulent German strain that the Center for Disease Control now believes may be passed through contact with leather seats. In my case, it was initially misdiagnosed as a glandular condition.
The carrier was a red 1971 2002 with a license plate that read GEIST (German for spirit). It was owned by a friend who took me blazing along the back roads of Amherst, MA, impressing me with what this little car that looked like a Datsun 510 could do, and scaring the hell out of me. Before the 2002, he had an E-type Jaguar which, for some reason, I didn't imprint on as strongly (maybe I did; my first car was a Triumph GT6. Boy, did I learn my lesson, as well as lots of bad Lucas jokes). The imprint was completed when I graduated college and started working for the person whose 2002 had bitten me. He had moved up to a 530i which I got to drive over hell and creation. Hooked for life.When I moved down to Austin, Texas for my first real job, I decided to buy a 2002. The bout with having owned a Triumph had left me mechanically (not to mention electrically) inclined, so I looked for something that needed work. I found a '71 2002 for $1000 that had a cracked transmission end cover. The body was Colorado (how that disgusting shade of orange ever became associated with such a lovely state is beyond me) with large patches of bondo and surface rust from the previous owner's aborted attempt at bodywork. It also had the prerequisite missing front bumper and punched-in kidneys, giving it that distinctive toothless shark look. My then girlfriend (and now wife) who had heard me yammering about BMWs for years could scarcely believe her eyes. "You bought That? Oh my God it's hideous!" Well, it did have alloy wheels and a sunroof. With much help, advice and moral support from Terry Sayther at Phoenix BMW (one of our TIPS representatives), I rebuilt the transmission and began to exorcise the car of its myriad of idiosyncrasies.
After about a year, the expense of replacing alternators, starters and rear ends began to get to me. I tried to find a parts car, but Terry consistently beat me to the punch. One day, a stranger walked up to me as I was getting into my car (which was still seriously ugly but in excellent mechanical shape) and said "I have a parts car for sale. Interested?" His parts car turned out to be a slightly neglected rust-free maroon '72 2002 with a sunroof and air conditioning, (this was Austin, 'member?). I bought it for $650 and sold my orange one (after paint and bodywork) for $2700.
Then things just started coming at me. There had been a 1971 2002 with dents in every body panel sitting 100 yards from my house for almost a year. I tracked down the legal owner who was all too happy to transfer the car into my name, since he was receiving parking tickets incurred by 3 people who had bought his car without ever legally taking title to it. Before rolling it to my house, I thought that I'd try to start it, just for laughs. It started.
The next day, a rather large young man appeared at my door proclaiming that he'd been out of the country for 10 months and came back to find I'd stolen his car. I explained that it legally wasn't his and that I'd gotten clear title to it from the legal owner, but he was a lot bigger than I was so for $100 we considered the matter settled. It was soon turned into a parts car: A previous owner must've done something very funky to the wiring, because one day I accidentally left the lights on and within 30 seconds every bit of insulation was burned off the wiring harness - a stench I won't soon forget. I bought a cherry 1600 for $300 that had been run over a small embankment by an overzealous Brake Check mechanic. It looked a lot worse than it was, needing mainly a fender, subframe, and some front end parts. I put $350 into it and sold it for two grand. Every bit of this profit was lost, however, on a 1967 2000cs. It was a pain in the neck and by the time I sold it, the car was at least half 2002 parts, but it was beautiful: wood dashboard, Nardi wood steering wheel, power windows and those baaaad looking Euro headlights.
When I knew I was moving back up to Massachusetts, I decided to look for a rust-free big-bumpered 2002 that might fare better against Boston drivers. I found a '75 with a sunroof and a/c. for $2500. I eventually turned this car into a faux tii by buying a Colorado orange '72 tii with a quarter million miles for $650. I rebuilt the tii engine, swapped it and other parts with my '75, drove the tii as a winter car and sold it in the spring for $1700. In the interim, there was a running 2002ti with Weber 40DCOEs on it for $225 (more tii conversion parts) and a $100 1600 parts car that I put some time into and sold running for $175. Currently I also own a fairly clean '73 tii that I bought as an insurance total for $1200 (not even hit hard enough to push the radiator into the fan) and a 72 Bavaria that, like the 2000cs, I completely misjudged as a possible money-maker but have grown remarkably attached to.
Four 2002s, two tiis, one ti, two 1600s, a 2000cs and a Bavaria makes eleven. I hadn't realized the extent of my affliction until a friend asked me how many I'd owned. "Something like five, right?" "Well, let's see. There was the orange one with all the bondo, then…" I figured that I should start to chronicle my obsession now before I lose count. When I tell people I've bought another car, they react in hushed tones to the news of the advanced stages of my disease: "My condolences," they say. "Have you told your wife yet? Break it to her gently."
[Ed. note: the author's name was not on the submitted text tor this article. If he'll contact us, we'll be glad to give him much-deserved credit.]
[BMW CCA Roundel Magazine, March 1986]