Last week, I bought a 30-year-old BMW.
Actually, let me rephrase that. Last week, I bought a 1987 BMW 635CSi luxury sports coupe. For $2100. To those of you who know BMWs very well will know it affectionately as the "shark-nose" E24 -- one of the most iconic and strikingly beautiful sports coupe to come out from Bavaria.
To those of you who doesn't know much about cars... Well, I bought a slightly rusted European car at roughly the same cost as what people would spend on a beginner's golf set. Oh, and the car was made in West Germany, because well, West Germany was a thing back then.
First off, this is definitely not a show car. This is not the sort of car you'd see in a classic car show that is organized in the middle of the park on a Sunday morning where people congratulate each other with a nod of approval. Indeed, for $2100, this will not be making any Top 10 list for the best show-quality Classic Car.
But then, I don't really need it to be -- I had lusted after a classic BMW ever since I was in high school in the early 2000s, when one of my neighbors drove around in a pristine-looking 1973 BMW 2002. This is no 2002, but at the cost of a 20-month cable subscription, I still managed to get myself an 1980s classic Beemer, which is definitely close enough to my liking.
Plus, I only plan on having this car as my weekend / summer car. For my daily commute, I still have my slightly scratched-up beater Mazda wagon.
How did I find this car? A little back story then.
This 1987 BMW originally rolled out of a dealership in Santa Ana, CA, and brought up by the original owner to the Pacific Northwest a couple years after. After two decades of ownership, the car was sold to a second owner in 2012, who shortly sold it to the last owner of this car, David, who happens to own a garage that specializes in European cars.
As he already has quite an extensive collection of European classics already, he deemed this car to be expendable and put it up on Craigslist for sale at $2,600 a couple weeks ago (of course this is a Craigslist find).
This is where I came in.
At first when I saw this car on Craigslist, this car did not really tick all of my boxes. First off, a quick CarFax report revealed that this is the L6 model, which came with extra luxury equipment like leather sports seats, sunroof, and a beer cooler (!) as standard. All of this meant that the 0-60 time takes about as much time as it takes to build the Large Hadron Collider.
The L6 model also meant that it came standard with a 4-speed automatic gear box, which was cutting edge in the same way that Windows 2.0 was cutting edge. In 2016, the 4-speed doesn't quite do it anymore. Plus, the ultimate driving machine is best mated with a gearbox that will allow you to row your own gears.
Furthermore, a 30-year-old BMW that is on sale for $2000 pretty much guarantees that this will be a rust bucket -- cars back then simply did not have the same galvanizing technology as we enjoy today, and are seriously prone to structural rust that will increase the possibility of you falling through the floor while driving... Which is probably not the best way to drive.
However, fate has determined that I had to go look at it, as I randomly stumbled upon the very same car parked across town on the street a couple days after I first saw it on Craigslist.
And boy, does it look beautiful.
The E24 is arguably one of the best looking car that BMW has ever made. There is a reason why the 6 Series was featured in many 80s movies, co-starring alongside Bruce Willis and even making an appearance on the Breakfast Club.
It was the quintessential 80s upper class icon -- a car with such style and excess luxury that you'd have to be a driving this car with a huge cigar in your hands, while the fridge in the rear seats keep your champagne cool, as the digital trip computer informs you that you are doing 15 miles per gallon. But hey, this is 1987 -- your Wall Street investment is paying off your mortgage and gas is 88 cents a gallon.
This particular example, contrary to what I expected, looked quite pristine and rust-free. It just so happened that the guy selling the car, David, was close by when I stumbled upon it. So I got him to hoist up the car in his own shop, while I went hunting for any rust spots with a flashlight.
After 20 minutes of poking around, I must say that this is the cleanest classic BMW I have seen in a while... Which means it still has a little bit of rust. However, it was mainly a small spot on the rear wheel arch, which is not structural. I can live with that (for now). Plus, the engine in this car is proven to be one of the most reliable engines ever produced -- with many examples staying healthy beyond 300,000 miles.
I then took it out for a test drive. The previous owner had changed many of the engine, brakes, and suspension parts (with receipts, too!), and it drove like an 80's sports car should -- it was a blast.
The classic 6 cylinder engine sang in a glorious tone, with the BMW-signature low-timbre grumble coming out from the dual center-mounted exhaust pipes in the back of the car. Sure, this car won't be winning any drag races -- but put your foot on the naughty pedal, and the power will start flooding in after 4000 rpm.
Instantly, I was in love. I forgot that I was driving a near-30-year-old car. This is a living, breathing, surviving 6 series! Sure, cosmetically there is some work to be done, but how many of those do you see on the roads? How many are in this condition?
I decided that I had to go for it.
After a bit of haggling, I managed to chip $500 off the original $2600 asking price. I was trapped. The deal was too good for me to pass up. So I bit the bullet and took the title off his hands. Life is too short for me to worry about things like that.
Just like that, I got myself a summer car -- one that would never see rain or winter again under my watch. Hopefully at this current condition, I can squeeze a lot of miles out of this car in the summer.
In the immediate future, I will be looking into slowly restoring this car to its former glory. Again, this is not the perfect showroom car, but I am not looking for one either -- I bought this car so I can drive it. Fitting in a 5 speed manual gearbox will be on my agenda too, but that will come later.
This will either be the best thing I have ever done, or the worst mistake I have ever committed. Will it stay relatively trouble-free (despite the issues described above), or will it turn into a money-pit, requiring thousands and thousands of dollars in repairs?
Stay tuned to our blog to find out which will be the case.
At the meantime, I'll be driving this car, windows down, sunroof open, with my cassette stereo player blasting "Don't You (Forget About Me)".