Scratch the surface of any car guy or girl out there, and you’ll be hard pressed not to find at least one or two tales of woe about a car that broke their hearts. I’m not talking about an old clunker that was so unreliable it spent every second day airborne on a mechanic’s lift, or the automobile that bit the dust in a senseless accident where no one was hurt but the insurance company stepped in and said those three terrible words: “we’re totaling it.”
No, I’m talking about a depth of pain that is far more bittersweet, the kind of emotion that comes from a prolonged attachment to a dear old friend who has been by your side for years. A friend you’ve spent tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of miles or kilometers with, who has shouldered every load you’ve ever entrusted to them with little or no complaint, and who has never asked for more than the occasional oil change or worn out part replacement. A friend whose time in your life is nearly up.
I drive a 1991 E34, one of the last generation of the square, four-head light BMW’s to have left the factories in Bavaria. I didn’t buy it brand new – that honor went to a dentist in Ontario – but I did have the chance to pick it up as second owner three years ago. I had just had a terrible car accident the month before and was looking to get into something nice, big and safe – not too fast, but not boring to drive, either. I found the car on Craigslist and arranged an appointment to go check it out.
Pulling up to the address I had been given, I could see that the car needed a lot of love – it had apparently struck a mailbox on the passenger side, and the fender and door needed some definite TLC. I also gulped when I turned the key and saw that it had 353,000 kilometers on the clock. That’s not a typo. But it drove like a dream, and the owner had paperwork from the dealership for maintenance going all the way back to the day the car left the lot. Plus it was Calypso Red, my absolute favorite BMW color. I couldn’t say no, and the next day the car was mine.
It’s been 3 years now, and I’ve driven the car across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver, and then down to Seattle and back again through the northern U.S. I’ve autocrossed the car and taken it on winter rallyes. Sure, I’ve put a few bucks into it, mostly body work and replacing the suspension so that it would be better suited for my driving school days, but other than that it’s been an amazingly reliable vehicle. It has over 420,000 km’s on it now, and it has never left me stranded – not once.
Which is what makes me so sad that the time has come to let go.