Budget Bimmer: Installment One

What better thing to do on a Thursday night when your wife is out of town on a business trip than buy a wagon? Right?

Truth be told, I’d been looking for a wagon again for some time, but as it’s only an occasional use vehicle, it didn’t have to be a fantastic specimen. Somehow the X1 we bought as an “us” vehicle was always being used by one of us, when one of us needs to go to FexEx or chase car parts. For some bizarre reason, there’s just something about today’s modern woman being station wagon adverse. At least Pam is.

This night the car gods were on my side, and a primo E39 wagon appears as a “must sell” on Facebook messenger about 6pm. A few quick messages and photos revealed that the 03 525i looked pretty clean – inside and out. The seller asked me how serious I was about the car, and I replied I’d be on the 6am Alaska Air flight to Medford the next day.

LOL was the response, and a deal was made. It’s tough to get a friend to make a last-minute 300-mile road trip on a few hours’ notice, so the commuter flight from Portland to Medford is just right. Woo hoo frequent flier miles. The 45-minute flight is a breeze and Cam meets me at the Medford airport in his new Mazda SUV. Turns out he had purchased the car from a friend for his girlfriend, but she wasn’t having it. A major BMW enthusiast himself, he smiled as he confessed that he just couldn’t talk her into a BMW, and certainly not a wagon. “Women just don’t like station wagons, I don’t get it.” Validation is a beautiful thing.

I find out the car has a minor electrical problem, and after Cam replaced the battery and alternator, the car still runs itself dead in short order. He jumps me with his new Mazda, and is kind enough to let me take the jumper cables along. This could be good, this could be bad. As turning it off is not a good idea, the affable gas station attendant agrees to let me keep the car running while fueling – usually a no-no here in Oregon where you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas.

Time to shift into camel mode and make the 280-mile drive home, not stopping for fuel, snacks, beverages, or the litter box. The 525’s M54B25 has about 210,000 mi on the clock, and runs smooth as can be. But there’s a hint of front end wobble and a cracked windshield that will have to be replaced when I get back home. “Sorry dude, I forgot to mention the cracked windshield…”. All in all, it’s a clean car. The upgraded Harmon Kardon sound system placates my audiophile sensibilities; the heated seats and steering wheel work. Even the sunroof is good to go. These seats are incredibly comfy, so I settle in and follow the sunny road back home. Creature comforts, check.

Arriving in my sleepy town of Vancouver, Washington (and by the way, we were here before the Canadians) I stop at Arco to get some gas. Slightly fatigued, I shut it off to get gas – duh, but it does start right back up and I stroll the last 8 miles home. Calculations reveal 31 mpg on the way home. Nice. It’s Saturday and only noon, so why not head to Motor Vehicles and get everything done? Unfortunately, being a 2003, I will have to run through emissions one last time, even though Washington is abandoning emissions testing in January of 2020. I do the best whimper I can muster and suggest that it would be awesome if I could just be let off the hook, and am quickly rebuked. I’m also informed that waiting till January will invoke a $150 penalty, so Monday, it’s off to emissions. There will be no license plates installed today.

Fortunately, I pass, but not without two trips because of the starting gremlin. At this point, I name the wagon Christine after the temperamental car in the Stephen King story. This turns out to be prophetic, but that’s another article in a few weeks.

Pam cruises in about 10 pm under cover of darkness and doesn’t even notice another car parked in the shadows next to my black 325iS.

Heading out on the morning coffee run, she says, “Did you get another car?” Mmmmmmm. As we sit in line at Starbucks, I tell her all about how cool the car is, what a great deal it is and how much fun it’s going to be to have a wagon again. She remains nonplussed, but as always, is a good sport about things – knowing full well, there’s a trip to Louis Vuitton in her future.