Our Cars

With respect to Billie

When the E30 first hit the streets, I fell in love with the shape immediately, but I was less than excited about the four-cylinder motor, carried over from the E21. When the six-cylinder ES model arrived, I took a bright red with black interior model for a test drive and was ready to buy the car. Unfortunately, at that point, with the car being brand new, they didn’t have any more red ones (I’ve got five black ones and three white ones on the lot – ugh) and they didn’t want to sell the demo. So, I put in an order and was told that it would be 3-4 months to get my car.

I’ve always been as impatient as a Terrier with his nose pressed up against the window, especially when it comes to cars. The brochure was pinned up on the pegboard behind my desk and it was driving me crazy. Three weeks later I got a killer deal on a 1985 ½ Porsche 944 and didn’t look back. Again, my BMW journey would be postponed. It would be ten years until I bought my first E30.

I met Billie four years ago, in the health food store parking lot. This isn’t as weird as it seems, I was admiring a gorgeous, red 325ES, and as she came out to her car, I asked the standard question: “wanna sell this beauty?” She laughed and looked at the M235 that I had just taken delivery on, and remarked that it didn’t look so big, like the rest of the new BMWs. “Does it have a stick? I can’t drive a car with an automatic – too boring.” I nerdily told her that the 8 speed ZF was actually pretty cool, but she wasn’t having it.

“I’m 84 and I still like the feel of a manual transmission.” I would have never guessed. We chatted for a few more minutes and she told me that the car had been in the family for almost it’s entire life, most of it under her stewardship. I gave her my phone number, and went home with a glimmer of hope. I asked her if I could just snap a picture of the car, and it’s been the background image on my iPad since.

A few years passed by, and I’d see that little red ES darting in and out of traffic, always clean, always looking sharp. Every time I’d see her at the grocery store, I’d gently pester her, but she had no intention of getting rid of the car anytime soon. About a year ago Pam and I saw her in the parking lot and tried to hide her embarrassment for my hounding Billie. “Leave that nice lady alone – you don’t need another car.” Them’s fighting words, for sure. As I walked up to the car, Billie gave me a big smile, held up her hand and said, “I know, I know, I’ve got your number on my fridge.”

That week I was at my friend Jason’s shop getting some work done on my E46, telling him about the car in a very enthusiastic manner. “Oh yeah, that’s Billie, she’s really cool. I’ve been taking care of that car for some time now. She’s really fussy about it. Told me it’s never been through a car wash, always washed by hand. She washes it herself.” And that was the last I really thought about the car, though it still eluded me in traffic, as Billie lives right across the street from the Starbucks where Pam gets her morning Carmel Macciato. Talk about torture! Waiting in line, watching that car go by….

Last Friday was a big day. Austin at Autobahn Motorsport buttoned down my other E30 – the black 325iS, and did a killer job. Motor is refreshed, along with cooling system, front and rear suspension, (Adjustable Konis and H&Rs) along with some later model small plastic bumpers. Driving the car home was pure analog heaven. This car still needs a little bit of cosmetic stuff, and a really cool exhaust, but to say it’s transformed is an understatement.

4:20 the phone rings – It’s Jason. “Hey, you know that red car you want so bad? It’s for sale.” I throw a number out, saying I’ll be over to their house tomorrow morning first thing, but they don’t call back. Of course, I don’t sleep all weekend, and finally Tuesday morning I call them. Billie’s son in law, Bob is really nice on the phone, I tell him my offer (which is high-ish, but I want the car) and mention that he can take my very fair offer, or talk to an onslaught of tire kickers on Craigslist.

As I say this, the thought of this pristine E30 getting mauled by some kids that want to put an LS6 in it, and make it a drift car, gives me somewhat of an allergic reaction. Bob’s not giving me much to go on, so I take a few Benadryls and get back to work. Again I can’t get this car out of my head. Another weekend passes, and I figure I’m just not going to get this one. In line for coffee on Monday, Pam asks me if I am still thinking about the red E30, and I confess it’s slipped away. “I’ve moved on, I’m over it.” I am so NOT over it.

This morning, waiting in line for my coffee, I get the call from Bob. He tells me that regretfully, they would like to get more money for the car. Not being able to take it, I ask what would constitute “more money,” and he’s not sure, so I respectfully decline. I am still so NOT over this car. In the last week and a half, I’ve already completely restored the car in my head.

As a total rebound maneuver, I’m on the Maximillan site looking at E21 parts, where I see a dashboard listed for $1,529. I start a live chat only to find out it’s a tease, a ruse. However, the car Gods are watching over me. I don’t know it yet, but I didn’t get that dashboard for a reason. I give Jason another call – “Dude, they want more money for the car so I gave up.” Full of wisdom, he assures me (as does Austin) that I made a more than fair offer and that they will probably call back in a few months. 4:30 rolls around, and as we drive out of the Baskin Robbins parking lot, (also right across the street from the car) with cones in hand, the phone rings – It’s Bob. “We’ve thought about it, and we’ll accept your offer, but I’m going out of town tomorrow.” Yikes. Pam gives me the nod, I get their address, and zoom through the bank drive through with a fist full of hundreds, off to the races.

Bob and his wife Sheryl are incredibly nice and the car is even better than I remember. We have a great conversation, and they ask me if the car will be garaged. I assure them that it will and that the car will be brought back from the 92% condition it is now to as flawless as I can make it.

My biggest hope is that I’ll still be shifting gears in an E30 when I’m 89. This was a great day.