My first car was a 1975 BMW 2002. I found it in the newspaper one Sunday after church. The listing read that it had been sitting for a while, non-running, but had Weber side draft carburetors and good rear shock towers, and was only $250. I was 14 years old, so my dad (Ed) drove us out to look at it. When we got there, there was already somebody looking at the car ahead of us. My dad told me to try to contain my excitement, but inevitably I started chatting about the car. I looked right past the big dent in the passenger rear quarter, the large rust blisters all over it, the smell of old, moist BMW interior in the air, and thought this thing was perfect. I remember that my dad called it a “diamond in the rough”. The other buyer actually saw how excited I was about the car, and stepped aside so that we could purchase it. It was meant to be. I hope I can return the favor someday to another youthful, energetic future BMW owner.
Fast forward about 3 years, after having spent every weekend in the garage rebuilding, restoring, banging and bashing knuckles, it was a car again. The problem was, during that long time of restoration, I actually needed a car that drove, and not just looked cool. Enter the 1982 Dodge Ram. My dad and I bought the “Ram-a-Jamb” at a gas station one late night on the way home from a trip to Green Bay, after having unsuccessfully looked at another Ford truck. It started and ran, but it was apparent that the shift linkage was all messed up. It had a four speed on the floor but it was more of a “W” pattern instead of an “H”pattern. It had a straight six that was entirely underpowered, and was rear wheel drive–almost useless for a truck in Wisconsin, but it was only $800 cash…. So, we bought it, got it home and after about an hour underneath it, my dad was able to figure out that some Marvin Meat Fingers had inadvertently flipped the linkage, so voilà it was now a “H”pattern once again.
The Ram was ugly. I mean, the type of truck that only a mother could love. It was rusty, banged up, and had wood fences built on either side of the rear box in good ‘ol fashioned farm-truck style. When I drove it into my high school parking lot, the speed bumps caused it to squeak and creak like something out of a horror movie. I would squeak that rusty truck up to the closest parking space right next to the rear doors of the school, shut it off, leave it unlocked (sometimes keys in it) with the windows down, and not give it another thought. But the best thing about that truck (at least I thought at the time) was that it was my “other car”. All the while I drove around this ugly truck, I knew that I was actually a BMW guy. That one day I would leave this thing at home, and show up at work or school with my freshly painted (thanks Bill), freshly sorted, freshly rebuilt BMW 2002.
So the day finally came, the 2002 was sorted out and running well enough to drive it… more than just around the block. It had its typical side draft carburetor synchronization issues as well as some timing issues and points tweaking to get straightened out, but once several shakedown runs were completed, I felt good enough to drive it to school. I remember it well. I drove it in the parking lot, towards that closest parking spot by the rear doors… and kept right on driving, back around towards the rear of the parking lot to the furthest spot away from the school and any other vehicle that I could find. I parked the car, turned it off, and sat inside. I remembered my dad always parking as far away from other cars whenever we went places. The “no-ding-zone” he would say. I remember thinking that it was pretty funny at the time… Until it was your own car that you were driving. The car that you worked hard on and sold most of your other worldly possessions to be able to afford. It ended up that for the rest of my senior year, I mostly drove the Ram-a-Jamb to school or to concerts packed full of kids, while the 2002 stayed safely at home until date night or a weekend autocross called its name.
Fast forward a few years, and I still struggle with finding the right parking space, driving the M3 in the rain, piling a bunch of miles on it, etc. There is something to be said for owning a hooptie…. I mean a car that you don’t care about, and won’t lose sleep over getting a ding in the quarter panel, or a kids bike handle bar scratch on the door.
The 2002 stayed around for some years, and eventually was modified to include fender flares, bigger wheels and tires, an LSD, a Schrick Cam, race seats and a whole lot of hot laps on the autocross courses at Miller Park. That car truly started me on the BMW path that I am on today. The Ram-A-Jamb sent me down its own path–a path of winter beaters and backup cars. I have had Toyota 4Runners, Land Cruisers, a Sequoia, a Chevy Silverado, a Tahoe, a Suburban, a Ford F-150, a Jeep Cherokee, a Grand Cherokee, a CJ-7, a little Honda named Stan…and the list goes on. All were driven, used, abused, and sold (for a small profit, to help afford more BMW parts, of course).
BMWs are great cars. But for me, the continual pursuit of a harmonious balance between the Hooptie and a BMW is a big part of the fun.