You’ve Got a Friend in Texas

April 19, 2013 at 12:15 am

The 1987 325is I own has been through a lot. When I got it from Richmond, Virginia almost two years ago, it was – oh, let’s call it rough. Ripped, stained interior; mildew in the carpets; leaking oil from multiple places; coolant seaping here and there; and a horrendous whine from the rear end thanks to original wheel bearings that were long overdue for replacement. However, despite its sorely neglected condition, it came with a few pieces of the original owner’s manual – one that included the name and address of the first couple to bring this car home, when the odometer showed a lot more zeroes than it does now.

So, some might call this a bit on the creepy – I prefer eccentric – side of things, but I went to work searching for every combination of the names of the couple that bought it new from John Roberts BMW in Dallas, Texas. Chasing a number of leads, I started mailing letters. First one to a business address I found on Superpages came back in the mail marked ‘return to sender’; second one to the ┬áhome address listed in the car’s service manual never bounced back, but I didn’t get a response, either. I’d later find out my hunches had been right on the business address but that he had since retired from that venture.

588ead8e-e9ba-491e-950a-0d05fa4eacbf_zpscce9c7b5

One night, I finally punched in the owner’s last name and the words “BMW.” Amazingly, success: there was a user on the Roadfly forums with the same name who owned an ’87 325ic and an early 7-Series. Better yet, he was in the Virginia area which is where my car ended up. But something didn’t make sense: the other reference to the first couple that owned the car was on a swim team’s website from the Dallas area, and there was too much evidence that they still lived in Texas. Plus, the original owner’s wife had no paper trail in Virginia – so either it was a case of divorce or I had the wrong guy in VA (ironically enough, the gent with the same name was, in fact, a divorce attorney). Still follow me? Yes, that’s right: there are two people with the same name who are both active BWM enthusiasts, each of whom live in a state where my car has previously resided.

Let’s go back to the swim team website: the first couple’s name showed up as a testimonial to the positive influence the coaches and training had on their son’s swimming successes. There’s my next nugget: the kid’s name. So I Google that and get several good leads: all from Texas, all the same name, and a college email address that’s pretty easy to figure out (first initial, last name, schooname.edu). I send off a short email explaining what I’m trying to do and jackpot: a few hours later, I get a note from his father, the very first owner to ever turn a wheel in my 1987 325is. Turns out not only did he and his wife buy this car before they had kids, but they bought it straight off the convention hall floor when the auto show rolled through Dallas in 1987. That’s right: this is an actual show car. I don’t care how big or small of a metro you live in – it’s always super cool when you own a car that a dealer felt was the best way to attract people to the booth and move inventory.

The original owner and I went back and forth for hours. I basically spilled my guts, the gearhead equivalent of reconciliation, even showing him the original for sale thread and what his former pride and joy looked like when I got it (one word: bad). I found he, his wife and son were BMW fanatics, and owned several desirable Bimmers ranging from an early 535i to a V12 850. My mind = blown. But through it all, sharing with someone just how much blood, sweat and tears had gone into this thing – and knowing it meant the world to them – is likely one of best feelings I’ve ever encountered in my years of car ownership. It’s vindication that sometimes, saving a rough car is worth the risk and likely losses. But that’s not why you invest in car that cost less to buy than a new washer and dryer. You do that to preserve the memories, and give them another shot at living on. If I didn’t care about that, I wouldn’t have found a way to make this car actually enjoyable to drive on a daily basis.

And, in what may be the best part of all this, is the sign-off of the first owner’s email to me: “So nice to have made a friend.” Isn’t that what this hobby is all about?

More to come on this, for sure…