Scuffed door cards, pitted windshield, dim lighting

March 17, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Some days, I wonder why I do it.

After doing a fair amount of driving in my E46 this weekend, and taking the E30 out for its first spin in weeks, I had to ask myself – what’s the point of driving an older car? Why I stare through a pock-marked windshield with 85,000 miles on it (because it’s the OEM BMW glass); why I slow down to 5 m.p.h. over potholes (I need to replace the shocks); why I drive with the foglights on at all time (due to the factory bi-xenons losing their intensity over time); and so forth.

The E30 – where do I start? A driver’s side window that only works when the door is open, coolant that seems to never stop leaking, A/C that long since left this world – the list goes on. It’s the project car, so there’s some slack to be cut. But one cannot spend too many hours at the wheel before you start wondering just how much abuse your teeth can take from the rock-hard firmness of the suspension.

But all it takes is looking at the E46 head-on. Seeing those fenders bump out from the horizon of the hood, or its reflection in a truck tailgate with the center-pod daytime running lights and fog lamps illuminated. Or just being able to hear the sound an inline six makes when its cold. It leaves me numb to things like Hondas and factory-fresh (or factory-muted) Mercedes-Benzes.

The more I think about it, the more I realize what a blessing it is to own a car with quirks, or what some would call “issues.” It teaches you that not everything – or everyone – is perfect. And although both cars require professional attention on a near-monthly basis, I am far more satisfied with my ongoing project-status transport than anything that can sit near-silent and never have a need for tinkering or improvement. Let’s face it, we find people more interesting when there is discourse in a discussion or a tweak or two needed to get them to a better place – like an injury that stems from overusing a muscle in a race. The same can be said of cars (just replace discourse with swearing).

So, get used to the kick panels with years of shoe marks and the suspension bushings losing a never-ending battle with winter’s weary roads. There’s nothing out there that interests me more than a good project.