The Sickness During The Sickness

Last week I laid out the punch list necessary to get Louie down to the BMW CCA Foundation for their exhibit on the 50th anniversary of the 2002. The window in which they want the cars there is February 19 through March 2, so it’s coming up quickly.

Unfortunately, I got bit by the flu bug—bad.

For two days, I felt like I was being beaten in the head with a shovel. Painkillers didn’t touch the headache. My eyeballs hurt from merely existing in this universe. And the fever dreams? Oh, my god. I craved nothing more than the deep, obliviative sleep of the dead—but instead, what I got was non-stop rapid-fire images of what was preoccupying me the most, which is not Louie, but the development of my new air-conditioning book. I became convinced that I not only had the entire book committed to memory, but that I could edit it in-brain, so to speak, and simultaneously make changes in the actual word document on the computer downstairs.

Too bad it didn’t work. It would’ve been an interesting read.

When I rejoined the world of the quasi-conscious—and quasi-rational—the idea of going out into the cold garage to change Louie’s oil, much less trouble-shoot the cold-start system, made me dizzy. Nope, this is going to take some time. Once I’d used near-toxic levels of television to draw the flu virus out of my body, and once my eyeballs could focus on the computer screen again, I killed some time playing the game I’ve played many times before: looking on Craigslist for the BMW I’d buy if someone gave me $1,500 to spend.

Now, I realize I have to be careful playing this game, because the last time I played, it I actually bought the car—my daily-driver 2003 E39 530i Sport.

So. Set Craigslist to look for only manual-transmission cars. Search for BMWs. Sort by increasing price. And… nothing.

Well, obviously not nothing, but mostly just garden-variety E46s needing work. Widen the search radius, and… okay, here’s a black ’87 E30 325i for $1,000 in New Hampshire. Ad says, “The right combo here. Has over 150,000 miles and needs work. No rear seats, have fuel pump but needs install. Needs new steering column. Not running now.” A pic shows the column ripped apart around the ignition. Okay, perhaps not. Good—it’s just a game. I don’t really want to find something that’ll make me feel like I need to get out of bed anyway.

Removing the “manual transmission only” filter lets more cars into the search, and unearths a dirt-cheap 2001 E38 740i. “$400/b.o. come take it. Has been my daily driver since bought last July. Didn’t start 2 weeks ago and looking to get a new car. Could be a cheap fix I’m not sure why it won’t start. Has 225k on it roughly.” If it were a sport-package car, I might actually text the guy. Nope; chrome window trim. Next!

But that’s about it in the BMW world. Maybe non-BMW sticks. First of all, what is with all the folks who list the purchase price on CL as $1? Are they trying to be first in the search rankings by price? Instead, I have to skip over them. Bloody annoying.

Starting the search at $100 clears those out. Let’s see… here’s a 1990 Geo Metro LSi four-door five-speed for $550. I had one of these—a two-door—ten years ago when gas prices spiked at $4.50 a gallon. If you drove it at 55 mph, the three-cylinder 55-horsepower motor would deliver an honest 50 mpg. It was buzzy as an open can of cat food, but I had an odd soft spot for it. Of course, a car like this makes little sense in a time of cheap gas. Plus, I really must be sick if the best sub-$1,500 car I can come up with is a freaking Geo. Move on, nothing here to see.

Aha—now we’re talking! “1929 Gazelle 1985 S10 Iron Duke 1 Barrel $900.” The photo shows—well, I don’t know what it shows; no single part of the car, if you can call it that, is recognizable to me. The nose of an imitation vintage Mercedes and the trunk of a fertilizer spreader? And an ad with many of the required clichés: “Rat Rod Project. Runs drives stops shifts. S10 frame shortened. Iron duke 4 cylinder. Starts easy. Brand new aluminum radiator, full power. 4 speed manual tranny shifts great. Manual brakes. All-new body panels and fenders are fiberglass. Kit car. Fuel tank is Mustang. Seats are Miata. Shifter is axe handle. [I love the deft treatment of language here, the way “axe handle” could easily be mistaken for a car make and model.] If you don’t have cash don’t bother. New on hand s10 title. All the hard work is done. No lights or gauges. Lots of extra parts. Serious only.” Well, it certainly has the right anarchic spirit to go with my fever dreams.

I dived down the Volvo hole for a while, pining for my old 245GLT Turbo wagon. Nice rust-free “brick” wagons now command a pretty good price, but here’s a sweet-looking 1988 240 sedan, gold with a gold cloth interior, for two grand. Whoops! Blew my budget! Disqualified!

That was all fun, but eventually I swung around to searching for cars that actually made sense. A 2000 four-cylinder Camry five-speed with 208,000 miles needing “some work” for $650 obo. A 2009 Suzuki SX4 five-speed with 196,000 miles for $1,500. If one of my kids needed a car, or if the E39 busts a kidney tomorrow, there could be worse things.

Tired. I’m still far from over this flu. Hope this ends soon, because there’s real work ahead of me: Searching Craigslist in the Greenville, South Carolina, area for something to drive back after I drop off Louie.—Rob Siegel

Rob’s new book, Ran When Parked: How I Resurrected a Decade-Dead 1972 BMW 2002tii and Road-Tripped it a Thousand Miles Back Home, and How You Can, Too, is now available on Amazon. Or you can order personally inscribed copies through Rob’s website: www.robsiegel.com.

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