A recent lifestyle change and the advent of my 30th birthday had me thinking about where I’ve been and where I’m going. Naturally, since cars are such an overwhelmingly large part of my life, my car history—and the friends I’ve made along the way—factored heavily into such a mental exercise.
It might not be readily apparent from my output here, but I’m far more than just a BMW enthusiast. When it comes to cars, I’m into a little bit of everything, from Mustangs to Mazdas. As a result, I move through a great many different automotive subcultures, meeting all sorts of people and getting painted with all sorts of stereotypes—some flattering, most not so much.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I didn’t grow up loving BMWs. I liked certain BMWs, sure, but I didn’t really fall in love with the brand as a whole until my career brought me to a certain point in my mid-twenties. After spending several years as an insurance-claims adjuster, I decided to try my hand at selling luxury cars (Infinitis, in case you were wondering). It didn’t take too long for me to realize that I refused to slather myself in enough Drakkar Noir or procure enough ugly neckties to make it in the sales arena of the car business.
Happy to get out, I took a job (and a substantial pay cut) working at a NAPA parts counter, selling auto parts, stocking shelves, mixing paint, turning brake rotors, and making hydraulic hoses for heavy equipment. It was an intensely rewarding job—not financially, but emotionally: Having the solution to a customer’s problem, and being the guy to turn to, was a wonderful feeling, and having shops that called and asked for me specifically was a point of great personal pride. To date, it’s actually been my favorite job. If I could have made enough to support the lifestyle I wanted, I would still be there to this day.
After a little over half a year at NAPA, the opportunity arose to work at an e-commerce company that specialized in OEM and aftermarket parts for German cars. Despite being a die-hard Porsche fanatic, I was hired as a product specialist for the BMW team, writing descriptions, researching part applications, and adding new product lines to our ever-growing catalog.
I’d never been that deep into BMWs, but I was eager to learn—and learn I did. Along the way, I grew very close to my boss and teammates. We became like a family, united by our love for Bavarian iron—and the Mexican joint up the street.
It took me a long time to buy a BMW of my own, but there was much jubilation in our then-small office when I finally did. With my E34, I began meeting BMW people outside of work, and I discovered that the warmth and sincerity wasn’t restricted to just the guys I spent forty hours a week working alongside; as a general rule, BMW people were just like this.
Perhaps something about these cars makes us the way we are, or maybe people like us are drawn to BMWs. Either way, I got used to it quickly. While I’ve met wonderful people who have shared my love of Datsuns, MGs, Corvettes, and Jeeps, it seems that there really is something special about BMW owners. Truth be told, I wouldn’t be a BMW owner if that weren’t the case.
The enthusiasm my co-workers shared for all things BMW when I started my maiden ownership seemed like something special, and something I wanted to forever be a part of. It’s more than lived up to the hype. Sure, we don’t have the best on-road reputation, thanks to a few bad apples; I guess that just sort of happens when you find yourself driving the best cars in the world (said with tongue buried firmly in cheek).
Last month I made the difficult decision to leave my BMW family and begin writing full-time. It’s a goal I’ve worked towards for years, and I’m happy that my writing career has progressed to this stage, but I’m going to dearly miss the daily conversations laced with chassis codes, model numbers, engine designations, and inside jokes. I’m also really going to miss lunches at that Mexican restaurant.
Living in Ohio, we get some very brutal winters, and I decided that with the realization of one dream, I should chase another. I put an order in for a brand-new car, one I pined for in high school: a Subaru WRX in World Rally Blue (the only real color for a WRX). One of my old co-workers joked that I had “broken the conditioning,” going back to Japanese cars only a few weeks after leaving the company. While there was definitely some automotive Stockholm Syndrome at play, it was just something I’d been wanting to do for a while.
Knowing a little about the “Subaru brotherhood” and experiencing the wave firsthand as a passenger in friends’ WRXs, I figured that I would join some local owner’s groups on Facebook, get involved, and ingratiate myself with the local community. I received a message from the administrator of one of the groups I applied to, demanding photos of my car before I would be allowed in. After explaining my situation, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not welcome until I could produce photos of my car (sometime in June, from what my dealer told me).
While I’m still riding a wave of excitement about my soon-to-be new car, I know that I will never meet another group of enthusiasts quite like BMW owners—and I will always have a BMW in the fleet for that reason more than any other. Rest assured, however, that having a modern, reliable, and warrantied vehicle at my disposal will also allow for greater focus to be applied to mynever-ending docket of BMW projects.—Cam VanDerHorst