It’s been a rough week. The water heater died (read about it in mind-numbing detail here), and my back is still messed up, so none of the hacky BMW stuff I rely on to generate content happened this week.
Oh, wait; that’s not quite true. I did take Hampton, the ’73 2002, on the Nor’East 02er autumn drive. But since there was no real prep required, and nothing broke, and since Hampton had already had something of a coming-out party, that’s barely news.
So I’m going to tell you the gold BBS wheels story.
Nearly every 2002 owner knows that the fourteen-by-six-inch alloy wheels from an E30 3 Series fit flawlessly on a 2002. With 195/60-14 or 185/65-14 tires on them, the wheels’ 35-mm offset makes them sit perfectly on the hubs, with front tires close to but not touching the strut housings, and zero rubbing of the front or rear fenders; it’s as if they were designed specifically for retrofit onto a 2002.
When the first E30 318i touched down in this country in 1984, its bottlecap alloys already had the correct-size 195/60-14s on them, so those wheel-and-tire sets rapidly became prized retrofits onto 2002s. (At some point the E30 tire size was changed to 195/65-14, which is too tall for a 2002, so if you happen into a set, be sure to check.) Bottlecaps on 02s, especially round-taillight 2002s, have fallen a bit out of fashion, but the later BBS basketweave alloys also fit perfectly, and those are highly desirable. I still think that bottlecaps look great on big-bumper ’74-to-’76 02s, because the combination reminds me of a giant rack-and-pinion, but I digress.
What is not widely known is that late E30 325ic convertibles—I believe 1991 and 1992—had not only BBS basketweaves, but gold BBS basketweaves. I didn’t know that such a thing existed until I happened onto a cheap set on Craigslist about fifteen years ago. At the time, I had an Agave (green) ’73 2002tii, which was my first 2002 in nearly fifteen years (I had a 2002 moratorium during the period when I only had a one-car garage that had to house my E9).
I snatched up the gold basketweaves and put them on the tii. They looked great against the Agave paint.
Over the years, these wheels have been mounted on five cars, sort of a Sisterhood of the Traveling Basketweaves. When I sold the ’73tii, I kept the wheels, and they soon found their way onto another Agave 2002.
After that they were on Kugel, my Chamonix (white) ’72tii for many years, although the gold-against-Chamonix didn’t pop like the Agave. For a period of time they were on Louie, the Ran When Parked car, also Agave. Then, showing their age—and no longer pretty and shiny—the wheels wound up on Bertha, the former track rat that I sold many years ago, bought back, and resurrected. The dulling of the wheels was fine with me—preferable even, since I was never explicitly going for the blingy-wheels-against-distressed-paint look.
But that’s not the gold BBS wheels story.
The story involves my deceased high school friend Dave Gelineau. Dave was a year ahead of me in high school. He was a larger-than-life character with an outsized personality and the kind of brutal sense of honesty that could either cut through life’s crap or be wildly inappropriate, and you never knew which it was going to be, which made hanging out with him exciting. I wrote a song about Dave, and one of the lines is, “There was never any doubt when Dave was around.”
Dave was a car guy through and through. His chosen poison was VW Beetles, although I think he would’ve been a Porsche guy if he had the scratch and knocked the chip off his shoulder. I vividly remember being roped into helping him carry an air-cooled VW engine down from the third floor of his apartment on Mass Ave on the Arlington-Lexington line. Why? Because he’d finished rebuilding it on the floor of the kitchen. Why? Because that’s where the cold beer was.
Things like this percolate through your consciousness in funny ways. Six years later, when my then-girlfriend (and now-wife), Maire Anne, bought a VW Bus, and we moved down to Austin in it in 1982, and the engine needed rebuilding, I rebuilt it in the kitchen of our duplex in Austin. Why? Because I’d seen Dave do it (and yes, because it was Texas, it was hot, and that’s where the cold beer was). When we moved back to Boston and I needed to rebuild Bertha’s engine, I tried to do the same thing, but at that point we were living on the third floor of my mother’s house, and the house was already about twenty feet up from street level.
Hell, Dave did it. I actually dragged the components all the way up to the third floor, then realized that this was idiocy because once the crank was laid in the block, I’d never be able to move the thing. So I dragged everything back down and rebuilt the engine in the garage like a normal person. Well, more normal.
When I bought my 1970 Triumph GT6 after high school and was just at the beginning of my 45-year automotive knowledge-accumulation process, Dave saved my bacon several times, including fixing a car-barely-running issue by finding that my distributor cap had been knocked loose, and rolling his eyes at me when he rescued me at 3:00 a.m. on Route 2 when an increasingly loud rumble revealed itself to be the result of loose lug nuts (another quarter mile, and to make the obvious Kenny Rogers song joke, the loose wheel would’ve picked a fine time to leave me).
I saw Dave many times during college, when he would come out to partake of the delights UMass Amherst was famous for in the 1970s. He got busted and served a sentence, getting out just around the time I moved to Austin. I reconnected with him when I returned in 1984. He cleaned up, got married, and went back to school, but in 1990 he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that had metastasized to the point of being untreatable. He lived in Watertown, so whenever I could, I’d pick up a couple of subs and go to see him.
We’d talk mostly about cars. The last time I saw Dave, he was on a particular tear against Japanese sports cars. The late ’80s and early ’90s were a great time for Rising Sun cars, as new generations of the Mitsubishi Eclipse/Eagle Talon, Nissan 300ZX, Mazda RX8, and Toyota Supra were hitting the street, all dominated by the remarkable Acura NSX. Roundel magazine used to have its annual staff meeting at IMPA Test Day at Lime Rock or some other track where cars were parked in the paddock for journalists to hop in and run a few laps. So I’d actually driven these cars, and was very impressed with most of them.
Dave would have none of it. It was German, Mopar, or nothing.
For some reason, his bile was especially stirred up against the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4. There was something about the combination of turbocharging, all-wheel drive, and four-wheel steering that just set him off like sprinkles on a steak. He got so strident in his denunciation of the car that he worked himself into a coughing fit. In a person who was, well, dying, this was tough to see.
When he calmed down, I said, “Dave, it’s just a question of taste. Whatever blows your skirt up, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, and all that.”
He caught his breath and sighed. “Yeah, I guess so,” he said.
Then, as if a light switch had been thrown, he suddenly went Full Dave and uttered the line I’ll remember my entire life: “Except for someone who owns a Guards Red Porsche and puts gold BBS basketweave wheels on it. You cannot tell me that that guy is not a f***in’ a**hole.”
We are nothing without our strongly-held opinions.
Decades later, I happened into a set of gold seventeen-inch BBS RC090s for a price I couldn’t pass up (the ones shown in the cover photo). I considered putting them on my Signal Red E9, but I realized that I could never look at them without thinking that I’d crossed the Dave Line, so I sold them. Every time I look at the gold E30 BBS ‘weaves on Bertha, I think, “The wheels are beat up. The car is beat up. They’re only here for practical reasons. Dave would approve.”
Life is made of memories and stories. When people pass, that’s usually all that’s left of them. Sometimes the stories are good enough that people who never even met the deceased tell them. I challenge you to look at a Guards Red Porsche with gold wheels and not think of my friend Dave. And not to look at the owner and wonder.—Rob Siegel
Rob’s newest book, The Best of The Hack Mechanic, is available here on Amazon, as are his seven other books. Signed copies can be ordered directly from Rob here.