A few weeks ago, I wrote about needing to move the dead numbers-matching engine from my 3.0CSi that’s been sitting in my mother’s garage since the late 1980s. That triggered a small unexpected avalanche of movement of a bunch of bulky parts.
First, there was the front subframe from a 2800CS that I bought and parted out a few years before I pulled the CSi’s engine. Although I’d held onto it for 37 years, if ever there’s a lasts-the-life-of-the-car part, it’s a front subframe, and if I ever need one because my E9 is in a front-end collision, having a spare front subframe would hardly be a “problem solved” game-changer. As I wrote about here, I winched the subframe assembly into the back of the truck, drove home, and stripped it where it sat. I kept the steering components and advertised the bare subframe for free on the local Nor’East E9ers Facebook page. When there were no takers, I dropped it off at the local metal recycling bin with a clear conscience.
Having thinned several parts hoards, both my own longstanding ones as well as ones I’ve inherited, I know that offering parts cheaply or even free if people come and pick them up, then disposing of them if there are no takers, is a good recipe if the goal is to actually reduce the amount of stuff. Yes, certain parts are worth money, but things that are big and expensive to ship have to be worth quite a bit to overcome both the cost of shipping and the time it takes to deal with them. Years back, I wound up with fifteen bumpers from a body shop that closed. I thought I’d hit the jackpot, but quickly learned that because you have to find a box that wholly contains the bumper (and it’s rare that you can easily disassemble them because of seized fasteners), shipping can cost hundreds of dollars, and people are only willing to pay that if the bumper is near mint.
It’s the same thing with doors—folks say that they want them, but they get sticker shock when quoted the cost to ship them. And the act of quoting takes a fair amount of time. You have to find, or at least identify, a box that’ll hold the item, measure it, weigh the item, estimate the total packed weight, get an actual shipping address, then get multiple shipping quotes. It’s a bit frustrating when you say upfront that shipping will probably be more expensive than someone would want to pay, someone asks you to quote it anyway, you do, and they say “uh, never mind.” When I cleaned the bulk of the stuff I had at my mother’s house about six years ago, I skipped the “offer it at a reasonable price” step and simply had a “Free Parts NO SHIPPING” day. Doors, bumpers, six 2002 transmissions all went to local enthusiasts. It was very satisfying for all parties.
The recent “small unexpected avalanche” began when I went into the basement of my mother’s house (which, as I’ve said, is actually now my sister’s and my house, but I’ll always think of it as my mother’s house) and took one more look around for parts. In an alcove in the basement—what literally used to be the coal room of the 130-year-old house—I found three rear windshields.
(And please spare me the pedantics of how “windshield” means “front windshield” and the one in the back should be called something quaint like “rear glass” or “rear windscreen” or something generic like “back window.” “Rear windshield” is not only unambiguous, it’s the term used by glass companies.)
They were covered with 35 years of basement dust, and one of them looked like it had been sitting under a dripping iron pipe, with rust stains running down it. My initial thought was to drop them all off in the trash bin outside Settles Auto Glass on the way home and be done with it, but my someone-might-want-them conscience stayed my hand, and they took the ride all the way back to Newton.
Two of them were green-tinted rear windshields from E9 coupes. I think that the nicer of the two was originally in my red E9. When I bought that car, it came with a new one, so this one was left over. The other rust-stained one was from the same 2800CS that gave up it’s front subrame.
The third was a clear 2002 rear windshield, likely from a 2002ti that I still regret parting out.
Rear windshields are in much lower demand than front windshields, as they don’t suffer the same degree of exposure and pitting from forward motion, and even if they did, you don’t spend your driving time looking through them unless you do an inordinate amount of backing up. Still, I thought that someone might want them. I cleaned off the two unstained pieces and found that they were in remarkably good condition and apparently free of pitting.
Of course, shipping a windshield is a nightmare. It’s not like a big heavy item like an engine where you strap it to a pallet and pay whatever the freight cost is. A quick search seemed to reveal that there isn’t really any such thing as a standard windshield shipping box. There’s too much variation. Modern windshields tend to be very flat, whereas vintage ones like the E9 rear windshield can have a lot of curvature. If someone can’t simply drive to your house, wrap it in a blanket, place it upright on the back seat, and brace it with a cardboard box, it’s a problem.
I offered the 2002 rear windshield up on the local Nor’East 02ers Facebook group for free. No takers. Not even a response. I posted it on two Facebook 2002 classified sites for $20, local pickup only. One fellow asked me if I’d bring it to him at the Vintage in Asheville in May. I’m thinking about it.
I thought that the E9 rear windshields might have more traction owing to the cars’ high value, the number of people doing glass-out repaints, and the tendency of windshields to crack on installation. However, new E9 glass does appear to be available (with shipping) from Walloth Nesch, so why should anyone deal with the sticky issue of shipping used glass? I posted the clean one on two Facebook E9 sites with the clear statement “ABSOLUTELY NO SHIPPING. If you want it, you have to come to West Newton MA (suburban Boston), or remind your brother-in-law that he owes you a favor because you didn’t rat him out when you caught him cheating on your sister with that waitress.” One local fellow came and looked, but he needed a clear rear windshield, not a green-tinted one. A fellow in Jordan (yes, the Middle Eastern country) contacted me, saying that he needed it and had a relative who lived locally and could pick it up and ship it, but I haven’t heard back from him.
So, I still have all three rear windshields, and now they’re here in the driveway at my house, not buried in a corner in the basement at my mother’s. Wonderful.
Next was stuff that’s been sitting at the end of my driveway. This was the unintentional avalanche—I realized that if I’m going to move the number’s-matching E9 engine out of Brighton and bring it back here, that’s where it’s going to need to go, at least temporarily. So it was time to try to find homes for three items.
The first was the purple (okay, probably VioletRot II) Z3 front bumper cover I mistakenly purchased several years ago from my friend Luther Brefo without either of us realizing that it was from a four-cylinder car and that my Boston Green Z3 Zelda is a six-cylinder car—it would fit, but the grille opening is a different size. I wrote about the whole bumper cover episode in great detail here. Having resolved the issue with Zelda by finding a Boston Green bumper cover from a six-cylinder car, I’m never going to use this one, and it’s doing nothing but taking up space. Asking prices for lightly-scuffed Z3 front bumper covers on eBay start at about $200, with another $200 to ship, but asking doesn’t mean getting.
I posted this one (which is in remarkably good shape) on Facebook Marketplace as well as a Z3-specific forum for $100 with local pickup, and said that if you have a purple Z3 and really want to find a purple bumper cover, I understand because I just went through this, so I’ll work with you on shipping. Two guys responded. I gave them the dimensions and weight and left it to them to get freight quotes. Never heard back. I cut it to $50. Crickets. I hate the thought of throwing it in the Newton plastic recycling bin, but incredibly, that may be its fate. Hey—it demonstrated low value and low demand, it’s taking up space, I need the space more than the part, and there’s an infinitesimal chance I’ll need it. Sometimes you just need to reduce and recycle.
Next was the very last of the fifteen bumpers I bought from the closing body shop. This one particular bumper kind of threw me. At first, I thought that it was a Bavaria bumper, but eventually realized that it was Frankenstein’d 2002 bumper with ’72-style L-shaped brackets and ’73-style pointy “bumperettes.” I should’ve just saved everybody’s time and thrown it in the recycle bin, but I thought that someone with a chinless 02 might want it. I posted it for $50 to the local Nor’East 02ers, $100 otherwise, plus actual shipping costs. A well-meaning fellow down in Kentucky expressed interest, so I took the hour to measure it, weigh it, search online for a box, and estimate shipping. I found that Home Depot sells three different sizes of two-piece telescoping flat screen TV boxes. The one that would fit the bumper cost $35, and the dimensions and weight resulted in a $135 shipping estimate for UPS via ShipStation, so $170 plus $100 for the bumper. Not surprisingly, he declined.
Last was the set of E30 bottlecaps that were originally on the “mitzvah 2002tii” I helped the widow of the original owner sell last fall on Bring a Trailer. When she found the car’s original steel wheels and hubcaps in her basement, I advised her that having me clean and paint them and shoe them with fresh rubber would do more for the car’s value than the bottlecaps, which, although nearly mint, were wearing twenty-year-old tires with cracked sidewalls. So they’ve been sitting at the end of my driveway for nine months. I cleaned them off, verified that they were the best set of bottlecaps I’d ever seen with literally zero curb rash (the car they were on was pretty much a hanger queen for the past 30 years), and put them on Nor’East 02ers for $150 and other sites for $200, figuring I’d kick half the money back to Chris (the owner’s wife). E30 bottlecaps were a hot item on 2002s in the late 80s and early 90s, as their ET33 offset fits a 2002 perfectly, but there’s been a backlash against them in recent years. I still think they look great on square-tail-light 2002s. There’s something about the gear shape of the bottlecaps and the squaries’ big bumpers that makes me think of a giant rack and pinion.
Having wheels like this around is a funny thing. Many sets of E30 bottlecaps and basketweaves have passed through my hands over the decades. They’ll sit under my porch or at the end of the driveway for years, I’ll sell them when I need the space or the money more than the wheels, and then pick up another car with ugly slotted steelies or Pep Boys alloys and regret not having them.
So, although at the start of this piece I said “That triggered a small unexpected avalanche of movement of a bunch of bulky parts,” really the only “movement” has been parts migrating to my house or being moved from the bottom of the driveway, then being washed, photographed, and staged at the top of my driveway. They’re all still here. Obviously the bottlecaps won’t wind up in the recycle bin, but the glass, bumper, and bumper cover may. And you know that this column isn’t really my attempt to advertise them to wider audience, as I’ve plainly stated that shipping stuff like this makes no sense.
Unless, of course, your your brother-in-law owes you a favor because you didn’t rat him out when you caught him cheating on your sister with that waitress.—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.