Last week, I whined at what a pain in the patootie it was getting rid of a few large low-demand parts that were taking up space at the bottom of my driveway—a set of E30 bottlecap wheels, a purple front bumper cover from a four-cylinder Z3, and a beat-up but usable 2002 front bumper.

In the end, once I priced the parts to move and got responses from people who actually wanted them, it wasn’t painful at all.

The E30 bottlecaps went first. They were the best-looking bottlecaps I’d ever seen. Unfortunately, in many quarters, that’s like saying “It was the best-looking case of leprosy I’ve ever seen.” I priced them at $150 for the set of four, with perfect center caps and twenty-year-old drive-at-your-own-risk tires on them. If they were sexier alloys, my inbox would’ve been exploding, but even with their exceptional condition and low price, there’s just not much demand for bottlecaps. But a fellow from Rhode Island contacted me, then drove up and snagged them. He surprised me when he said that he has a 2002 but was actually buying them for his wife’s E30. He explained that the car’s wheels looked like hell, he was about to get them powder-coated, and this option was 1/4th the cost. It was kind of nice to think that they were coming home to the model of car they were actually meant for.

These really were in astonishingly nice condition.

Next, was the purple front bumper cover from a four-cylinder Z3. As I wrote last week, there are plenty of used OEM Z3 bumper covers on eBay, but they’re big and thus are usually shipped freight, which gets expensive. Having just completed the installation of a less-than perfect Boston Green bumper cover on my Boston Green Z3, I posted an ad for the purple one to one of the Facebook Z3 groups, saying that if by chance you own a purple a four-cylinder Z3 and are looking for a bumper cover you can install without paint-matching it, I’m your guy, it’s cheap, and I’ll work with you on shipping. Unfortunately, that’s probably a demographic with two people in it.

To my surprise, I got an inquiry from a fellow in Ohio named John Miller who doesn’t have a purple Z3, nor a Z3 at all, but an M Roadster with a shattered front bumper cover. He said that new M Roadster bumper covers appear to be on backorder, and used ones are rare as hen’s teeth. I cautioned him that the bumper cover I had wasn’t even from a six-cylinder car—it was from a four-cylinder car and thus has the smaller grille opening—but it was in really good condition with absolutely no cracks, only a few light scuffs, and was complete with the grille. Mr. Miller said that his M Roadster has 260,000 miles on it, he bought it as a project, and it has many needs in addition to the bumper cover, so, like me, he’s practical about not wanting to pay a ridiculous sum for something purely cosmetic, and my cover would be so much better than the smashed one on his car. He did some looking on Z3 forums to verify that one from a four-cylinder car would fit, and I looked on RealOEM and confirmed that the bumper support (the actual aluminum bumper inside the cover to which the cover attaches with a dozen plastic rivets) is used on all Z3 variants, so how can it not fit? He became very interested.

Curb? Armadillo in the wrong place? Don’t know. (photo by John Miller)

The funny thing was that, just that morning, I’d removed the aluminum bumper support and the hydraulic pistons from the purple cover and dumped them in the metal recycling bin, and was prepared to relegate the cover itself to the same fate if I didn’t get any responses by the end of the week. I told Mr. Miller that, as one thrifty and practical Z3 owner to another, if he came here in person, he could have the thing for free, but that if I had to pack and ship it, I’d let him have it for fifty bucks. Ohio is a long drive, so he asked me about shipping—the topic that, as per last week’s piece, triggers me as being a time-waster.

But this time it wasn’t. I told Mr. Miller that I didn’t want to deal with strapping it to a pallet and shipping it freight, but if he’d accept it simply wrapped in bubble wrap, I’d quote it. The cost to ship the light but oddly-shaped (67L x 27W x 16H, ten pounds) cover to Ohio via UPS was $183. He jumped at it. (For your information, the $183 was the same price via both PayPal / ShipStation and Shippo, but was nearly twice that via my own UPS account. I also put it out for bid on Shiply, something I’d never done before. The results (below) were laugh-out-loud high. It’s nice to be able to cross something off the list forever.)

Yeah I’m TOTALLY going to pay three to seven times what UPS charges to ship a $50 bumper cover.

I mummified the thing in bubble wrap, using some foil-backed insulating foam to protect the corners and putting labels on every face so it didn’t need to be turned over to be scanned. It arrived in Ohio without incident.

Cozy as a bumper cover in bubble wrap. (photo by John Miller)

A day later, Mr. Miller sent me this very satisfying photo of the purple Z3 bumper cover installed on his M Roadster. Considering that I’d bought the cover from my friend Luther Brefo on the way home from the Vintage in 2019, I feel like the three of us are part of the Brotherhood of the Traveling Purple Bumper Cover. Hey, it’s a very select group.

You either appreciate this or you don’t. Me, I think it’s a thing of rational cost-effective beauty.

Lastly, the 2002 bumper—the final one from the stash of twelve vintage BMW bumpers I bought a while back from a closing body shop. Even though I was adamant that I wasn’t going to take the time to disassemble it to make shipping less expensive, I went out to the garage and took an hour to cut the seized bolts holding the brackets and the bumperettes to the bumper. This had two effects. First and foremost, without the brackets protruding, it made the bumper smaller and lighter to ship. Second, it removed the confusion that the bumper had the pointy-style ’73 bumperettes but had the L-shaped ’72-and-earlier-style brackets. I priced it at $50 if picked up, and $100 if I had to ship it.

The minimalist 2002 bumper.

I received one reply, and it was the one that counted. A very nice young man came by and explained that he’d recently bought his first 2002 and it was missing its front bumper. He handed me $50.

The story, though, then got very interesting very quickly. He said that his car was a ’76. I launched into a monologue about small-bumper conversions on square tail light cars, rattled off details of the two options for sourcing the conversion brackets, and offered to send him a piece I wrote about doing this same conversion on Bertha, my ’75 2002. He nodded but said he was sure that he could fabricate what he needed, as he worked in a place where there was a machine shop.

Then he asked me if I needed an engine, because he’d pulled the one out of this car to do an electric conversion. Wait, what? It turns out he’s a mechanical engineer working at a local robotics firm. He showed me a short video of the 2002 running under its own electrical power. I offered that I don’t think such a thing is a crime, but expressed frustration that there’s a lot of fluffy why-doesn’t-everyone-want-to-do-this media coverage about the electrification of vintage vehicles, but such articles rarely mention that the work carries a price tag of $50,000 and above. However, I told him that I am curious about the do-it-yourself end of electrification, and asked him to stay in touch.

So the purple Z3 bumper cover, the last of the bumper stash, and the bottlecaps—all of which were living in the low-rent district at the end of the driveway behind the RV—are gone. That leaves just the three rear windshields (two E9 and one 2002). And, of course, the 40-year accumulation of smaller parts in boxes everywhere. (To be clear, I’m not disposing of the hoard—just a few big items that were in my way and I didn’t expect to use.)

There’s now so much more space in the driveway. It’s enough to make me think about… another car! After all, the Vintage is just around the corner, and I haven’t done anything stupid in months.

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.



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