It’s Been Too Long

It’s been so long since I last wrote that I don’t really know where to begin. Mostly, my life has changed radically during the last 18 months, and it’s been a whirlwind. Those closest to me know all the details… those from further afield… well, email me and I’ll fill you in.

¬†Suffice to say, there’s no point assigning blame because no-one is blameless. But the new reality is, and we deal with it as best we can.

For my part, I must say that work and life as a general rule are going OK. I still get up every day, still go to work and enjoy what I do (most of the time), and I still enjoy the little things in life like my son, driving my car and just generally trying to get the most out of life. Sure, financial constraints have hit us all recently, and I am no exception. But I make ends meet every day, and I try to make the best of it all. I know I say this a lot, but hopefully I can start updating this page a little more often now that my life has settled into a bit more of a daily routine.

So what’s new with me recently that I will talk about in a public blog? Well, I can start with my car I suppose since I am a pretty much certifiable car geek…

So for those who don’t know, I love to drive. I found a love for driving back in around 1996 when I bought a 1995 Subaru SVX. While a heavy, automatic-equipped coupe it was also an absolute blast to drive. I tooled around in that, then over time found myself in a 1994 SVX with more equipment. Other cars I owned during the last decade or two included a Saab 900 Turbo SE (awesome little car; not fast but handled incredibly) and a Pontiac Grand Prix GTP (fast big car, and handled surprisingly well for a mid-size American sedan). So fast forward to a few years ago and I bought myself the car I always wanted; a BMW 3-series. Yeah, I know… make jokes but the 3-series really has been the epitome of the drivers car for a very long time.

My car is a 2001 BMW 330i, equipped with sport package (suspension, wheels, and an “M-Aero Package”), premium package (leather, a few niceties) and a 5-speed stick shift transmission. Now, this little car has not been without its issues and problems, but now that I’ve been tracking everything since I bought it I can say that I’ve averaged about 26 miles per gallon (US) and had an absolute blast. And despite some occasionally expensive repairs and maintenance (tires, brakes, an oil leak etc.) I have averaged about 25 cents per mile over the last 17 months I’ve been tracking. Not half bad for a car that’s approaching 116,000 miles.

So what is it about the 3-series that draws drivers? Really, it’s a combination of factors. There’s the fact that the car is relatively small, though roomy enough for 4 adults for middle-length trips. There’s also the perfectly weighted steering which communicates precisely what the tires are doing at every moment during a turn… it’s almost like the car will tell you exactly when you can push it harder… and will push back accordingly when you’re about to go too far. It’s that telepathic connection you seem to have, like the pedals and wheel become almost an extension of your body as you drive that draws you in. Particularly if you’re of the mindset that a car should be driven, not just transporation from point A to point B.

Recently, my car has exhibited some symptoms of age; some of the plastic and rubber under the hood has become dried and brittle. So much so that over the weekend I had to replace the lower intake boot of the car when it tore open and began to throw “Check Engine” lights because the engine was suddenly running unexpectedly lean. I imagine if I weren’t the kind of person who was willing to turn a wrench occasionally, my cost of ownership would be quite a bit higher.

Anyway, I have to say that even as I pulled the entire intake out of the car to get to the intake boot, and was leaned over the hood for three hours with my arm contorted into strange and wonderful shapes trying to reach a cable clamp that had obviously been put on the engine when there was a hell of a lot less stuff attached… that the process of actually fixing stuff that goes wrong with an older car can connect you with it in ways you never expect.

I did both the air intake repairs and an oil change (with oil and air filters) at the same time… and driving the car afterward and feeling the car just performing like new is an incredible reward.

And here’s where it gets funny; this car with 116,000 miles on the clock DOES feel like a new car. Believe me, I’ve driven newer cars and have generally failed to be impressed. Despite its age and miles, this car still feels as planted, predictable and solid as the day I bought it… more so in fact because some of the repairs were from stuff the previous owner broke and never repaired.

So I guess this becomes almost a love-letter to my 2001 E46 (internal designation) 330i Sport. This car has traveled a long way with me but never fails to put a smile on my face every time I drive it. The bodywork and design are timeless, beautiful and understated. It never seems gaudy or garish, and can cruise along all day with aplomb… yet when you hit an on-ramp or a stretch of twisty road the car will both accelerate faster than you expect and probably corner better than you can.

BMW owners come in for a lot of flack because they own a car that’s been received as a status symbol multiple times over the years.

You know what? I’m not sure the BMW drivers really care.

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