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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

“I want Rock N Roll but…I don’t want to deal with the hassle” – Superdrag

It’s called baggage…and I don’t want any. Not in my cars. Not in the cars upon which I labor. Baggage takes many forms, but it seems most commonly rooted in vanity and insecurity. 

Like someone afraid of heights that decides to parachute from an airplane….i’ve taken the plunge in facing down my own accumulated cargo. Knowingly. Thoughtfully. And with a little help from my friends.

Some of you have heard through various forms of electro-media about my rescue of a dilapidated 1972 BMW from a barn last spring. I’ve written a couple published articles about it, but never really came clean about the attraction or delight that this machine brought in to my life. In some ways, it was the answer to a very substantial and burning true desire: To have a vehicle that offers me the sounds, smells, and tactile highs of a truly connected sports car experience without the stress of cosmetic beauty or the shallow, often ego driven pursuit of perfection.

Simply stated: I wanted a tight, fast little shitbox I could bomb around in while having a riotously good goddamn time! Fuck. Yes.

Over the last 25+ years, I’ve owned about a dozen old BMW 2002s.  Nice ones, fast ones, ugly ones, rusty ones. All of them a total BLAST to drive down the road on a cool summer morning. What I really wanted this time, was a 2002 broken down in to it’s core elements. Steering wheel, shifter, suspension, engine noises, speed, heartiness. 

Paint? Who cares? As long as it runs like a scared bunny and handles like a go kart, I’m pretty much the proverbial pork source in dung heap.

What makes this vehicle for my affection so satisfying is that it exists on many levels.

1.   It is a vessel for karma. The car was given to me (after being parked behind a barn for 14 years) by a previous owner that was so thrilled to have it saved, that she paid for my license plates and insurance for 3 months, while I restored the mechanical gear on it. To this day she has never asked for a cent from me. It’s inaugural 7 hour drive to North Carolina for the annual Vintage BMW meet (a mere 8 weeks after I dragged it from the weeds!) was met with a standing ovation and cheers as I pulled in to the parking lot of the event hotel. It has nothing to do with how clean the carpet is. How smooth the body panels are, or how flawlessly polished the chrome is. it’s far deeper than that. It’s about having HEART.

2.   People on many occasions have somehow found my mailing address and sent me much needed spare parts for the rebuild of it’s key systems. Rarely if ever accepting money in return.

3.   The car makes others smile. That is probably what brings me the most satisfaction. Somehow all this positive energy is transferred through the thing. Crowds gather around it while I’m eating dinner in a restaurant. Crowds gather around it at car shows….at racetracks…at malls…at grocery stores. I’ve had “nice” old BMWs before, but this one garners more attention than any pristine or restored car I’ve ever driven. I’m not sure what that says about the car, me, or other humans. It goes back to something I’ve always said about art and writing:

If it’s real and sincere…your audience will KNOW it. If it’s bullshit or based on your desperate need to be noticed, you’ll lose their attention quickly. These are inherent qualities that somehow get integrated in to “objects” by those that touch them.

I’ve driven it countless miles in the last year. 

Really- I mean it! The odometer didn’t work for the first 14 months! I’ve bombed my way from Pittsburgh PA to Winston-Salem NC (thrice!), Hartford CT, Baltimore MD, Lexington OH, Lime Rock CT, Toronto Canada, and take her on daily high speed jaunts down I-79 to Pittsburgh every few days. I redline it weekly and she often hits triple digit speeds when conditions allow.

Her name: The F Bomb. A nod to the German automotive press’ reaction to these little rats back in 1968, in which they referred to this model as the “Flusternde Bombe” aka “Whispering Bomb”. You see, they were true giant killers in their time. You never saw ‘em coming…(and I’ll add David E Davis’ 1968 ‘Car and Driver’ comment here) ”…til they sucked your headlights out”.

I’d been hesitant and a bit lazy about mentioning the F Bomb on this blog until now. There’s so much to write that I often didn’t know where to begin. I’m going to work on that. Stay tuned! 

Photo Credit: The magnificent Mr Gary Streiner.