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On Losing a Car

December 30, 2013 by Matt

BMW E34 540i 540 1995 Gray Grey Arctic Gray Arktisgrau

I sold the BMW a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s what I wrote about it in the immediate aftermath:

I’m gutted, to tell you the truth. I’ve had twinges of regret seeing cars drive away, and I don’t know if this was the worst, but it’s up there. The car was my little piece of home when first started the job out here in Tennessee, and took me over the mountains with absolutely no complaints at least 20 times. That and my familiarity with the E34 platform, watching it drive away was almost like watching that body of knowledge disappear, even though it doesn’t, but that’s something of value, you know?

The idea that I would be able to avail myself of my awareness of the ins and outs of the BMW E34 was a primary reason why the transition from my old 1995 525i to my (now sold) 540i was so relatively painless. Despite the much larger engine of the latter, the two cars’ chassis are 95% similar, and the knowledge I had accrued wouldn’t go to waste. If there’s anything that circumscribes the way I see the world, it’s a sense of purpose, and it causes me a certain amount of cognitive dissonance to possess knowledge and yet but unable to use it. Knowledge for its own sake is fine and good to a certain degree, but its inescapable value is what provokes such an acute sense of loss when a car, an activity, an area, a friendship or any number of things is suddenly gone. It could be argued many car enthusiasts feel this way, and linger around message boards long after they’ve sold their pride and joy as a way of “exercising” that knowledge, as it were. I have a feeling I’m not alone.

Anyway, what did I replace it with? Behold, my new daily driver:

1999 Ford F150 Green

Yep. I’m a Ford truck owner. Sure, it’s a step down in the enthusiast department, but let’s consider the facts:

  1. The roads around Chattanooga are terrible. No, they don’t have car-swallowing potholes like the roads in Michigan, but the BMW still took a beating every day on the way to and from work.
  2. My commute is 25 minutes of stoplights and stop-and-go traffic. The car hated it, as did I. My old commute was 20 minutes of highway mileage where the car at least had an opportunity to stretch its legs. As it was, it felt like the 540i was suffocating.
  3. It was a distraction. My 240Z restoration was languishing and all my thoughts re:car improvements and repairs tended toward the BMW to the exclusion of the Datsun. The truck greatly reduces that temptation. Frankly, I don’t care about it as much. It’s a truck, a workhorse; it’s going to get beat up and I’m fine with that. Done. Next.
  4. I needed some way to get the 240Z here from our old house in North Carolina. The F150 provided that way, and allowed me to transport the rest of our items in storage besides. The Z is presently warm and dry in the garage here in Tennessee.
  5. I bought the truck for less than I sold the BMW for, and the difference was put to good use around the holidays.
  6. The BMW never set my hair on fire. It was an extraordinarily nice car, quick, easy to work and well put-together, but as far as I was concerned it always lacked that special something. It just wasn’t me. If I’m honest, it was a compromise choice at best.
  7. I want to lay a foundation for future car endeavors. With the truck in the driveway, not only do I not have to worry about how I would get a prospective long-distance purchase home (drive the truck and tow it), the logistics of a great number of other matters are simplified. And I don’t have to maintain the same kinds of practical criteria when considering future project cars; the sky’s the limit now that we have another vehicle with a back seat, an automatic transmission and the capacity to haul lots of stuff. It’s liberating.

Considered in light of the above, buying the truck is quite possibly one of the more rational car purchase I’ve made, and I’ve not made many. It’s in very good shape and drives quite well. I really can’t complain.

Filed under: BMW, Car Stories

15 Comments

  1. Ryan says:

    I’m happy about two things here Matt:

    1) To see a post on the blog again.

    2) You driving an American vehicle… and a Ford at that. ;)

    Good luck on the 240 restoration.

  2. John D says:

    You bought an old F*rd truck? Seriously??? True automotive enthusiasts don’t buy F*rds! (Except the newer Mustang…it’s pretty sweet.) You couldn’t have found a Chevy…or Dodge…or Toyota…or anything else at all? C’mon, Matt. I’ve driven several pre-2005 F*rd trucks and they were all terrible. Just hated them. (Can’t speak to the newer ones…they seem pretty nice, actually…) The only reason I can find for your actions is that you not only bought a vehicle that would not distract you from your other automotive pursuits, but bought one that you would actually dislike so much that you would not want to ever think about it again, ever. Am I correct? Please say I am correct in this assumption….please?

    One positive thing I will say is that it does look to be in great condition. But just the thought of you, my once automotive mentor, driving one on a regular basis…it hurts my heart, Matt. Truly it does. I have nothing against having a truck as a daily driver. I’ve had a truck as my primary form of transportation since 2010 and I probably will for a long time. They are wonderful. But a F*rd? Couldn’t you have picked anything else???

    • Matt says:

      :) I knew you’d be up in arms about this one.

      To cut to the chase, I don’t have a problem with Ford. We drove my dad’s old 1989 F150 into the ground; couldn’t break the thing. He’s got a 2009 F150 now and likes it a lot. And we’ve had good experiences with Ford products in general, or at least nothing that wasn’t our fault, like the time when Paul ran the Mustang completely out of oil…

      I knew I wanted a pickup and asked around a bit. I initially gravitated toward a smaller pickup, but the fuel economy advantages were really negligible and it wouldn’t have been able to tow the 240Z over the mountains anyway. So I started looking for a full-size. Toyotas were too expensive, I heard bad stuff about Dodge gasser engines and interiors and a Cummins was too expensive anyway, and there weren’t any suitable Silverados or Sierras at the time I was looking. I actually wanted an older, more “truck-y” truck, but Diane saw the green one and was sold. Wish I could’ve gotten a Powerstroke 4X4, but it’s alright. I thought I would be totally uninterested in it, but the mod bug never really goes away, you know? :)

      So far it’s been great. Paint’s in great shape, runs perfect, interior is well screwed-together, etc. I bought a roll-up bed cover for it and got 22.5 mpg coming back to Winston from Chattanooga for the holidays. A couple little ticky-tacky things have been fixed and it’s as close to 100% as anything I’ve owned. YMMV.

      • John D says:

        I’m glad you didn’t get anything less than a full size truck. I made that mistake when I got the Dakota a while back. It was perfect for the job for about 6 months, but then I found myself wanting a bigger vehicle. The V8 Dakota can do some impressive towing, but the bed was small and so was the cab. Even with the 4 door I couldn’t fit much in there. And like you said, the gas mileage was pretty much the same as a full size truck.

        I, too, drove the venerable 1989 F150 your dad had. Scary. The controls all felt horrible. The steering was vague, the brakes mushy, the gas pedal and engine had what might be best described as an ‘open relationship’…I couldn’t stand it. The whole ordeal was a horrible experience. Now my mother’s 1999 Dodge Ram was pretty sweet…

        I used to be a Dodge truck guy, but not so much anymore. Their interiors are crap and mechanically they are just so-so. Much better with the latest model, but still not really anything to fall in love with unless you spend mucho dinero for the upscale models. I’ve actually gravitated more to the Chevy/GMC end of the spectrum. Toyotas are extremely nice, but too expensive and not worth the extra coin. They also don’t feel like a truck to me. Very nice and good vehicles for sure, but too modern and confining in the cab. I’ve had my 2005 Chevy 2500 for over a year now and it is so much better than the Dakota and even most current Dodge trucks in most every way. The interior is nicer than my dad’s 2011 Dodge 1500, and it drives better, too. They’ve always gone by the motto ‘like a rock’ and I’m beginning to see why…

        • Matt says:

          I think my expectations were tempered by my time behind the wheel of my dad’s old truck. When I took the new one for a test drive, I was honestly expecting a shuddery frame, choppy ride, interminable braking distances and about 4 inches of play in the wheel. I was pleasantly surprised, then, that it was a lot tighter than I was expecting it to be. Don’t get me wrong—my 540i felt like a laser-sharp go-kart when I returned to it afterwards—but the truck certainly isn’t bad. I call it “relaxed” driving; analogous to a comfortable pair of worn-in jeans. One hand on the wheel, one arm perched atop the seatback and go. Not a bad way to travel.

  3. Ryan says:

    You made a wise decision Matt, don’t listen to this John D. guy. ;)

    My only recommendation would have been to get a Lightning instead. They can be found for very reasonable prices these days and the motors are rock solid as long as you don’t push them much past 400 – 425 rwhp. But that’s still enough to run 12′s… in a pickup… that you can still tow with. I loved mine and will have another one day.

    • John D says:

      It seems like part of the whole point of owning a truck at this time is that Matt won’t be distracted from his project car. His getting a performance truck kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? If something is meant to go fast it is extremely difficult not to spend $$$$ on making it even faster. That’s a big part of the reason I sold the FD. I just couldn’t keep my hands off or wallet out of it… ;)

    • Matt says:

      See that doesn’t do it for me. I dunno. The Lightning’s nice, but it ventures too far into muscle car territory for me. Too much mixing of genres. I’m all about fast trucks, but I guess I feel like a truck should be fast in a…truck-y way? Lifted, 4WD, giant tires, massive diesel engine w/1,000 ft-lbs of torque, etc. Run 12s, but do so with an ear-piercing turbo whine, trailing a cloud of black smoke. That sort of thing.

      • John D says:

        I’m with you on this one, Matt. Trucks are meant to work, so any mods done thereto should be at least justifiable in that it can do work better (ie bigger tires for traction in adverse conditions, more lift to enhance it’s ability to go anywhere at any time, more TQ for towing, indestructible bed liner, etc). If your goal is to make it a fast vehicle, you’re starting with the wrong platform…and they struggle even more than muscle cars to put their power down, as if that were possible. But it’s America, so go for it. Like Matt said, too much mixing of genres for me. I’d rather have a muscle car.

  4. Ryan says:

    I hear what you guys are saying but as cool as some jacked up trucks are, for me they’re nothing but very expensive visual mods. I’m personally never going to take something I’ve spent thousands on modifying and go run it the through the mud or climb boulders or whatever. I can’t park it in my garage and they generally don’t tow any better, in fact usually worse, than they did when they were factory. But a truck that can still do most of it’s truck-duties, while looking sexy, going fast, and handling fairly well is cool to me. They are hard to pull off but Ford did it with the second gen Lightning.

    But hey, I’m the guy that owns a 5000 lb SUV that doesn’t tow, can’t really go off-road and gets shit for gas mileage… but it goes like hell and I love it. :) Honestly my Jeep SRT8 is probably one of my favorite vehicles I have ever owned.

    To each his own though. The car culture would be utterly boring if we all liked and drove the same things. I truly do understand where you guys are coming from, it’s just not my cup of tea. Obviously the reciprocal holds true for you two, lol. If I ever win the lottery though I’d love to have a lifted diesel Excursion to haul the family around in.

    Another factor that plays into my liking such vehicles is their rarity/odd-ball and somewhat of a sleeper factor. I can like anything if you give it enough HP! :)

    On that note… ‘Merica!!!

  5. Ryan says:

    GMC had the Syclone/Typhoon back in the day (early 90′s?). Both of those were very unique and extremely fast for the time. AWD, a turbo 6-cyl and relatively light weight made them pretty impressive performers. Chevy had their 454 Silverado for a bit but it really wasn’t ever all that fast. And Dodge of course had the SRT10 Ram but it was just so damn big/heavy that even with the Viper motor it was still slower than a Lightning. I will give them credit though for at least offering a manual transmission in the thing. Although from what I’ve heard/read the throws were so long in shifting it that it really wasn’t worth having.

    There may have been some others but those are what come to mind off the top of my head.

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