Spannerhead Dot

Existential Moments with the BMW

May 17, 2016 by Matt

2002 BMW 330i Orient Blue E46 Sedan

Do you have to drive your car, or do you get to drive your car?

Relegated to daily-driver duty, even the most special car can seem mundane to drive. What used to thrill us about its engine note, interior design or chassis balance recedes into the background of our commute. Its ergonomics are familiar and we focus more on the car’s little annoyances (every car has some) than on its essentially good qualities. We have to drive it, and the enjoyment of the experience is muted.

I’ve lived the emotional trajectory of enthusiast car ownership many times over the course of my 20+ year driving “career.” Like any good relationship, it takes intentionality to overcome the fade of initial spark of attraction. My truck is currently up for sale, so my 2002 BMW 330i will assume daily-driver responsibilities soon, and I worry that living with it every day will sap some of its emotional pull.

2002 BMW 330i Orient Blue E46 Sedan

From an automotive perspective, the cliche “absence makes the heart grow fonder” could be rewritten “lack of wheel time makes the heart grow fonder,” and it’s true that when the 330 has been down for repairs for a few days and I’ve had to drive the truck to work, I really itch to drive it again in a way I don’t when the BMW’s been my commuter all week. Also, I’m somewhat comforted by the fact that the daily wear and tear my “fun car” experiences is lessened, so I feel less guilty about exacerbating the car’s natural level of entropy by driving it.

I’ve had to make peace with the situation in a couple of ways; both of them, as mentioned above, require an intentional mental effort, but they’re worth it.

2002 BMW 330i Orient Blue E46 Sedan

The first is simply to remind myself, however long or short my tenure of ownership lasts, that I have the privilege of owning and driving a truly exceptional car. The 330i won every single comparison test that Car and Driver (and others) could throw at it during its model run. I remember leafing through those magazines, admiring the car’s abilities but considering it completely, utterly out of reach. And now one parks in my driveway at night. I get to drive it. The needles of its gauges swing through their arcs for my benefit. If it has an issue, it’s my responsibility to diagnose and fix it and hopefully improve the car in the process. I don’t write any of this in a bragging tone; but more simply a recognition and remind of what a great car BMW designed and screwed together, and how fortunate I am to be able to own one.

The second mental method I use to assuage my guilt over consigning the car to commuter duty is simply to accept that the car will deteriorate. It may sound obvious, but the reminder of that fact helps alleviate my low-level nervousness about small dings and scratches, or that some subsystem will suddenly go belly-up on the highway. It’s gonna happen, and when it does I will fix it. Parts can be replaced. Bodywork can be straightened and repainted, all in good time. The car is not old; there’s a huge supply of replacement parts out there, and whole industries with very talented people devoted to the cosmetic aspects of the car. Reminding myself of these givens helps me keep my priorities in line vis-a-vis life in general; it really is just a car, and I have a little while to enjoy it, so why ruin it with low-grade anxiety every time I’m behind the wheel? Doesn’t do anyone any good.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few twisty roads to hunt down.

Filed under: BMW, Car Culture, Our Cars


  1. Ryan says:

    I too have been through the trials and tribulations of both making a fun/toy/extra car a daily driver as well as not having a fun car and daily driving something so boring and mundane that as a “car guy/enthusiast” you just don’t feel like yourself cruising around in. I think the ultimate goal for all of us is to be able to afford something that fulfills the duties of daily driving (creature comforts, decent gas mileage, ample space for kids/equipment/others, etc) while also retaining some form of “fun.” While also being able to have a toy car parked back at the house to drive on nice-weather days and weekends.

    But until that time I think many of us bounce back and forth between having a decent daily driver or having a decent toy car… I know I certainly have. And I have to say in the last 4 years or so I have truly enjoyed owning a couple daily drivers that while having their short-comings to some degree as a DD still put a smile on my face every time I saw or drove them. What else can one ask for? But I’ve also missed having a project car and something a little less pedestrian (and a manual transmission). But alas, I sold the Magnum about 6 months ago and have been relegated to Acura driving for a while (there are certainly worse DD’s but it’s just not “me”). All will be worth it when my detached garage/shop is complete though! :) There won’t be any money left over to put anything IN that garage for a while but all in due time.

    Ideal car situation for me currently: Cadillac CTS-V wagon for a DD (or a Hellcat Charger) with something like a supercharged Boss Mustang back at the house for weekend fun. :) Or as to not fall too out of line with your interests Matt, I’d happily take a super or turbocharged ’99 – ’02 M Coupe! ;)

    • Matt says:

      Totally get it. I’ve been through “boring car purgatory” a couple of times in the past 15 years or so, and it’s not fun, but there are larger goals out there… And it just makes it that much sweeter when we’re finally freed up to spring for the fun car.

      I like your ideal situation! I’m less of a muscle car guy than you are but I understand the draw. :)

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