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An Original Owner Story

April 29, 2013 by Matt

1995 BMW E34 525i Oxford Green Rear Back Taillights

A couple of New Years ago, I drove the kids in my 1995 BMW 525i back to my parents’ house for our annual holiday visit. My car’s original owner is a lady who lives on their cul-de-sac. She replaced the E34 with a new-ish E90 325i, but still misses her old car quite a bit.

I parked by the curb on a Friday afternoon, and she saw her old car for the first time since selling it to me that past spring. She had to run to an appointment, but the incident reminded me to ask her something I’d been wondering about for a while. So I sent her an e-mail later that weekend asking for her story of the car’s purchase.

Here’s her reply. It made me really happy. Enjoy:

I would love to tell you the story:

In about 1994 or sometime around there, I was in Germany on business and rented a car for business purposes, as I was traveling to another city for a second meeting. The car they offered me was a BMW 328i, and I drove it from Frankfurt far into the countryside (I can’t remember the town), on the Autobahn. OMG, that just took me right out re: BMW’s. It was a manual shift.

I had driven a manual shift earlier in my life (school bus in high school, old Volkswagens, Mazda 626, which I had at the time), so a manual shift was very much at home to me, and frankly, what I consider…shall we say…driving.

Back in the US, I started thinking about how nice it would be to have a BMW, but what a dream that would be. I went to the first dealership, and thought they were snotty and arrogant, but I did connect with a sales person there who took me for a test drive in a white 525 with black interior. It was pouring rain and we’d stopped on a dime in the rain on a back road, so that was impressive to me.

But black interior? High price? Arrogant dealership? Automatic? That was 4 votes for NO.

Sometime later I was having dinner with my then insurance agent, Peggy, and her husband Ed. Over the course of dinner I learned that Ed loves BMWs and is always on the lookout for good deals. In fact, Ed loved hanging out at a second dealership in Raleigh and knew the guys there. He’d be on the lookout, but you know how people say those things, so I didn’t think much of it.

And then, about 4 or 5 months later, out of the blue, it was December, and Ed called and said that the second dealership had a 525i with manual shift in house, at the price of $34,000. It had 4,000 miles on it because it had been driven by an Executive at the recently opened BMW plant in South Carolina, so it had been really packaged nicely for the Executive (hence the burl dash, which was new at the time). He talked to the sales person and they would hold it for me if I was interested.

I went to the dealership, drove the car, and (remember this was December, 1995, and car salesmen were not as egalitarian or enlightened in the awareness of Women as Legitimate Customers). The sales men (I emphasize the men word here) were commenting with some shock that I could drive a manual shift. (Huh?) They couldn’t imagine that I would want a manual shift.

OK, but I did and yes, I bought the car. I had incorporated my business, so bought it with profits from my business. I paid cash for the car. That same unenlightened salesman said (brace yourself for what’s coming), “So, little lady, who’s going to be paying for your car?” I replied, “I am.” “Well, I know that you will be making the transaction today, but who holds the loan, or who is giving you the money?”

I looked him square in the eye and said, “I own a business. I earned money in my business to buy this car. There is no loan. There is no one else. I am paying cash for this car. TODAY. If you have a problem with that, I can speak with someone else.”

He sputtered and said something about little ladies today, blah blah blah, and we proceeded with the transaction.

I only mention that as laughter as to how times have changed. I noticed that salesman was not there very long afterwards.

For the entire time I owned that car, I had all service done at the dealership, as you can see from the records. I never had one lick of trouble with it (except for a water pump that went out 3 years ago in 100 degree heat, and a local tire shop replaced that in an emergency).

All service was performed by the same mechanic, Conrad, their top mechanic, until he moved to Virginia. Then I interviewed Conrad’s recommended replacement, who I think was William.

The service manager at the dealership in Raleigh, Kelly, knows me and this car like his own child. They were always good to me.

And that car represented my business ownership, my success beyond my dreams as a small business owner, and a real sense of pride for me. It also drove like a dream. I “fit” in the bucket seat (no small feat for a 5′ 1″ tall woman with short legs)

I had grown up in a large family where we were always limping along with second hand cars and Dad doing the repair, and we crossed our fingers on big trips, so it was important to me to be religious about preventative maintenance.

Mostly that car represented to me Dreams Realized, and I’m not just talking owning a BMW (I was always a little embarrassed about that, I don’t like the Ego stories that people make up. It was always less to me about having a BMW as having a nice car that I had didn’t have to worry about, that I could be proud to drive up in, that I paid for from my business and that I loved loved loved to drive…It was so much about the way that car drives).

Thank you for taking such good care of this car, and for understanding that sometimes a car is more than a car.

And thank you for asking…

Happy New Year,


Filed under: BMW, Car Stories, Our Cars


  1. Great story, but amazing to think a used (albeit barely used) E34 525i was $34,000 back in 1995 (the equivalent of approximately $50,000 in 2013 dollars). I think a well-kept example of this car might command somewhere south (maybe well south) of $5,000 today.

    I love old BMWs – in fact, I can’t stop buying them – but they really are the Ultimate Depreciation Machine ( I’m just glad it’s some other brave soul taking the depreciation hit and not me.

    (Of course, we also shouldn’t forget or discount that a $34,000 BMW was way more special in 1995 than a $50,000 BMW is in 2013.)

  2. Matt says:

    Well south. :) If you can turn a wrench, it really is one of the great bargains out there—very simple, durable, good gas mileage (I average 25 in mixed driving) and a beautiful drive. It’s not the most interesting car on the road, but the car really sells itself by way of the driving experience. So fluid, poised and effortless. I’m sure you can relate.

    Re:special-ness, I think that’s precisely what the original owner misses, besides the accumulated history of having owned the car for 143K over 15 years. I mean, she replaced it with a beige, automatic, pre-facelift E90. I’m sure it’s a nice enough car, but that’s a heck of a step down in my book.

    And the fact that BMWs (and Audis!) depreciate so rapidly is actually a wonderful thing for enthusiasts like you and me. Gives me hope that that late-model 128i or A5 will be attainable sooner than I think. :)

  3. Sounds like she needs another clean E34 :-)

    I agree, there’s absolutely no way a modern E90 or even E46 can compare with an E34. Cheap credit and mass production ruined the aura of BMWs long ago.

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