I have never owned a good car. All the cars I've owned up to this point have been fine. They weren't fine like, "That's one fine automobile you have there, son." They were fine like, "Yeah, I guess it's fine for what I need right now."
To be honest though, it's been a while since I've owned a car at all. Since 2007, I've owned a variety of motorcycles and one unnecessarily expensive bicycle. While that may sound exciting (and sometimes it was), the motorcycles I rode were more of the "cheap and economical" variety and not the "burn down the highway" variety that middle aged men dream of owning once they turn 40.
At 24 years old, being gainfully employed, and tired of getting wet every time it rained, I finally set out to buy a car. The obvious choice is of course to buy a Miata, but sadly, I needed more cargo capacity than a Miata provides. "But Collin," you might say, "if something is too big to fit in a Miata, you obviously don't need it." While I would have agreed with you a couple years ago, I guess I'm just not a true Jalop anymore. Moving two or three times a year does that to you.
That said, this car still needed to be a good car. It didn't need to look special, but I certainly needed to know that it was special. Sadly, the Z3 M Coupe was solidly out of my price range. The Audi S4s that were in my price range had been ridden hard and put up wet, and any Subaru WRXs had been beaten like red headed step children. Instead of hunting for a specific car, I would have to change my tactics.
Armed with a price range (Under $7000) and a general set of guidelines (four doors, manual transmission, less than 120,000 miles), I ventured confidently into the Atlanta area automotive wild west: Craigslist. If there wasn't a car for me there, then maybe I was meant to stay on two wheels. After almost 1000 ads, I finally found what I was looking for: a 1999 BMW 540i with the 6 speed manual transmission and a sports suspension. Somehow, it only had 113,000 miles on it. This thing was an absolute gem.
Fast forward through a month of trying to set up a test drive and a little bit of gentlemanly negotiating, and I found myself standing in a bank $5100 poorer but holding the keys to my new car. Excited didn't really do my feelings justice. Remember the pounding of your heart right as you were about to kiss a girl (or a boy) for the first time? That was me as I walked up to drive my new car. There's even a good chance my hands were literally shaking.
Over the next week, I began to put it through its paces. How does it accelerate? How does it corner? How does it steer? How does it brake? How comfortable is it on the highway? How will my leg handle the clutch during North Atlanta rush hour?
The first thing that I noticed was the lack of drama. It just went. A motorcycle is all drama. The noise, the smell, the vibration, the wind — it's all wonderful, and it's still exciting, but after 5 years on two wheels, sometimes a little less drama would be nice. BMW certainly delivered that with the E39 540i. 60 mph felt more like 30, and triple digit speeds were easily "oops"-induced.
Speaking of triple digit speeds, the 4.4 liter V8 was certainly invigorating. My Shadow probably has 45 ft/lbs of torque. A 540i has 325 torques. Torque is good. Torque is very good. I like torque.
Unfortunately, the lack of drama and loads of torque are what got me into my first, "Someone just peed my pants," moment. Coming back home from visiting a friend in Buckhead, I hit a highway on-ramp probably twice as fast as I had intended to take it and very quickly found myself facing a tighter turn than I had anticipated. With no time to brake, all I could do was steer and pray. Much to my surprise, instead of punishing me for my poor choices, the car just went around the turn. There's no way I could have done that in my dad's Sonata.
I had bought a car that was better than me. Even at 15 years old, it was still a car that knew its purpose: to be driven. There are a lot of cars today that are built for every reason other than to be driven. Some are built to save the planet. Some are built to be "quirky." Some are built to be rolling gadget belts. Presumably, these features will attract the youths who are so busy drinking their soda pop and listening to their rock and roll music.
I wish more cars were built to be good cars though. Basic transportation is fine, but I wish it hadn't taken me 24 years to finally drive a car that was built for more than just not using gas and not breaking down. I don't know how long it will last me, but until Bimmer Klaus takes it up to the final parking lot in the sky, I will be driving a good car and smiling the whole time.