Saturday, December 11, 2010

My New, yet 21-year-old Car

I LOVE the thought of purchasing a new car. From deciding what color to choose, what options to prioritize, to comparing deals, miles, models, conditions, prices; it all for some inextricable reason fills me with enthusiasm.

For the past three to four months, I've been looking for a car for myself. After discovering that my father would not allow me to take the car that my sister and I currently share to the track, nor modify in any way, I concluded that I needed a set of my own wheels. And also, one that had a manual transmition.

I scouered the internet--Copart, Vehbidz, Craigslist, eBay, Yahoo! Autos, and AOL Autos were the sites I ripped through, and eventually deduced what car I could afford with the money I had. From the onset, I knew I wanted something German. Whether that meant the essentially-out-of-reach realm of Porsches, the exclusive world of Mercedes-Benz, the slightly more reasonable planet of Audis, or the downright, down-to-earth land of BMWs.

Given not only that BMWs are purported to be some of the sportiest cars, in my estimation, they happen to be also some of the best-looking cars. Plus, the aforementioned car my sister and I share is a BMW, and being a part of the BMWCCA (BMW Car Club of America), my decision was foregone.

Early in my search, I realized that Copart and Vehbidz were less than ideal, let alone, credible sources for a car, let alone [I know, redundant] for one I intended to take on a track. In case you've never heard of the two car outlets, they are salvage dealers. (Think slightly higher-quality junkyards, and by slightly, I mean imperceivably). Many a listing on their respective sites have seen the severest of punishments from concrete walls, oncoming traffic, water, and its corrosive effects, and the laws of gravity, and its tendency to turn a car upside down. So, I concluded that a junkyard wasn't the right place for me.

Months passed before I made any effort of contacting sellers, which was likely because it was brought to my attention through the auto-searching process that $1000 isn't all that much. Before I made any knee-jerk reaction purchase, I would painstakingly inspect every pixel of a Craigslist post, and compare side-by-side prices, models, and most unfortunately of all, seller locations (which invariably would be placed as far away from my hometown of Chicago as possible) on eBay.

So with my $800 saved up from babysitting, chores, birthdays, and other miscellaneous methods, I had to have more if I had any hope of getting a ride. While on eBay searching for cars, my eyes slid upward to the "Sell" icon, and my mind played with the idea. I thought of the obsolete toys I had stockpiled in the basement, and contemplated selling them. The toys ranged from remote control cars, such as Zip-Zaps, XMODs, and even a gas-powered one, to K'nex toys, magazines, and Hot Wheels track sets. I made $300 in my first week, and have continued to make a profit ever since.

So that put me at around $1200 after taking into account the loads of birthday money I had accumulated this year. I actually had a chance this time to get a car! I continued my daily visit of Craigslist's Chicago "Autos + Trucks" listing, with a search query of "BMW" and a price range of "1 to 3000".

I will never forget the third of December, when I first laid eyes on possibly the most desirable and reasonable car listing I'd seen in months! For so long I had seen BMW E30 sellers that were simply out of their minds, with prices well into the 3000s of dollars. Twenty-plus-year-old cars don't belong to be priced nearly that high.

Over such a long period of time, I was relieved at the prospect of not looking over scores of listings, immediately looking if it was a manual, a two-door, and if it was a 325i, or a 325is, at least. Nothing else would suffice. And luckily for me, I came across the right car. It was a 1989 325is. The exact model, year, transmission, two-door car I silently wished for as my friends and family sang "Happy Birthday" before me and my birthday cake.

I was determined this was my car. I persistently sent e-mails to the seller daily. But because he was so congested with work that week, it wouldn't be until the weekend that he would respond. I asked for photos, and in the description, he said "runs good, good transmission, good clutch". Now this is rather typical rhetoric of what you'll find on Craigslist.

After a few back-and-forth e-mails, I eventually sent him my phone number, and on the Sunday night following, we talked, and talked and talked. I found out that he has two children, is a fellow member of the BMWCCA, and much like myself, is a fan of the classic E30 BMW look. He talked in-depth about the car, as I responded with casual "uh huhs", and "yeps", sometimes cutting him off unintentionally mid-sentence. At the end of the 40-minute conversation that boggled my mind how much he truly knows about cars, we decided that we would "keep in touch" and that it would be the next week that we would meet so that I could see the car.

Days passed, and I knew that my father would want to be there when I would make such a monumental purchase for my age. Keen to not purchase a "lemon", some days later, I waited for my father to return from his business trip in, you guessed it, Las Vegas. (Unlikely, I know. The place doesn't even sound business-y, does it?) We then got up on Saturday morning, and headed out in the constant rain pour. Using the MotionX GPS App on my iPhone, we eventually made it to the modest home in which my dream car was stored. We rang on the doorbell, and were greeted by a clearly "ethnic" lady as my father would later point out, with a maybe Polish accent. We walked past the medium-sized gray house to the garage that sat behind. We encountered a man with a prickly, black beard, glasses, and gray jeans and brown working boots with obvious paint smears on them.

I shook his hand assuringingly as I had spoken to him a few days prior and by text on the way there. We walked through the doorway of the three-car garage, and found a matte-red 1989 BMW 325is, a.k.a. the car of my dreams. It gazed at me just as intently as I did, only it looked better than it did in the photos he sent by e-mail. The interior was tan, and in all honesty, could be in better shape. Although the exterior was remarkably good, especially considering the price I payed for it.

Most notably, the rear bumper cover was cracked, and the basket-weave BBS wheels lacked their BMW badge caps. We talked for a good half hour, and my father sat in the driver's seat to operate the shifter knob and clutch. As I saw him approve of its robustness, I immediately anticipated the strategy I had planned ahead of time, which was to say "Will you take eleven-hundred?" and if that fails, say "Twelve-hundred?" and then if that fails, say "Twelve thirty? That's all I have". He then responded with "Twelve fifty and we have a deal". I looked to my right and said to my father, "Could you throw in an extra twenty dollars?" He took a bill out of his wallet, and we had a long-anticipated, and solid deal. Right after this tension, I recall him saying "Deal-maker of the century right here" as he went over to retrieve the title and papers.

We sorted the paperwork, and after that I shook his hand with vigor, sure to demonstrate my gratitude for accepting my admitted "low-ball". But I had no choice. I unfortunately didn't manage to make the full amount in time for our Saturday meet. As shameful as I felt moments after for doing this, because I can remember saying over the phone in our 40-minute conversation that "$1500 sounds right". I later found out he himself payed less for it when he bought it from the original Michigan owner, so that took away a good deal of the anxiety, as did the smile he finally let out as we took off in the car.

Currently, the car lacks a license plate, and is sitting in my father's spare hangar, being worked on by yours truly. So, as you can see, I am living a fantasy-a teenage boy finds a car he is in love with, has done much research for, gains friends, forms new, lasting relationships over, and modifies it and tunes it to his specific liking-and what a fantasy it is. Talk about your typical anime plot.

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