Friends usually French-exit conversations with me when they switch to the modern M-series. Alright, that’s one person and one very specific topic, but probably a huge chunk of car-folks would do the same. It’s not so much BMW’s firing order differentiation from Japanese-made equivalent [and dead] engines that bothers me. It’s sheer attack of pointless ‘sports’ exhaust hi-tones, connected with ride only to enjoy on a track you’re not going to and dual-clutch transmission that make no sense.
Hold on, let me take a sip.
Every time you lift the foot off the throttle a cascade of sick man’s farts sprinkles out back with absence of brown trail being the only thing saving you from a terrible faux-pas. Engine makes 300+ horsepower because in 2019 it needs to, impressive engineering work, you know it all by now. What we can’t deny is perfect handling, that’s actually true. If driving a couple of ’em taught me anything, the entire lineup must swallow corners like Joey Chestnut vaccum-cleans a table of hot-dogs. Which in theory adds up to a compelling package, right?
Yeah, and makes me look like a basic bitch of a hater. But I don’t know anymore, what’s worse? A speaker in VW imitating engine noise, or IBS in BMW M? Both seem to challenge Metallica’s “…And Justice for All” bass levels, that’s for sure.
When was the last time you saw a fully stock M4? I know, you didn’t. Without exhaust system from go-to company of 125cc bike fandom it’s quiet as hell. If you can stop yourself from beating on it, the car magically blends into the traffic. So there it grew, my ambivalence. Breeding it, was me giving in to the influence of surroundings, growing up to the sound of abused M40 engines with… not even a discount kind of mods. It was more like angle-grinder-driven junkyard jam session in between beer-chugs that spawned a barbaric vision. AND the fact that widebody 323is survived highway rampage in 2 Fast 2 Furious (just to be out-cornered by two muscle cars but shush).
This erratic, chest-thumping idea of manliness for some reason never went ALL the way. Destroyed one E30 after another E36. We could’ve had an interesting hot-rod-like culture but no one put in the effort. Everything got stuck on 5500 grieving revolutions per each minute and wishes, to get what’s left of blind, hysterical horses in fresh-off-the-boat beaters. Even “style over function” doesn’t cut it. Rolling around with mismatched, fake Alpine-styled bumpers has nothing to do with taste. This cute girl you think you like? Will turn into supervillain-like arch-enemy running away in a freakin’ Citroen Saxo VTS. Then again, ‘cutting’ itself comes in handy with obvious rust problems and busted shock towers after such exploiting mistreatment. Brain’s dick been influencing similar purchases because of exalting nobility and tingles possession of a sports car gives. And this here? It ain’t hate. I’m guilty too.
For me, it started during the Pokemon fever. Couldn’t waste any big money yet, that means. I had terrible, mushroom blonde hair. Red shorts, kicks bigger than me I obviously needed after watching Space Jam. Full of ignorance towards Nietzschean way of thought and overflowing with destructive ignorance on the way to discovering it. Got out, and along complete silence, a red E36 convertible. Stood, pushed to the side of cracked-concrete road.
Sun, tired of the whole millennium coming to an end saturated its paint. What’s missing in that image is probably Heather Kozar as 1999 Playmate of the year. ‘Here we are, world’s about to end and Playboy’s living off of Marilyn Monroe fan fiction. This is how far we’ve come folks!’. Walked around the car, nodding with respect, slowly comprehending the very special circumstances one needs to self-rediscover in, to afford such toys.
When he came back, because of course it was a “he”, released the urge and proved existence of more cylinders than us peasants were used to. Jealousy, same as at the start of this rant. Seeing it set off with a slight tire smoke covering a milky way of potholes was magical. In spite of that, over the years it seemed like infamous rear wheel drive is more likely to be twitchy and unpredictable.
But it’s a matter of seat time. Personally? I’d kill myself, I think. Over-correct the steering mid-slide with bugger biting a ditch. Wait, that already happened, never-mind. I messed my math up trying to crack the enigma code of weight transfer on ice. Coming up with an answer to the first question when life already throws tenth. Power of an M3 would then lure me into her underwater cave, singing in Hemingway phrases about war, courage, death, warming up tamed for everyday use warrior’s genome. 320 horsepower in the last E36 M3. Too much for a guy like me. And I kid you not, when bottoming out their pricing history, typical flawed logic started spreading around them. Not so much like a deadly disease but… rather a smell impossible to wash away.
Many newbie bikers make similar mistake – never rode fast anything fast, queue at the DMV to get their license. Outside, hi-mileage friends rest crotches on rockets with acceleration measured in standing mile times. Triumph Speed Triple, Yamaha R6, Ducati 916. Washed, used CBR 900RR awaits for the new one. “Yeah I can handle it! Why buy something I’m going to grow out of when I can grow INTO it!” – said, gambling smashing to the worst soundtrack on the planet combining shattering metal and skin. Scattering body parts and fluids fall all over the place. Or places, plural. Who knows? Maybe sudden force sending the body over cars could throw the body separated in amount hard to estimate. Pathologist seeing this biological puzzle would look around like confused Vincent Vega and ask for a snow shovel. Which is why my relationship with BMW’s, not only the M series, had lots of love, hate and fear threesome action even before I drove any. Trying to challenge my preconceived notions, I went further back in time to a round-eyed, commanding sadface. Solid-looking, simple block of metal.
Not so square as you may think. Gold wagon like this, panoramic roof, four-wheel drive – unicorn. Daily driven back in the day by a tall architect with blonde perm hair and black, shoulder padded Dior coat. Stepped the game up from her mother’s W123 wagon. The more you paid the more you’ve got, sure, but it’s the German 80’s we’re talking now. West Germany raced the 1000km of Nurburgring with iconic Rothmans-liveried Porsche 959 taking the first place. And second. Also third and fourth. Meanwhile in East Germany? Celebration of Karl Marx’s year. Everything’s a mixed bag. Spawned in a reality where casual racism was as public as still ongoing cold war, but video games and rock music had to be fought against like communism. The Chicken Song made it to No 1 in UK 1986 singles charts so you know, by the time E34 came in ’87 thing were going… I’m not really sure where.
Right about the time for things to go sideways and “lifetime components” to give up, here we are again, among fans of simple, higher-status vibe so close it’ll be a waste not to taste it. Craving premium items for a bargain price can be a bit shameful but at least it’s reliable, popular, parts are kinda cheap. Sure you CAN buy them like that, no problem. That’s the easiest part about the whole process. In my vision, I deliberately ignored maintenance costs and stereotypes. Spent many hours looking for a burgundy sedan, utility trim with manual windows and no AC. Simple, three-spoke steering wheel. Cassette player, Keith Richards on the guitar resurrecting ghosts of dying rock’n’roll I was never around of. Dreamt of eating up miles, coming fast to city limits. Last lights before twisties. Pop that gear down and sync revs with vocals. Commanding undertone of the engine spreading all around the resoning metal. Chasing sunset, alone. As long as it ain’t diesel I’m a smug, happy bastard. Can ride it till there’s no gas station around anymore.
Finding a clean E34 was and still is like admitting to friends you liked 21st Century Schizoid Man before Kanye mixed it. Sounds like you’re kinda clever, but overlooked something important, possibly differentiating you from a genius. No matter how many bragging rights techno violet barn find gave you, underneath they all had the same colour. So what? New Bimmers fart all the time, older attract shit-bags and old ones have shit stains? This doesn’t look good.
Let’s act ambitious and take the guns out. Somewhere around 200th anniversary of USA’s Declaration of Independence and first Concorde taking off, payroll team at BMW headquarters was paid a visit. People developing a successor worthy to replace the first 5 series needed some of their equipment. E12 presented daring idea of sporty luxury. And even though it had a bit vague steering with plentiful body roll when pushing it too hard, remained a great car. Back then it wasn’t meant to race. Yet. Top of the line model pushing 210 horsepower rarely ever left comforts of autobahn cruising, very much like Lancia 8.32.
Meeting with administration was then necessary, as finance department was in possession of the only computer out there. What rolled out of the factory couldn’t really disappoint. Styling and reliability remained the same, with difference hiding in technology and performance. First ever M5 became the crown jewel. Incredibly underrated and huge step forward that helped in creation of super-saloon genre. Big enough on the inside to seat more than two people in full comfort, providing all with amenities unheard of in all 2+2’s like…. doors. You got all these… doors, and still got a machine tuned to provide thrills and performance of a sports car. When launched, both in sales and on the road, was the fastest four-door in the world. Naturally aspirated 3.5 liter straight six pushing 286 horsepower could catapult it to finish the drag race side to side with Ferrari Dino 308 GT4 Typical Italian long-name whatever.
So here we are. The paradox of merging different timelines. Very rarely ends up with creation of something new enough to have a fresh taste. Mr Robot seemed to have nailed it. Up to the point of literal recreations sucker-punching their own efforts. This though? A piece I was missing to have a better understanding – a hot rod. Finally. Hits you in the face with the very basics of pure rawness. Lightness, power and driver taking more chances than I ever could. Caged, silver-painted “f*ck you” letter to your former boss once you’ve made it past his level. But it ain’t the one to send, it’s the one to put all your anger in and burn down. Rear door delete because race car. Wide flares bolted on, right-sized wheels, middle finger in the air. You need a lot of money to get a E28 like this. And running costs will be on par with a new one. But here it’s not about the brand, finally, took me a while didn’t it? Why not drive it like at war then? They can handle rough play. Even if you forget to set up a safe word. Like I did.
To be continued.