People who know me, and my car history will tell you I'm quite prone to the impulse purchase. It's the main reason my car history is littered with "What the hell were you thinking?" examples of instant regret, financial ruin and much amusement to my friends. Because of this I've decided to do a new feature based around me, and my expert buying advice.
So how did I become the proud (yes, PROUD) owner of a 1998 BMW 323i Convertible? Well forgive me, but I have to delve into a bit of a back story here. It started on a Friday night out in Oxford, in a club simply called "Clems". For those of you not familiar with Oxfords night life I'll explain a bit more, imagine the Cantina scene from Star Wars crossed with the toilet scene from Trainspotting. The sort of student dive club that had sweat dripping from the ceiling, and peoples jaws dragging on the floor. As ever, I had a bit too many Shandys that night and decided to spend all my money on a Taxi home. It must've been around the early hours I got back as it was daylight, and after a couple of hours sleep, I decided to start my morning with some Facebooking. Thats when this appeared, a stunning piece of German engineering. My friend wanted rid for £500, I obviously said yes. I was obviously still drunk.
How bad could it possibly be for £500? After a couple of hours napping, a friend drove me back into Oxford for some food. By this point I had sobered up, and the realisation kicked in. "Oh yeah, by the way... I bought a car, fancy taking me there?". He did, but I imagine only so he could see what I'd done with his own eyes. It was absolutely everything you'd expect, it had been through a couple of owners and some of those had different takes on the word "Tasteful" when it came to their "upgrades". But I didn't care, it was mine, and luckily my insurance company was open that day. The first thing I did was swing by the house all my friends had ended up from the night before, and take them out in it. Roof down, system up. Something like that anyway.
Now as you'd imagine with a used BMW, or any used car for £500, it had its quirks. The roof for example was a fully electric cloth item, which was built using exquisite German precision. In this car however, I imagine it was 5 to 5 on a Friday when the roof was built. It's not to say it didn't work, but only when you wedged one of the roof motors up in the boot, as otherwise it would simply fall off its broken mount and only offer its services for making a horrible grinding noise. This often meant you'd start the process of putting the roof back up in a sudden downpour, only for it to get stuck half way. And have you ever tried fixing an old BMW Convertible roof in the pissing rain by wedging it up with a set of grips from the factory tool kit? I have, wouldn't recommend it.
Another thing I would be wary of if you're in the market for such a fine piece of Automotive history: Oil consumption. It seemed with this car, you had to fill it up with Oil and Petrol in equal measures. I'm not sure if this catastrophic oil usage was anything to do with the apparent lack of any power, or it was just the sheer weight associated with decapitating a German saloon car, but it was bloody slow. Or at least slower than the MPG (Thats both a gallon of oil and petrol) would have you believe. This car was equipped with the totally dated and totally awesome trip computer BMW had as an option for these, so you could see just how much it was drinking as you struggled to hit 60 in less than 20 seconds.
There are of course some up-sides to this story. First off, someone left a load of CD's in the Changer, result! They were mostly disc 3 of things like "R&B Hits 2003", or "Ministry of Sound Trance Anthems". But hey, its a freebee I didn't expect so I'll take that. Another upside of such a cheap car is the fact you can mess with it to little or no effect, you could literally paint flames on the side if you wanted to (to increase BHP) and you'd lose none of its value! I actually started out fairly sensibly, some moron had painted all the black plastics at the front some horrible shade of Halfords generic silver, so I fixed that. I also changed the rear lights for the standard ones, and chopped off the backbox. Crap, did I say sensible? I coupled this with the removal of BMW's "Clutch delay valve" and we had a seriously loud burnout machine. Well, one tyre fire machine, but fuck it! Who cares when you're leaving tyre smoke in your wake... or is that smoke blue? Crap.
If I'm being honest here, I quite enjoyed the 3 Series Convertible. I'd only had one rag top before it, and I owned that during a particularly miserable winter. It gave me a bit more understanding as to why people buy such things, having the roof down on a nice day is quite a novelty no matter what the car is. I also enjoyed the thought of someone in 1998 driving away from a dealer in it, absolutely chuffed with their new car. And there I was in 2014, bouncing it off the rev limiter with 4 hungover lads hanging out of it.
I ended up keeping the car for about a month, as that was how long I could cope with my Dad shouting "When are you going to get rid of that 90's drug dealers car?". So I did what anyone would do in my situation, I sold it to an nice chap from Latvia. I've checked online since, and it's never been Taxed, Insured or MOT'd so I imagine its having adventures in Europe now! That, or it blew up. But I prefer to think of the positive side, I did give him a litre of oil with it after all!
So what have we learnt here? Well the E36 Convertible is a great car for: Transporting 3 other friends to the pub on a sunny day, making hilariously loud banshee noises (Once the backbox is removed, to save weight and aid the expulsion of burning oil), playing someone elses old CD's, and looking quite a lot like a Yacht. However, it's cons are: Driving like a yacht, losing more oil than one of BP's rigs, attracting 400 morons when it comes to sell, and making you look like you're a really crap drug dealer from Slough.
So if I was to summarise, I'd say that slightly-drunken car buying is a good idea, as is buying one of these wondrous vehicles. If you'd like to cause permanent damage to your liver, whilst simultaneously transporting yourself back to the part of the 90's we all want to forget, have a few beers and buy one.
DISCLAIMER: I cannot be held responsible for the loss of earnings, relationships or bodily functions due to alcohol fueled car purchases.