Perhaps I need to stop calling myself a petrolhead.
To be sure, I fit the criteria in all sorts of ways. I’ve memorised the technical data for far too many cars since the mid-90s. My head snaps round whenever I hear the rumble of a V8. I take photos of random cars in car parks. And I do most of the repair work on my cars.
But I’m reluctant to let go of good cars. And this is where I begin to question my petrolhead status, because a real petrolhead would be buying and selling cars regularly, trying out and experiencing different things.
My first car was a 1994 Mazda 626. I had it for eight years. It was fairly boring, both to drive and to look at, but it was remarkably reliable and decently comfortable. In the summers, I did fortnightly 700-mile round trips at the weekends, and it never missed a beat. The head gasket finally gave out around 194,000 miles, but up until that point, almost nothing had ever gone wrong with it. I had a chance to buy several other cars, including an ‘85 Camaro Z28, and a late-70s Malibu that someone had stuffed with a big-block Chevy (I was living in Canada at the time). Those would have been fun, and I sometimes regret not being more adventurous.
I find myself in the same situation again now. Last October I bought a BMW 528i for bangernomics money. And I bought it with the intention of keeping it for a year at the most, and then moving on to something else. Paying so little for the car meant that I wasn’t going to lose any money on it, and in that price bracket on eBay, the pickings were (and continue to be) rich. Finding another car wouldn’t be a problem. All these below are going for £500-1000, have reasonable mileage, and good service histories.
So here I am, two months away from a one-year anniversary with the E39. I’m spending a lot of time on eBay, and I have no less than 10 cars on my watch list. I have even put bids on a few. But I’m hesitant to really make an effort to find something else. Why? Because every time I get behind the wheel of the BMW, I’m reminded of how much I love it. The car drives beautifully. It looks good. Every Saturday, when I take my boys out for a drive, it glides across the countryside, evidently enjoying being given room to breath and stretch its legs. It runs well. It recently completed an 850-mile road trip without any issue, soaking up the motorway miles, and providing ample comfort and space for a family of four. And sure, it could do with a little bodywork, the aircon needs a re-gas, and I think the bearings on the clutch are a bit worn, but I’m certain it will do another 100,000 miles with ease.
Are there lots of other cars that could do the same? No doubt. But I’m not a gambling man, and I find myself balking at the idea of trading the E39 for something else when I don’t know whether it will treat me as well.
Where do I hand in my petrolhead card?