Hare-brained schemes

M and I are going to a wedding in France in three weeks. Naturally, the prospect filled me with hare-brained schemes involving old cars.

Witness my current fascination, a Marcello Gandini-designed ’77 BMW 528 near the mouth of the Rhone river.

Or this lovely Peugeot 504 coupe:

Or, looking for all the world like a cross between an Aston Martin Lagonda and a Subaru XT, the Lancia Gamma:

1984 BMW 520i

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It’s perhaps fitting that my first post about my 1984 BMW 520i comes within four days of agreeing to sell it.

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I was first attracted by its looks — its essential simplicity and clean proportions. With an upright suspension and airy greenhouse, it seemed the perfect antidote to the ‘stanced’ bunker look of modern cars.  The feeling of simplicity also extended to the equipment, as it lacked many of the features included as standard equipment in this country (electrically-powered headrests?). Clean white paint, a manual transmission, steel wheels, small bumpers meant for the european market, manual windows, locks and sunroof.

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The interior — pine green and black — is stark and functional, and feels like a classic object of european industrial design. Black on white labels, mechanical dials and sliders. It’s not without quirks; warm air, for instance, can’t come through the dash vents by design.

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On the road, the 520i is testament to BMW’s commitment to balance and smoothness. Most marques design two liter engines with four cylinders, with the associated disharmonies of an inherently unbalanced layout. With under 130 horsepower, and a relatively peaky torque curve, the 520i’s small six cylinder engine performs similarly to other fours of the era on paper. Qualitatively, it’s on a different planet. The smoothness inherent in the inline six layout gives it a

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With a soft, tall suspension and 14″ tires, race car reflexes are simply not part of its repertoire. But adapt your driving to its pace, and it responds fluidly and neutrally.  Turn in, feel the body lean onto the outside springs, let the front tire grip.  Add a modest amount of throttle, and it balances itself beautifully through turns.

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So I’m sorry to see it go.

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The Return of the 911

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My 911sc left my life a few years ago in its physical form, but it never really left my head. I didn’t own it for long enough to get to know it very well, but there was something deep and compelling about the experience that I wanted to understand more fully.

It took some time to find the right one – without a sunroof, so my long torso would fit; reliable and galvanized enough to use as regular transportation; but with the undeniable raw character of the early cars. And that wasn’t popped-collar red.

This one showed up right in my backyard; a german-spec ’84 911 Carrera 3.2 which had somehow covered only 44,000 documented miles during its 27 years. It’s right on the edge of civilized; the upgraded headers and exhaust provide a power boost, but won’t let you forget about the engine. And it seems to be fully sorted. Though I might not have ordered the carrera tail from the factory. it’s growing on me.

So far, M and I have taken it into the mountains; I’ve commuted to work; and yesterday, it made its first trip to the track.

There’s more to describe than time, but for now allow me to tease you with some photos from the first month. More to come.

On the ferry to Whidbey

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Over Chinook Pass

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Driving east from Yakima

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At Pacific Raceways

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