Long summer evenings

The long summer evenings in the Northwest afford some fun and unusual driving opportunities for car geeks, such as the Northwest Alfa Club‘s evening sessions at Pacific Raceways.

The track goes live at around 6pm, and continues through the fading light until the scarcely-visible checkered flag just past 9:30.

The Alfa club also tends to attract some fun and unusual machinery that doesn’t have a good home elsewhere. Some highlights:
Alfa GT Junior (and then some)

R-Gruppe goodness

Original Escort

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.

520i

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.

520i interior

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

520i wheel

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.

520i thaw

Spring Thaw Entries Open!

Dave Hord and Warwick Patterson have opened entries for the 2012 edition of the Spring Thaw classic car tour. Last year, my friend Adam and I originally planned on doing it in his ’76 Leyland Mini 1000. Some needed rust repairs just couldn’t happen in time for the event, so we packed up my ’84 BMW 520i and hit the road.

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This year, the mini is much farther along, and we’re doing it again. Can’t wait.

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