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Guest Columnist! Meet Dale And His BMW 328is

Occasionally here at TTS we’ll feature a guest columnist. Usually, it’s someone we know, or at least someone we like. Here’s one from our buddy Dale. As he continues to wrench on his new toy, we’ll chronicle the progress.

Passions about cars can be a funny thing. Some people get very involved with a certain type of vehicle, like a two-seat sports car, regardless of make, while others become fixated on a particular marque. While I have a passion for older BMWs, the family daily drivers tend to be more along the lines of an appliance, our Chevy Malibu being about as much of a Kenmore washing machine as they come. But occasionally a little karma falls into one’s life.

The 2002 Subaru Impreza that is my daily driver now has over 155,000 on it, but it is still a solid, good-running, tight, capable car. As a winter beater it is a wonderful drift buster. And it has to bust them as it doesn’t have the ground clearance to go over. But nothing lasts forever, even with the recommended maintenance, and I was really starting to look for a way to keep the miles from racking up during my summertime commute.

So now it’s Easter dinner at my sister’s house. My nephew has had his black 1996 BMW 328is (a 5-speed with the Sport package) parked in her yard for a while with a For Sale sign on it. He had bought the car several years ago when he could afford it, and now due to a change in circumstances didn’t have a garage for it or any place to work on it.

Hearsay is there had been a couple calls on it by that point. Based on the overall appearance, he is about as unmotivated a seller as you will find. He didn’t wash it, vacuum it or clean out the personal items in the trunk. The battery is down, so it needs a jump to start. The interior is more than filthy; he is into home beer brewing and the remains of the bag of hops that spilled in the back seat is still there.

But there is potential. The car fires right up when jumped, idles down smoothly, and overall sounds good. A drive around the block reveals a whining release bearing, but the clutch feels good and the shifter is tight. The one thing he did do right was get the oil changed when he should. A conversation with the nephew reveals the driver’s power seatback recline doesn’t work, and there is at least one broken back spring.

A deal is done and it follows me home. 143,000 miles, a little surface rust by the rear wheels and under the trunk lid, tires that are getting down there in tread but still usable, and an engine that winds to redline with no problem whatsoever. I could get used to this.

I brazed together the broken jack bracket, fixed the central lock plunger on the gas cap door, put a new gear in the seat (a lot of work, but lots of internet help on this issue) and installed a new pair of rear springs. A replacement ashtray that the lid stays down on from eBay rounded out the purchased items.

I started at the back and worked my way forward with the cleaning supplies and vacuum. A run through the car wash made a world of difference. The tan leather sport seats have a few side bolster issues – show me one that age that doesn’t – but are not too bad at all.

However, in the course of events, the radio lost power. “Hey, no problem,” I thought. “I have the card right here with the code.” Except it doesn’t work. Three times, wait an hour and try again, with no luck. Must be a different head unit. So today I pulled into the service bay of the local BMW dealer. A knowledgeable tech gets in, reads the serial number off the radio display, punches it into the PC, and gets the code and enters it.

We have tunes!

I’m not sure where my motivations are going to be on this car going forward. A rattle can of black Rustoleum would do wonders on the rust spots. I need the AC looked it since it’s not blowing cold and can’t do that myself. It would be nice to find out what is randomly turning on the Check Engine Light, and the ABS indicator going on and off should probably be checked as well. None of those things keeps me from driving it and I can address all those issues.

I now have a really fun summer daily driver. Hey, I figure spreading out the miles between more cars and they all last longer, right?


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