It's the tiniest of memories, but it's still there. Mum and Dad sitting up in bed on holiday in the North of Scotland, still in PJ's, eating bowls of cereal, unraveling The Sunday Times. It's a big newspaper, The Sunday Times, but my dad and I fought over only one small section - Motoring. Somehow it seemed like the paper always got folded in a different order…that, or we just were not smart enough to predict it. I was unfolding section after section and probably got stuck with something worthless like The Style (I had none of that at all, that’s for sure). My dad found it first, but instead of a victorious snort, a puzzled look came over his face. "Humphh… well then, what do we think THIS is? How do you like that, Sue? That looks like the golf clubs might even fit"” he said as he thrust an ad on the front page in front of her.
…Now I should pause to say that at the time my dad had his first real sports car - a 2.0 Liter Alfa Romeo GTV Twin Spark (to be precise). I LOVED it, but I was seriously outgrowing the hopeless excuse for a back seat. Meanwhile, my dad was outgrowing Alfa's unique customer service that involved regularly finding dirty rags or indeed tools in the engine bay AFTER picking the car up from a service.
I grabbed the paper and it made an impression that I still remember. In perfect side profile, a squat, low-slung, big-assed, shoe looking car was essentially being "served" across a desert by a tennis racket with the tag line along the lines of "Real cars are powered from the rear". I was sold at first look. Sure it was awkward, why on earth was it a mini-wagon? But those hips and those muscles, this car was all business.
I'm sure the memory has simplified itself over time, but as my dad and I sat looking at it, I swear I can remember just knowing that we were going to own it. Dad just had that kind of cock-eyed look, with a hint of a grin.
My next memory of the car was sitting in the dealership explaining that I had to be part of this decision process and that in order to be involved, I should be allowed to pick the interior. Dad must have been drunk on excitement, because nobody seemed to mind when I picked the complete Imola Red interior. Funnily enough, I think it turned out to be one of dad's favorite pieces of the car. The interior really was great looking.
From there, my love for the car only grew. Dad traveled a lot and indeed often went to work before I even woke up. However, my room was by the garage, and my bed was up against the adjoining wall. I’d awaken to the garage door rolling up, wait 15 seconds for the clunk of the drivers door to open and then give a "dum, dada, dum dum" knock on the wall. Something my dad and I did for years back and forth as a father/son little "hello". But that wasn’t the best bit. No no no. Give it 5 seconds more and the door would thunk closed, only to be followed by the cold and raspy bark of that glorious 100 horsepower per litre straight six, coming alive in our tiny garage. My wall would shake and the pictures rattle as he pulled out to go about his day. That right there is how a passion for the internal combustion engine grows.
Insurance in the UK is really tough for a "kid", so I never really got to drive the Coupe on the road, but at weekends, dad would pick me up off the bus home from University at the end of a private road that ran the length of a driving range. He’d then let me sit at the bottom of the road in the drivers seat, eying up my own personal runway and setting my best 0-80mph run up the hill every time. It was awesome…but far too short.
5 years into dad owning the still pristine car, I was 21 and getting really close to being able to convince my Mum that the still astronomical insurance on the car was now worth it to let me drive. I felt like I had paid my dues, as my daily driver was a raspberry red Skoda Felicia 1.3i (strangely I still miss that thing). Then the phone call came.
I was walking to class with by best friend and my dad rang. "Neil, I've got some bad news. Nobody is hurt, but the dealership wrecked the coupe."
Wait what? How does that happen? They are the BMW dealership, they don’t wreck things!? Well, it happened rather spectacularly. While in for an inspection, one of the technicians was taking it for it’s MOT test and used 2nd gear a little too thoroughly going through a roundabout and ended up making out with an embankment and some trees. The front was hit, the back was hit, the sides were hit and I think he got the roof too. The car was dead and I never drove her on the road. The Z3 M Coupe become my Unicorn, the beast I never tamed, never owned and was always just outside my reach.
Fast-forward 9 years of watching classifieds and doing sensible things like buying a house. I finally found my unicorn and bought her. She's all mine, is currently on a transporter from Atlanta, GA and I couldn’t bee more excited.
Now I have to tame it. To Be Continued.