The story of this project coupe starts way back in the spring of 2011. I remember it coming on the market and loving the color combo (and 1 of just 16 S54s). I was then blown away by its condition with 88k miles. After reading the description I realized why it was so nice. The seller wouldn't even wear jeans in it for fear that the metal rivets would scratch the leather. He also replaced all the bushings, regularly washed the undercarriage, and was way ahead of the scheduled maintenance. My type of seller.
I became more familiar with the coupe and got to know both the buyer and seller by acting as an escrow for the out-of-state transaction. The buyer, Bill, had recently lost his S54 to an unfortunate accident and was excited to obtain what would be his third coupe. I kept in touch with Bill over the years, and he took just as good of care of it as the previous owner. It was always one of those listings that I remembered, so I was a little sad when Bill emailed me thinking about selling it.
After considering it some more, the sadness started to shift towards opportunity. Our previous project coupe had just sold and the new owner was picking it up at the end of April. This coupe was located in Asheville, NC just 2 hours from Schuh Syndikat in Charlotte also at the end of April. A perfect plan started to coalesce.
I had been looking for an opportunity to attend Schuh Syndikat for years but had always figured I'd have to fly in coupe-less. Not only would this give me the opportunity to attend Schuh Syndikat, but I could roll up in a nice S54. Win, win! If you haven't been to one of the bigger coupe events like Dorkfest or Schuh Syndikat, I highly recommend it. It's a lot of fun putting faces to screen names and email addresses of people you have talked to for years. It's also a rare opportunity to see the different colors and check out wheels and other modifications in person. My favorite part every time is when the group starts to roll out from a location like a swarm of clown shoes. There's nowhere else you can see a sight like that, and I laugh every time at the ridiculousness.
My time for the trip was pretty compressed. My sister was defending her Masters Thesis at CSU in Fort Collins on Friday at noon, and for the sake of my wife's sanity, I wanted to be home by Sunday night. We had also eventually decided to host this project at Mark's house in Dallas. The earliest flight I could make got me into Asheville at 11:30 PM Friday night, so I had about 43 hours to pick up the car, attend Schuh Syndikat, and drive over 1,000 miles to Dallas for my flight home at 6:50 PM on Sunday.
Apparently Asheville was a popular place Friday night as the hotels were charging double their normal rates. I decided to try and wait it out, but Priceline called my bluff and went up another $50 by the time I got to town. Too cheap to pay $200+ for ~6 hours of sleep, I decided to camp out in the Asheville airport. With only 6 gates, there wasn't a lot to it and it promptly shut down after my flight arrived. All the employees were very friendly, and the Delta gate attendant even tried to call around and get me a "distressed passenger" room, but the hotels weren't accommodating. After TSA kicked me out of my nice leather chair by the gate into the main lobby, I was faced with a long row of uncomfortable airport chairs. The highlight was finding an outlet near a Jaguar F-Type parked in the lobby. At least my room would have a view.
Bill picked me up promptly at 7, and I had my first glimpse of the new Project Coupe. It looked great and sounded even better. After hours on the thin carpet floor of the airport, the seat felt like heaven. I hadn't met Bill in person before, and it was pleasure talking life and coupes while we headed to his house. When we arrived, I had my first chance to look it over. I had been expecting a clean 100k mile coupe, but it could have easily passed for one with less than half the mileage. Everything in view was factory original except a small, chrome ringed oval rear view mirror that any non-owner wouldn't recognize as aftermarket. The original paint was in great shape, and the minor imperfections I had been warned about made "minor" seem like an exaggeration. We exchanged papers and I was on my way. Like I told you before Bill, whenever you're ready for your 4th coupe, you know who to talk to :-).
I made my way out or town and merged onto I-26. I knew the aftermarket mirror was smaller, but merging into traffic was unexpectedly difficult. While the small mirror is perfect for back road runs and especially track use as it blocks much less of the forward view, it was not up to the task of an Interstate road trip. Luckily I had brought a stock, auto-dimming S54 mirror we had just so happened to be hanging onto for a rainy day. I pulled into the first rest area and swapped the mirrors, setup my Valentine One, put Schuh Syndikat's current location into the GPS, and was back on the road.
Initial driving impressions were just as positive as the aesthetic ones. Generally, my goal with the Project Coupes is to make them drive as similar to my coupe as possible as I biasedly consider it perfection :-). This coupe was already just about there. It even already had polyurethane subframe bushings, newer Bilstein shocks/struts, Ground Control rsms, and Whalen seat bushings. I knew the clutch had been replaced at some point, but I thought at least the shift pins may need an adjustment by now. Nope, the gear shift stayed dead center. With the imola interior just like mine, it felt like home. I made it uneventfully to Schuh Syndikat a couple hours later.
A couple people knew I was coming, but I was mostly just crashing the party. I pulled into Iconic Auto Exchange in the shadow of Charlotte Motor Speedway and was a greeted by a parking lot full of coupes. I had only met one of the owners in person before, but as with all coupe gatherings, it was immediately like a family reunion. Many of the coupes there had passed through my site, and if they hadn't their owners had been stalwarts of the online community from before my time. I was among "strangers" but knew most of the cars down to the latest modifications, past breakdowns, and previous owner histories. I've never met a coupe owner I didn't like, and I'm happy to report that still holds true. We hung out at Iconic for an hour then made our way across the road to start setting up for the epic Schuh Syndikat 2016 official photo. Following the photo, everyone headed to lunch. I decided after my 2 hours or sleep the night before, I better get a head start on the long drive ahead of me.
About an hour down the road I started seeing signs for Spartanburg, SC. Out of curiosity I conveniently asked Google where the BMW Zentrum Museum was. I was pleased to see it was only a half mile off my route and added it to the GPS. The museum itself was closed for remodeling, but I did stop and get the obligatory photo in front of the fountain. Then I was on my way once again.
The drive through the rest of South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama was fairly uneventful outside of a few rain storms and construction in Atlanta. I enjoyed the endless rolling hills and thick green forest always beside me. I found myself forgetting I was not in my own coupe from time to time. I did however sorely (literally) miss my LeatherZ armrests and Thayer seat tilt mod. Next 1,000 mile drive I think I'm going to bring them with me. I arrived in Jackson, Mississippi around 10 PM and got a much nicer, and much cheaper hotel than was available the night before. I passed out immediately upon laying down.
I got up early Sunday morning to finish the last 5.5 hours to Rockwall, TX. I wanted to make it to town early as Rick happened to be at Mark's house that day which would make just the second time all three of the Project Coupe partners would be together in person. After Google initially routed me to a one lane dirt road, I found Mark's house around one. He and Rick checked out the new Project Coupe while I looked over his cosmos over walnut 2.8 coupe. I forget how much I like even replica BBS LMs when I haven't seen them for a while.
Being the three of us, we stopped by to check out a one-owner E36 M3 Rick had found on BMW CCA before heading to the airport. Rick's flight was just before mine, so we grabbed a beer at the airport and headed our separate ways. The details of the trip are still kind of a blur, but it is one I won't forget for a long time. First S54 Project Coupe, first trip to Schuh Syndikat, first stop in Spartanburg; it was a crazy 43 hours. The Project Coupe is now in Mark's capable hands and will be looking for a loving new owner soon.