The one that got away: 1985 BMW 528i (Euro-market)

As evidenced by the sheer number of vehicles I’ve bought and sold, I’m not very sentimental when it comes to letting them go. Typically, if I’m being offered a reasonable sum of money in excess of my investment, I’m happy to see it go. There are a few exceptions, though; none more significant than my 1985 BMW 528i, which was a rare Euro-market import with the tidier non-US bumpers and high compression engine.

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I purchased this car on a whim back in 2006. I had just sold my 1983 Mazda RX-7 GSL, and was looking for something equally fun but more practical. I found the car on Craigslist for a remarkable $2500 and took it home. With more than 200k miles on the clock it was well-worn, but came with a 9″ thick stack of service records and drove wonderfully. The clearcoat was in rough shape, but otherwise it was a lovely car.

I took it to college with me in 2007, when I decided it was probably best not to daily drive such an interesting car and picked up a beater. Unfortunately, that was the beginning of the end regarding my time with the vehicle. After a few months of slumber, the brakes had seized. As a short on time 18-year-old college student with much less mechanical aptitude than I have now, I took it to a shop to have them repaired. It proved surprisingly expensive, and issues with the suspension were discovered. I had those repaired for even more money, when a potential timing chain issue was pointed out. The car had nearly bankrupted me (I wasn’t making much more than minimum wage at the time) and decided to pass it on. Luckily, my friend Andrew had loved the car. He was driving an Audi Coupe Quattro at the time and offered the Audi and a rather agreeable sum of money for my BMW. I accepted, figuring that I would still have a cool car to drive and my cash reserves would be replenished. What could go wrong?

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Unfortunately, lots. The Audi ended up being a horrendous pile of crap. It was complex, hard to work on, somewhat slow, burned quarts of oil between changes, dumb things broke and fell apart, left me stranded multiple times, and ended up being orders of magnitude more expensive to maintain than the BMW. The 20-valve inline five sounded wonderful at full bore and it looked kind of cool, but that was about it. I was happy to be rid of it no more than a year after purchasing.

Sadly, the BMW’s fate was worse than the Audi. I regretted letting it go mere months into Audi ownership, but that regret became intense guilt when I received a call from Andrew one evening. The car had been in a high-speed accident with a deer. Andrew was OK but the car was pretty much a total loss. While happy that he walked away, I was devastated at the destruction of such a unique car. After being tossed around from friend to friend who didn’t know what to do with it, I took ownership once more to part the car out and ensure that its components would at least live on elsewhere.

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Of all the cars I’ve ever owned, this is the one I’ve regretted letting go of the most. I should have just held onto it, mothballed it, done anything to keep it despite my struggles as a broke kid at the time. Alas, what’s done is done. I just wish it didn’t end up as a wreck.

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