It’s true; petrolheads are doomed to fret about their cars.
No matter what your favoured choice of automobile is, it’s likely that you stress over which parking space to leave it in, and how quickly you can clean off that bird poop before it burns the clearcoat on the paint.
But after acquiring possibly Scotland’s most cosmetically-abused E39 5-Series, however, I’m happy to report that there’s a deep satisfaction in owning something you really don’t care about.
There’s no need to worry about scratches, because the Titan Silver paint is wracked with scrapes and bruises. You don’t need to maintain a rigorous cleaning schedule either, as typical Scottish rust has discoloured the sills and arches.
With the M3 off the road for winter to protect it from the elements, I wasn’t actually planning to replace it with something else. However, when a friend got in touch to say he was getting rid of his 523i, I couldn’t resist a look.
Rationality was severely challenged by sentimentality when I first saw the beaten-up barge. As a child, I spent most of my formative years in the vault-like safety and strength of a 1999 Titan Silver 523i saloon.
This 1998 model, however, looked like it had been used as a dodgem for the last 18 years, as every single panel was scraped, dented or otherwise imperfect. In addition, it took several seconds to fire up, and the radio would stutter in and out of life when it damn well felt like it.
I absolutely adore it.
Despite the visually obvious imperfections – it was hit by a digger when parked, after all – the 523i is a solid foundation for a roadtrip bus. As it was owned for over a decade by a pensioner, the engine has a scarcely-believable 67,000 miles from new along with a full BMW and specialist service history.
In addition, the interior is in perfect condition, and everything inside works (well, apart from the radio).
Using an M52 2.5-litre straight six, the 523i pushes out 170bhp and is so refined and quiet, it makes an F10 530d sound like a hooligan. The auto sloshes through the gears easily and there is some torque. How much? Who knows; it’s enough to move the thing and create a lovely whispery six-cylinder growl as it propels forward.
The wooden trim, tape deck and pillowy-soft 15in wheels make little sense in 2016, but speak of the car’s luxurious origins from the late 90s. Why are modern cars no longer this soft and comfortable?
I was soon convinced and, along with three friends (‘The Consortium’) we purchased the car earlier this month. Our plan is to fix up the niggles before its MOT next Spring, with the last few weeks seeing a routine service and some exterior trim refitted after a slight panel-beating session.
If we can get it through the half-year without much trouble, we plan to take it on a two-week Eurotrip adventure during Summer 2017. It’s big, refined, comfortable and so far, reasonably reliable.
Stay tuned for more from #ProjectBismarck.