I was just about managing to contain my excitement. In all honesty, after about 15 hours of air travels in economy class on three different aircraft from Hong Kong to Luleaa, my body was starting to feel the strain. But suddenly that was all gone: There it was, my new car!
I was sharp, alert, pulse pumping and eyes wide open! After all this time, I was now – finally – standing next to Mats Hellstroem outside the garage door that hid the little Derby Grey ’66 BMW 1600-2, and in a few seconds I would see it in the flesh for the first time!
Mats swung open the garage door and there she was in all her glory! The first little thing that caught my eye was the fabulously sculpted little “BMW 1600” badge sitting proud on the rump of the 1600-2 – just one of those unique ’66 details. Immediately I knew that Alvin and I had bought the right car!
Now the car was really bought unseen, but I still spent the next couple of hours inspecting her thoroughly. Both because I had a burning desire to take in every little detail, but also to ensure that she was ready for our 2000km roadtrip that lay ahead. Luckily, just like Mats had promised, I wasn’t disappointed. The little ’66 was a bit dusty, but otherwise just in thoroughly clean and unmolested condition. But as back-up and as promised, Walloth & Nesch (www.wallothnesch.com), Europe’s leading specialist in spares for classic BMW’s from the 60’s and 70’s, had sent a very complete spares package to Mats. I had a quick glance through it and uncerimoniously dumped the whole box in the boot of the ’66, which immediately made me feel a bit more at ease about the long journey that lay ahead. In the meantime Paul went through the ten different hub caps in the boot, and found the four best ones which were immediately fitted to the original steel wheels. Then Mats invited Paul and I to the porch for coffee, while he went through all the history and documentation that he had on the ’66, including the original bill of sale and tons of old service records. Finally the deal was sealed with the outstanding payment and a mutually signed contract.
The little 1600cc started on the button, and gently I eased the 47 year old classic down the quiet villa road and into an epic roadtrip. Paul and I found ourselves regularly just grinning sheepishly to each other. WOW!! – she was just great. If anything she felt even better and sturdier on the road than she looked. Not a single rattle or otherwise unwanted noise, the suspension was tight yet very comfortable, the steering was sharp, the gearbox very precise and the engine just thrumbed away in that typical soothing and well-engineered manner that the small M10 engines tend to do if they’ve been looked well after. So we pushed her up to about 90km/h, headed south along the coast and just enjoyed the stunning weather, the amazing scenery and the great little ’66…
We were compelled to divert a little just to drive through Skellefteoe, as this was the small town that my newly acquired BMW 1600-2 was first sold in, back in 1966. Though tempting, we tried to keep ourselves from stopping every 5 minutes for yet another photoshoot at some breath-taking backdrop, but still every now and then we just had too! First time we did, we went to check whether the oil level was still good. Surprisingly we found that the engine was seeping oil from the valve cover gasket. Slightly worrying! I grabbed a socket and carefully tightened the seven bolts, Paul cleaned up the oil spill and I finally topped up the oil again. Checking again later, it luckily seemed that this had cured the leakage, but we’ll just continue to keep an eye on it.
We reached Umeaa in time for dinner, and drove into town where it seemed everyone was out to make the most of the stunning weather on this Friday evening! Sitting outside a restaurant at a small town square, two great big pizzas settled our hunger very nicely. It had been a long day though, so we decided only to continue to the next little town of Oernskoeldsvik. Having covered close to 400km in the first day, and full of joy, we called it a day. The little ’66 had certainly impressed us both today!