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A Gentleman with very little hair but extremely funky sunglasses once sang “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word”. I must say, that I strongly disagree! Goodbye is much, much worse…

I realise that many enthusiasts are so-called classic car swingers. Never content with what they have and unable to commit. Instead always seeking new adventures and experiences with a new partner – mistress even. But there are also those like myself, who quickly become deeply and emotionally attached. We revel in the strong bond built up between us and our classic through many years. It’s a relationship based on mutual trust and understanding. We have keepers. My keeper is a ‘73 BMW 2002 in Verona red which has now lived with me for quarter of a century. It was my very first car, and she’s still my baby. We are inseparable. I’ve written about our 25 years together here. There have of course been other classics in my life though. Classics which I too have committed to, appreciated and often kept for a significant amount of years. But ultimately – even for me – these weren’t true keepers. Then about 5 years ago, I was utterly convinced I had found my second keeper. A classic which encompassed so much of what I value, that once in my possession, I would surely keep her forever.

First-year-of-production ’66 BMW 1600-2. Picture courtesy of Karsten Meyland Lemche & MotorClassic.

These very early 02’s have such a simple and unadorned look, making them all the more charming and pretty. Picture courtesy of Karsten Meyland Lemche & MotorClassic.

I had dreamt of finding a first-year-of-production 02 for ages – a ’66 BMW 1600-2 from before any of the white-cloaked Bavarian engineers had thought of dropping the 2-litre engine into the small 2-door shell. I managed to find one and proceeded to regularly hassle the Swedish owner in an attempt to convince him to sell his utterly original and unmolested ’66 to me. Eventually, after two years of sending emails back and forth, he finally gave in. The timing was honestly not great when he did, as I had moved to Hong Kong in the meantime, but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I simply had to act! The adventure of flying to northern Sweden where I meet up with an equally crazed BMW-mate, and the epic roadtrip back down to Copenhagen which followed, was documented day by day here on ViaRETRO. If you’ve got a few hours to kill, you can catch up on that adventure here:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

To me, this might just be 02-perfection! Picture courtesy of Karsten Meyland Lemche & MotorClassic.

My relationship with the Derby grey BMW 1600-2 (aptly named AMY due to her Swedish number plate) was immediately strong rooted – both because there had been such a build-up, starting with the dream leading right through the many emails of unashamed begging, but perhaps even more so because of that roadtrip. There’s just no better way to bond with your classic, than by undertaking a proper cross-country roadtrip. However, living in Hong Kong did present certain limitations. Luckily my close friend, Martin Paulsen, back in Denmark proved a massive help in getting some detailing and minor refurbishment under way. As is so often the case though, these minor jobs snowballed, and before we knew it, I was fully committed to a full respray – obviously in the factory Derby grey colour, and even applied in period correct single stage cellulose paint with no clear coat. I think Martin may have regretted offering his help more than once over the following year or so! Still he bravely continued to source rare NOS parts and saw the whole ordeal through right up to me dropping in for a week or so in the spring of 2016 to see through the final reassembly. A marathon week in the garage ensued, where I even managed to get pneumonia half way through – probably from lying on the cold concrete floor and not sleeping near enough, as we burned some serious midnight oil. Still we both soldiered on towards our deadline. We just managed to finish with only hours to spare before the Danish ‘MotorClassic’ magazine pulled up at Martin’s for a cover page story on the ‘66.

How a 50 year old unrestored interior can present so perfectly unmolested is beyond me… Picture courtesy of Karsten Meyland Lemche & MotorClassic.

With a 6V electrical system, no brake servo, single-circuit brakes, a mechanical clutch, and no anti-roll bars either, the driving experience was somewhat different from later 02’s. Picture courtesy of Karsten Meyland Lemche & MotorClassic.

Immediately after this, a second roadtrip was undertaken, as I drove the 1600-2 through Germany and the Netherlands in order to bring her to the UK, which had now become my new home. My little ’66 was duly MOT’ed and registered in the UK on period D-plates. Besides enjoying her on local drives in the Peak District, preparation also commenced for the huge 50th anniversary celebration of the 02-series in Bavaria in July 2016. I had attended all three previous Bavaria Tours in my Verona red 2002, but what better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary than in a 02 which is indeed 50 years old itself? It got even better when it turned out that of the 324 classic BMW’s taking part, my AMY was the eldest 02 of them all. My little ’66 did me proud on the Tour covering a massive 2,400 miles in approximately one week including two separate day-long tulip rallies into the Austrian and Swiss Alps, so by the time we got back to the UK again, our bond was even stronger than before.

A 50 year old classic on tour in the Alps.

Visiting BMW Classics new headquarters in Munich.

As 2016 drew to an end, one last milestone was achieved with my Derby grey ’66, as it was displayed on the 02forum’s stand at that years Classic Motor Show at the NEC exhibition. It seemed a fitting way of wrapping up the 50th anniversary of the 02-series and not least the 50th birthday of my 1600-2. Then came winter idleness and I clearly started overthinking the whole prospect of owning three BMW 02’s. Was this the right thing to do? I genuinely do not – and never have – regarded myself as one of these one-brand-enthusiasts. Yes, I have a profound soft spot for 02’s, but I appreciate all classics and have always dreamt of owning a wide spread of them (if only I had the spare cash and the space). Yet I found myself with three virtually identical classics in my garage. Clearly, this couldn’t be right!

Needless to say, I couldn’t possibly let NullZwei, my ’73 BMW 2002, go after spending 25 years together and with it being the first car I ever bought. Then there’s my Green Devil – a ’72 BMW 2002 which I so enjoy driving in anger on Historic Hillclimbs. As already mentioned, I tend to get rather attached to my classics, and I’ve now owned The Green Devil eight years, compared with AMY spending only half of that time in my ownership. Furthermore, if the whole point of this exercise was to own as diverse classics as possible, and I still wanted to keep two of my 02’s, then I’d really have to choose the two which differ the most. With selling my red NullZwei being utterly out of the question, there could be no doubt that the highly modified Green Devil went the furthest in offering a completely different driving experience and also a very different manner of using my classics. AMY on the other hand offered much the same as NullZwei. So through a bizarre process of elimination I ended up realizing that my ’66 had to go.

Two lovely classic, but are they too similar to justify owning both?

To be honest, I could barely believe it myself. How could I even consider it? But eventually I got more used to the prospect of handing her over to her next custodian – even if I still had my doubts. More by coincidence than anything else, I ended up having a chat about this with an acquaintance and fellow-enthusiast from the US. Steve owns several stunning classics ranging from Porsche 356’s to a Shelby GT350, and also has a soft spot for BMW 02’s of which he has already owned several stunning examples and currently has a fully documented Buchloe-built Alpina 2000tii Touring is his collection. However his first 02 was a 1600-2, and Steve immediately recognised the historical importance of my very early car with documented history and presenting thoroughly original and unmolested. From there it didn’t take long before I found myself having sealed the deal. It really happened much too quick, but in some weird way that’s probably a good thing, as it didn’t give me time to back out! Shortly after Steve would be attending the Festival of Speed with his family, so we agreed that he would officially take over the ’66 during their stay in the UK. He proceeded to plan a small roadtrip into the Cotswolds, so that he – just like I had done 4 years earlier – could immediately start that bond with the 1600-2. I knew that AMY was at least going to a really good home…

That moment of handing over the keys of your loved one to the next custodian.

Five months have now passed since I handed over the keys to Steve. Back then, as he drove off down the street in my dream 02, I must confess that my eyes did get rather damp. Over the next couple of weeks, I seriously questioned the sanity of my decision. What had I done? I made sure to get out plenty in my red NullZwei, which did help somewhat. It started to feel alright for a while. But recently I’ve started feeling a strange emptiness again. I miss AMY.

So why do we do it? Why do we sell classic cars which we still feel attached to? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve sold a fair few other classics, the vast majority of which I still have fond memories of, but I just don’t really miss them. I owned them, I enjoyed them, I wouldn’t have been without that experience, but then it was time to move on. But with AMY it’s different. Just as I must confess to having similar feelings about my ’73 Sunbeam Imp Sport which I sold in 2004, and not least my ’77 Toyota Trueno 1600GT Sprinter which I sold in 2015. So I’ve even done this three times now! Will I never get any wiser? Dear reader, have you too sold a classic car which you now regret selling? Or have you perhaps even sold a classic car where you even knew beforehand that you would regret it? If you can answer yes to both these questions, then please explain to me why we do it.

I think it’s due time for some retail therapy to help me out of my misery. I wonder what will keep my NullZwei and Green Devil company in the garage next…?

16 Responses

  1. Michael Madirazza

    Sorry to hear that, Anders…

    I have a hard time selling my cars too, so I don’t :-)

    That then give a space problem and also an explanation problem when people ask if I am able to drive them all….

    They are right. I really can’t…
    But the reason why I don’t get rid of some of them is that I know that I will feel like afterwards.


  2. Anders Bilidt

    Steve, I think I might have shed a tear or two as well while I was writing it…

    Michael, I need to take note and learn from you. I just need to never sell a classic car again! From now on, only buy them.
    But a few questions then crop up.
    1) Where do you park them all?? I’ve got four classics right now, and space is already a huge problem.
    2) How do you manage to stay on top of all the oil changes? I religiously treat my classics to fresh oil once a year. Add all the other random servicing and repairing which we do, and I don’t see how I’ll find the time to keep them all up to spec. Do you simply park some of yours up for longer periods of time, and only keep a few a few of them running?
    3) Not least, how do you manage to afford new toys if you don’t sell some of the old toys every so often?

  3. Bo Jonsson

    Everything has it´s time. Also beloved and unique cars. I wish AMY Good Luck for years to come.

  4. Michael Madirazza

    I have made an agreement with my wife… I can be (almost) as crazy as I want if I don’t make a mess of our driveway. So I have rented a garage for the cars…

    Yes I drive some of them for longer times, and the other are parked up and waiting for their turn. I probably should service my cars more often. I don’t drive them that many miles between service but I don’t service them all once a year.

    Afford the toys… I don’t have any cars that I don’t drive because I only have them as an investment. But I see as I might as well those some classics that are also an good investment… That way it is easier for me to justify for myself to have “too” many cars.
    So instead of investing, I buy cars :-) It is much more fun…

  5. Claus Ebberfeld

    I know the decision was a hard one, Anders, but as one car goes other opportunities open: Most of the cars I’ve sold went to make space (physical or economical) for another car that I ALSO wanted to try out – and as I could always only handle a certain amount of cars simultaneously one HAD to go. It never really failed for me that the new car made up for the loss of the old one.

    For many years I regularly missed my 1979 Mini, though – every time I had to park in the city, not least. But since I now live in the countryside I think the Rover 3500SD1 does just fine instead! The only car I see as real keeper forever-and-ever is still my 1978 Scimitar GTE, though.

  6. Anders Bilidt

    Bo, very elegantly put. And you are of course right too.

    Michael, you make it sound so easy! So how many classics do you actually own at present? And when did you last sell one?

    Claus, what you’re saying is of course perfectly logical. It was in fact largely that thought process which eventually led to the sale of AMY. Doesn’t change the fact that I now miss her…

  7. Dave Leadbetter

    Anders, you need to just go and buy that RX-7 sight unseen from several countries away. What could possibly go wrong?

    I know someone who is very fastidious and has a policy of never buying a car from a collector who has a large fleet, because however much money you may have there is only limited time and maintenance will nearly always be less comprehensive if the demands are spread too thinly. I know I only just keep my sanity and I limit myself to three at any one time, but I know in my heart that’s at least one too many for me. Others may be more organised!

  8. Anders Bilidt

    It’s a fair point Dave, and one which I’m very aware of too.
    While I still owned AMY, my classic car count was 5. I was managing this okay – though I should probably add that one of those 5 has been in long-term storage for about 20 years now, so I suppose it doesn’t really count. Still, I was managing one more than I currently own. So I think I can safely add something new – ehrmm… well, old of course – to the garage. Whether it should be a RX-7 is a different matter all together…

  9. Michael Madirazza

    6 is the number at the moment…

    Last time I sold of a classic was 3 years ago to a Christmas dinner, where I sold my very original and low mileage Mercedes W123 c 230 to one of my very good friends… I don’t really regret it because the low gearing was a pain (it was an automatic), and he still have it and it makes me happy that he enjoy it :-)

  10. Michael Madirazza

    They are all registered… I want to have the possibility to drive them, and since they are classics they are cheap in insurance and road tax.

    For me the plates are also of value… My e30 320i (which is my only none classic car, 1985) still have the original plates from 1985, and it would be a shame to change that :-)


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