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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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…
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…?