Everyone loves a good automotive story involving spite. The Ford GT40 is perhaps the most famous of these stories, but even on a much smaller scale, there’s just something funny about people making huge decisions just to thumb their nose at someone who has annoyed them. The story of this 2006 BMW 550i definitely has an element of spite to it.
Over the 4th of July weekend, my family went up to Lake Holiday in Illinois to stay with one of my dad’s old friends whom I had never met. We’ll call him Bob, because that’s not his name. Bob is not a huge car guy the way most of us are, but he certainly has a healthy respect, enjoyment, and understanding of a good automobile. His car reflects this. It’s an E60 BMW 550i, rear wheel drive with a 6-speed manual transmission. The car has been in the family since new, but it wasn’t originally his. Bob’s father, who we’ll call Phil, was a lawyer, and something of a condescending, abrasive know-it-all. He and his son never had a great relationship, and Phil’s relationship was even more hostile with Bob’s wife Jane. Bob and Jane are both actuaries, and in 2006, Bob bought himself a brand new Mercedes-Benz E350. A nice car, to be sure, but Phil couldn’t be caught admitting this fact.
As most of us know, Mercedes at the time was in the final years of a corporate partnership with Chrysler, and this partnership was the subject of Phil’s scorn towards his son. “You spent all that money on a Chrysler!” Phil would tease. “I can’t believe you bought a Chrysler! My new car is much better than that!” Enter Jane, who knows nothing about cars, but hates her father-in-law and will defend her husband against anyone. “Oh really?” she shot back. “And what is that?”
“I got myself a BMW 5-Series! A real piece of German engineering, not some shitty rental car with a star thrown on the front!” That was enough to set Jane on a tirade against Phil’s BMW. Even though she had no clue what she was talking about, she proceeded to rip apart the BMW as being overpriced, unreliable, poorly-made, unsafe, uncomfortable, and generally the worst car since the Yugo.
Fast forward ten years. Phil’s relationship with his son and daughter-in-law has improved somewhat; they can now be in the same room without fighting and can even exchange pleasant chit-chat when need be. Sadly, Phil passes away around this time. I say the relationship had improved slightly, but it still wasn’t completely whole. Phil left nothing to his son in his will. The substantial amount of money he earned during his decades as a successful attorney was divided up amongst his granddaughters, with some set aside for their college and the rest going into trust funds, redeemable on each child’s 25th birthday. The rest of his earthly possessions were sold and and the profit also went to the grandchildren. Only one item of the estate was not dealt with in this way.
Per the will:
“To my daughter-in-law, Jane Smith, assuming I still own it, I bequeath my 2006 BMW 550i sedan. She is of the opinion that it is a terrible car, and I want her to know once and for all what a fantastic automobile it is, and how much better it is than my son’s old Chrysler.”
“But she doesn’t want to learn how to drive stick,” Bob smirks as he concludes the story to me, “so I sold the Mercedes and now the BMW is mine. Good car, too. Fast as hell.”