This long winded rambling is in response to Raph's question on the Front Page. It became too long for an FP comment, so I'm posting it here.
Daily driving a classic is a magical experience, Oppo. Sure, new cars are great with their fancy touch screens and sound deadening and safety features, but a classic car gives you a sense of nostalgia than nothing else can really give you. Driving a classic car is the best decision I have ever made, and is something I think everyone here should experience. I drove my 1976 BMW 2002 every day for two and a half years, and loved every minute of it, and I hope to get her back to DD status over the summer. Now, my first car was a 2001 Nissan xTerra, and it was an amazing truck. I mean, as far as first cars go, I hit the lottery. It was reliable as all hell, an absolute tank in the snow, fit 5 people plus however many were willing to sit in the trunk, came with a full first aid kit for when your drunken friend inevitably sliced his hand open at a party, was relatively safe, looked awesome, had more than enough room in the back for activities with the seats folded down, physically would not let me go faster than 95mph (I tried, it had a limiter), and had no traction control so I could do sick drifts and donuts. As far as first cars go, it was the best of the best.
And then one day I decided I wanted something older. My hunt started off with the VW Karman Ghia. It was a stunning little car that looked like a lot of fun, and my grandfather had a spare 914 engine that he said he'd be more than happy to shove under the hood. I quickly realized that a rust free example was slightly above my budget, so I began looking at E30s. I test drove a few, and almost bought a beautiful red 1991 325is but the day after I drove it something happened.
My uncle let me drive his 2002 Turbo.
That was it. I was sold. I needed a 2002. I needed one.
Shockingly, my parents were quite excited. They had both owned 2002s in the past, and my mom actually had a maroon 2002tii when I was born. Until this point I had never been sure if they were one-hundred percent on board with me driving something old, tiny, and airbagless, but the minute I mentioned a 2002 my dad actually offered to pitch in. If you knew my dad, you would be picking your jaw off of your desk right about.... now.
I scoured Craigslist and found a few that were in okay condition, but I wanted something ready to go and a lot of what I was finding needed some mechanical work. Then, one day as I sat in class, I got an email from my dad. No subject. No text. Just a link. One week and a bunch of phone calls later, he went to go check it out. I got the okay, and purchased my pastellblau 1976 BMW 2002 for $4,000 and one miniature highlander cow.
Yes, my dad's contribution was a cow. I wish I was making this up. For those who don't know what a miniature highlander cow looks like, its hysterical. How my dad found someone who was willing to partially trade a 2002 for a miniature highlander is still a mystery. Why my dad even had miniature highlander cows is a mystery.
The next weekend, my new car pulled up in front of my house with a color-matching Prius behind it. As it turns out, the very nice gay hipster farmer couple who I bought the car from loves the color so much, that when it was time for them to get a daily driver they specifically chose a car to match the paint color of the 2002. My mom was enthralled by the fact that they lived on a farm and, most importantly, that they had goats. My mom loves goats. So much so that she asked them if she could come to their farm at some point and pet their goats. She pet the goats two weeks later.
I swear this is a true story.
So now I had an old car. I was the proud owner of a 36 year old BMW that ran surprisingly well and had not a single molecule of clear coat anywhere on the body. I drove it whith pride, and quickly fell in love. But while I loved all the quirks of my car, I still felt the need to make it my own. Back on Craigslist, I found a set of silver BBS RSs for an impossibly low price, picked them up the next day, and proceeded to spend WAY too much time and money painting the centers gold and polishing the lips. This is around the time in which my 02 got her name. Alice.
For those wondering, the name is actually a reference to the very same Alice who chased a rabbit, fell down a hole, and explored the wonderful land of Wonderland.
For the next two years, Alice and I were together every day. We went through a lot together, and she went through a lot of parts. One transmission, one differential, god knows how many fuses, a window actuator, a brake fluid reservoir... The list goes on. She taught me a lot in those year. I had no mechanical experience at all when I first started this adventure, and yet here I was driving a car with the temperament of a passive aggressive girlfriend who suspects you may have forgotten her birthday for the 4th year in a row. There were many roadside fixes along our travels, and I have since learned my lesson and signed up for AAA.
Pro tip: if you drive an old car, or any car for that matter, get AAA. Hopefully you'll never need it, but you'll be glad you have it when you do.
Even though I had been treating Alice as my daily for a few months, I still had the xTerra. We used it occasionally, though mainly in poor weather or snow. I used it a number of times to haul my friend's band equipment into New York City and for its yearly Christmas tree hauling duty, but it mostly sat in the driveway. One day, perhaps of a broken heart, the xTerra died. The costs outweighed the value of the truck, and even though I had so many memories of my early days of ass-hattery, we had to let it go. That meant my mom and I had two cars that were, to put it bluntly, absolute shit in the snow.
As luck would have it, we should have kept the xTerra another year. The 2002 and mom's JCW Mini Cooper S were not prepared for winter storm Nemo. Even with the best snow tires money can buy and all the sandbags in the world loaded into the trunk, we were not going anywhere.
But once the snow was plowed, we were back to normal.
Yes, I drove a nearly 40 year old car through a New England winter.
No, the floor did not immediately rust out and turn my car into a Flintstones-mobile. I did, however, spend a fair amount of money on weekly (and sometimes twice weekly) car washes.
But it was not until the following spring that I truly understood what driving a classic was all about. Cars today are wonderful, and fast, and efficient. They are comfortable and quiet, and can do hundreds of things that classics simply cannot do. But driving a classic car is an altogether different thing. Driving down main street in a classic car, with the windows down and some old Grateful Dead tunes coming from the tape deck, is... well, it's everything. You're surrounded by people in their isolated bubbles on wheels, pissed off at the world and at the Toyota that's going a tad to slow, and only concerned with their destinations. You cannot be that person in a classic car. In something old, your drive is its own destination. You feel inclined to take the back roads, or the long way home from work or school. You go on automotive adventures every chance you get, even if its just to pick up groceries. Your car becomes a part of who you are, and driving it, and I mean really driving it, becomes a spiritual experience. I cannot tell you how many times I went on drives during times other people may go to church or pray.
Adam Kaslikowski, a writer for Petrolicious, drove a BMW 2002 and found God. While I can certainly relate to Adam, I think you can find "God" in many forms and in any kind of classic car. I found my automotive nirvana in Alice. Go find yours.
(The following are not my photos, but I felt were worth sharing)