(Originally written 10/6/2011)
For those of you still reading (yes you Mom) who were concerned about the Sixer living outdoors, fret not. We "upgraded" houses and now both the BMW and Rabbit have a roof over their heads. Their new home and the Audi staring longingly...
I work the graveyard shift at a job which most sane people would not last a week. So at work I frequently find myself outside looking at the Six in the parking lot. This is one of those cars that I will never tire of looking at. The low beltline, delicate greenhouse and slathering of stainless steel trim. Then there is that nose, raked forward hanging the hood over the slab US bumper giving it a brutish prow. Ellipsoid headlights tucked back into grill in a frozen scowl. The B pillar slits lending to the credence of its popular moniker, the shark. I fitted 18' AC Schnitzers wheels and I can't help but to think this car was built with 18s and wide rubber in mind. Its fender wells are properly stuffed with Schnitzer goodness.
The BMW achieves something rarely seen in automotive design these day in that it appears both muscular and delicate while not being confusing or cluttered. I think of words like lithe, svelte, Armani, rapier etc. One look and it is hard to mistake its purpose, this car wants to driven, enjoyed, gawked at and as I only recently found out it also likes it a little rough.
I'm going to come right out and say it. The Sixers M30 "Big Six" motor held no joy for me after I bought and drove the car a bit. While it dutifully hauls around the coupes massive girth, I found little need to ask it to do anything else nor did it ever seem eager. Now I grew up around engines with names like Hemi, Nailhead, Wedge, Windsor so this was a bit of a letdown. When I contemplated the M30 I thought Mail Truck, Tractor, Meets Expectations etc. So there it was, a motor named The Great Reluctance. The pedal on the right simply increased the volume and sped you quicker towards the nearest gas pump. The gearbox fares no better, notchy, rough, clunky and my personal favorite, loud. It too easy to imagine it was constructed entirely from bits of broken lawn mower and wood. My work is across the street from a UPS shipping distribution center and sometimes found myself wondering if the men in the brown were having a more sporting experience behind the wheel of their rigs then I was mine.
There is a short 4-8 mile section of road just past my office building where after a rough evening I can sometimes be found absolutely punishing my Rabbits 8V or the Audis 2.7T. Its mostly a long climb of tight 90 degree switch backs and on and off camber sweepers. Mostly 3rd gear work through the suburban backwoods of the PNW. Indeed not too shabby to have that close at hand but it's no Tail Of The Dragon. The BMW had never been on this stretch of road. Now I can hear what you are all saying, but read the previous paragraph and there is a pretty good reason why I never bothered trying to force a square peg in a round hole by storming that road in the Six.
In the middle of a particularly grueling shift I found myself outside doing the usual visual once over session with The Shark and for some reason I eyed the road beyond the parking lot, snaking into the darkness. I reached for my keys. A little jaunt, why not stretch the old girls legs. The M30 in the Six has a unique startup sound which I find very endearing. The starter turns over a little too fast and a little too long before The Great Reluctance explodes to life with a great raspy exhale. As cheesy as it sounds it reminds me of the Lambo's start up, I digress. I let the shark come up to temp and then flicked on the candles BMW deemed headlights in those days and made my way out of the parking lot. Driving slowly hoping to get the ever fitful gearbox synchros to their barely grinding happy place while I admired the big coupe's low slung reflection in the darkened office windows. Loping around in a tall gear always makes you feel like your slinking around in the shark. Onto the road, plodding through the gears with The Six pointed to where the street lamps end, I am struck with just how pliable the M30s power band is. It seems happy to churn away dutifully in whatever gear you feel like yanking the gearbox into, no matter the speed. Like a big down comforter made entirely out of torque. To date I had never explored any region much over its power vs. noise apex at 4400rpm, no real point of beating on the poor thing. On this night however there would be no sympathy in my right foot I quickly decided.
I put The Shark down into 2nd gear and brought the M30 up its sweet spot as the last street lamp glided past. A quick cop check in the rearview and I dropped the hammer on The Great Reluctance. If you listened closely enough to the M30 I am sure you could have made out a "WTF!" in the exhaust note. A 4000lb blur of Bronzit leaping into the darkness in a cloud of noise. Leaving it in second and on boil a couple thousand rpm short of stupid the 635 barreled unceremoniously towards the first tight right hander. Here is where the six series becomes a different animal and begins to win hearts and minds.
Pushed hard the car will give you some body roll as if to ask "are you sure?" then it just grips. The big plush fur coat comes off and reveals a short black cocktail dress (did I really just type that?). Dial back the volume pedal a bit on the initial turn in then stab it out through the apex and the 265s out back make a valiant attempt at ripping up the asphalt. Hard into the 3rd gear and BMW begins to shed its girth and build speed like a freight train. The raspy growl becomes became an unfamiliar maniacal bellow. Thinking to myself that The Great Reluctance may have been holding out on me I ran deep in 3rd before releasing it to fourth. Going a bit quicker than I was used to in my other machinery I came up to a neat little switch back. Down to third again and the M30 wailed to the right side of tachometer in protest. Set it to half throttle and she swung into the first left then solidly transitioned to the right changing directions like some archaic cruise missile.
With the tach vertical and the nose pointed up the hill the M30 yanked at my right foot like a pit bull at a stake in the yard. I unsnapped the collar and let it run through 3rd then long into 4th. The interior became a cacophony of engine noise , gearbox whine and wind. Could it be? Had the Sixer found her lungs and her legs? Down again to 3rd and on the binders for a ninety degree left. Common sense flipped the "Be back soon" sign on the door and I grab second. A deep mechanical shrieking exhale erupted from the Six as the suspension loaded and two tons of German steel fought for purchase. Back hard on the gas at the apex and The Great Reluctance moniker has left the building. This shrieking, howling dynamo of steel just ahead of my feet cannot possibly be same dumb mail truck motor I have been living with for the past year. I am shocked and bristling by the time I realize the rear end has come loose and it's time for me to catch it. A quick snap of counter steer and Hankooks bite again.
A long straight uphill stretch and the BMW is set to ballistic as I row through gears. I grip the Sixer by the scruff of the neck and we do this loud rough dance for few more times, each time a bit harder. Then it's over, street lamps begin to pepper the side of the road and we are in a no fly zone because if I were a cop this is where I would sit parked. Waiting for some idiot in a BMW shouting up the place.
I pull the big six onto the first residential street and shut it down. Standing outside the car the deafening silence of 3am is broken only by the metallic ticking of metal cooling. Lit by a solitary street lamp the big coupe looks silken. Satisfied. Game for another go. Even classy gals like it a little rough every now and then. I reached for my keys again.