After 39 years, a long-lost 1967 BMW 2000CS miraculously finds its original owner
Every once in a while, we hear an amazing story about a long-lost car being reunited with its original owners, years after they let it go. This is one of those stories. Except that it’s different. Backwards, you might say.
Doug and Marianne Linder sold their 1967 BMW 2000CS more than three decades ago, and although they often reminisced about the car and wondered what might have become of it, they never went looking for their German sedan. Turns out they didn’t have to. The BMW eventually found them—or Marianne, at least. Her husband passed away in 2017, but in a remarkable twist of fate, Doug’s obituary played a role in making the reunion happen … 39 years after he sold the car, four years after he died, and 2800 miles from where he had driven the BMW back and forth to work each day.
“It’s an incredible story,” admits the car’s current owner, Jack La Torre. “I never considered myself a car guy. My brother-in-law, Stanley—he’s the car guy. That’s how the car came to me. He’s 87, and last year he moved from sunny California to New Jersey to live with his daughter, and he gifted the car to me.
“Living in Brooklyn, I would never go out and get a car like this—not with a manual transmission and no power steering. It’s too impractical. But I do love it. It’s a work of art, right down to the dash.”
Doug and Marianne Linder bought the BMW in 1966, directly from the factory in Munich, Germany, and then they toured Europe in it—which included a visit to Marianne’s home country of Sweden—before shipping the car home to California. For years, Doug drove the manual-transmission BMW in Los Angeles traffic without complaint.
“That car was the very first car that I remember growing up,” explains the Linders’ son, Steve. “I loved washing it so much that I started my own little auto detailing business back when I was 6 or 7 years old.
“I also remember how much time my dad spent in the car to provide for our family. He spent three hours each day—an hour and a half each way—driving a stick-shift in L.A. traffic. But despite that, I have absolutely no memory of him ever complaining. That wasn’t who he was. He always looked for the good in things and people, and I think the car was something that he truly enjoyed. It gave him a personal vehicular respite.”
In 1982, the Linders decided to sell the BMW to Jack La Torre’s brother-in-law. At the time, Jack says, Stanley mentioned that he was going to use the 15-year-old 2000CS as a parts car. Stan later realized that the car was special and decided to keep it as a driver, but the Linders had no idea he had changed his mind about parting it out. Which explains why they never went looking for the Bimmer. Not that Steve didn’t at least think about it.
“Dad babied that car so much. I think that was why I had always wanted to buy it back for him after he sold it because I knew and I felt how much he enjoyed it,” Steve says. “But through the eyes and ears of a kid, I always believed that it was sold for parts.”
As for Jack, he too knew the car, but he never dreamed of owning it. Then came Stanley’s cross-country move in September 2020 and, his brother-in-law “made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.” The BMW was soon on its way to New York to live with Jack and his wife, Elaine.
As only the third caretaker of the car, Jack was curious about its original owners, so he decided to do a little detective work and see if he could locate them. It was a task that came naturally since the 66-year-old La Torre is a retired NYPD lieutenant.
“Sadly, I found the Linder family through the obituary for Mr. Linder,” Jack says. “It mentioned his wife and their two children (Steve and his sister, Kristina). I was able to write a letter to Mrs. Linder, and she and her son and daughter were kind enough to communicate with me. That’s how I learned of their fond memories and their love for Mr. Linder and the car.”
By then, Marianne Linder had moved from California to Portland, Maine—meaning the car was only 300 miles away. Steve suggested to Jack that they plan a surprise meeting for his mom’s birthday, and last month they made it happen. As she walked across a busy street in Manhattan with Steve and his friend Summer, Marianne spotted the Chamonix-painted BMW and recognized it immediately. “I can’t believe it!” she exclaimed more than once.
Jack, who put the original blue California plates (773BMW) on the car for the reunion, handed over the keys and encouraged them to take a drive in the 112,000-mile time machine.
As Marianne sat in the passenger seat, she ran her hand over the dash and began to cry. “I’m so grateful,” she said through her tears.
“Quite frankly, it’s still very surreal,” Steve says. “Since I wasn’t old enough to drive when my dad sold it, I had no idea that the car had no power steering until I drove it myself in Central Park. As I sat there and felt the original stitching of the steering wheel, the wood of the dash, the stick shift with its original rubber boot—it hit me just how much that car was part of my dad’s life.
“Giving my mom a ride in it and hearing her squeal with the excitement of a little girl, that was priceless.”
For Jack too. “It was a very special and magical moment for all of us,” he says. “Steve said it best when he said, ‘Seeing the car is the icing on the cake. No, it’s the icing AND the cake.’”
Looking back, the timing couldn’t have been better.
“It was absolutely amazing that Jack reached out in the first place,” Steve says. “Living in Maine, my mom was experiencing the normal hardships of being on her own and missing my dad ’til the ends of the earth. So, stumbling across the car, which had been such a huge part of their life—I think that’s one of the best things that’s happened for my mom since my dad’s passing.
“She still talks about how much she enjoys watching the videos and looking at the pictures from that day. I guess it’s kind of fitting that a BMW which brought my dad so much peace and enjoyment has now brought his wife peace and solace more than 40 years later. I thank Jack for making that magical moment happen.”
We’re guessing Doug had something to do with it too.