Josh C 1988 BMW 325i 2dr Convertible

Lost, Found, Lost BMW

My wife and I share a passion for cars. We don't always agree on what makes a car great, or how best to celebrate them (she doesn't understand why I'm always tinkering away, and there are about a hundred things I'd rather do than sit next to my car for 6 hours in the hot Texas sun at a carshow.)

As long as I'd been with her, she still remembered the car that got away from her. It was a 1988 BMW 325i Convertible, and her dad had bought it for her when she was 14 (to drive when she was 16). She loved the car, but it lasted less than a year before another driver hit her hard in the passenger front of the car. She was ruled at fault, and after taking it to the mechanic, they ruled it was too expensive to fix. Luckily, there happened to be a guy there who needed the engine for his own car, so her father and this stranger shook hands and it was off.

We were married about 7 years after this, and due to some car troubles I had with my own car at the time, I was needing to drive her Mustang for work for a few days until I could fix mine. Something interesting about 1988 BMW keys is that they look exactly like the shape of the ignition cylinder of a 1994 Mustang. After trying to put the wrong key in the slot for the umpteenth time, I told my wife (Hand to God). "I know you loved your car, and it's great that you want to remember it, but why not put the key in your jewelry box instead of keeping it on your keychain? It's not like you're ever going to see it again."

Less than two weeks later, we received a phone call from a friend of my wife's family. My wife's father had died just over a month before, and his friend bought the business from him. It turns out that the BMW had been registered to the business when it had been hit, and someone wanting to buy the BMW had contacted him to see if he was willing to sell the car. My wife took the number, and told the interested party that the car had been totalled out back in 1998. The person on the phone said "Oh no, it's at a garage here in Arlington."

So we took a ride over to the garage, and sure enough. Sitting in the back, weeds grown through the grill and wheels, was my wife's car. "See? There's where my dad put in a cup holder!" (BMWs in the '80s eschewed such novelties. Cars were for smoking in and driving.) We talked to the owner of the garage and asked him about it. He said it'd been there for 'more than a year, less than two' because the guy had dropped it off for work, couldn't afford it, and just told him to sell it. He couldn't sell it though, because he had no title. We asked if there was any lien on it or anything, and he said "Nope, but it'd be nice to have the space back!" So we sent off for a lost title to make sure her dad's company still owned it, and with replacement title in hand, we collected the car.

It was cleaned up, rewired, replaced the fuel pump and cleaned the whole fuel system, replaced all the rubber bits on the engine. But it still didn't quite drive right. Replaced the suspension, added camber plates, and got the alignment taken care of, even reupholstered the original seats and replaced the top, and it looked great! The only problem we put off to last was that the fender that had been replaced on the passenger side was for a coupe, not a convertible.

So, wrench in hand, finally prepared to replace and repaint the fender, I pulled the incorrect fender off. And saw an 1/8" gap through the frame rail, where someone had just spotwelded and puttied a frame rail on. The only real structural part of the car was the sheet metal around the passenger strut tower, and the load being taken by the A-arm. There was also a hole the size of a baseball in the bottom of the passenger footwell (that explains where the water was coming from, we just assumed the roof or ac vent must be leaking). I told my wife the bad news.

We took it to a collision shop, and they again stated that it was going to cost more to fix it than the car was worth. We asked, for sentimental reasons, what that cost would be, and their estimate was around $10,000. We were forced to admit defeat, because that was more than we made together in a quarter of a year. We sold the car to another local BMW enthusiast, who took the updated parts, the upholstery, the top, etc to use on his car, and last we heard, her BMW lives on as a 24 Hours of Lemons racecar. Hopefully it's holding its own.

But on to a new chapter of our lives, we took the money she made from her car, and I matched from my savings, and bought a fixer upper 1967 Triumph GT6. It's been a long road coming, but soon her new car will be on the road and you'll be able to see it at car shows around the area. . . but I'll probably be at home tinkering in the garage.

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