Last summer I sold my beloved 1992 black Audi 80. It was slow as a turtle (a rather hefty car with a measly 1.6 liter engine doesn’t exactly make for a sprinter) but had technology that surpassed its contemporaries, superb build quality and a very nice interior. The only thing that ever seriously went wrong with it was a failed fuel pump. I always said that if I’d sell my Audi if I was going to buy another Audi. Easier said than done of course. The problem is, parts and maintainance costs for Audis in Egypt are extremely high, which limits the appeal of an otherwise great car.
Being car-less in Cairo is both a blessing and a curse. With a car, there is the daily battle with the heinous traffic and the rudest, I-am-the-only-one-on-the-road drivers you will encounter anywhere. Without a car, you have to deal with congested and unreliable public transportation and haggling with taxi drivers. In both cases, you’re getting high blood pressure and bouts of uncontrollable anger. Given the choice of the aforementioned two evils, I prefer to have bouts of uncontrollable anger inside my own car so that I can bang my head repeatedly on the dash and use the steering wheel as a bite plate.
So the search for a new car commenced last September. Since then, I’ve seen just about every new model within my budget range. The problem is, I couldn’t find the exact hue I wanted in the color choice catalog at the Porsche dealership, and Ferrari Enzos were all sold out!
Ok seriously now, the problem was that within my defined budget ceiling I can’t even afford eying a new German Car from a safe distance. And by new German car, I mean a proper car, not a VW Polo (no offense to any VW Polo drivers reading this). After over three and a half months of deliberation and so many dealerships visited that I think they blacklisted me, I had an epiphany. A moment of clarity, if you will. If I can’t buy a new German car, why not buy a used German car?!
Truth be told, this option has been always at the back of my mind while I was scoffing at Korean-built POS’s, pitying families placing down payments on rebadged Chinese Franken-cars, cussing at teenagers in suped-up Japanese moronwagons (aka ricers) and envying lucky bastards in Bavarian sport sedans. Given the amount of money I had (or rather, didn’t have) and my beggars-can-also-be-choosers attitude towards automobile purchase decision-making, the light at the end of a very dark and long tunnel was to find a used, early model BMW. Here is why:
- A BMW is a BMW, even if used and (slightly) banged up.
- Holds value very well in the Egyptian market (and all other markets, I imagine). To quote Jeremy Clarkson “You can stick the BMW badge on a dead cat, and people will still buy it”
- Relatively ubiquitous in the Egyptian market, which makes for a good ecosystem of parts sellers and competent independent mechanics. A strong dealership network too.
- Did I say that a BMW is a BMW.
That said, (and even for a 10-15 year old car) the woes of expensive parts and labor still exist. This is still a luxury brand, and a such anyone involved in anything remotely related to the car has the right to charge you an arm and a leg and probably one of your kidneys too. Caveat emptor.
During the period between mid September to late November, I saw no less than 15 used BMWs and came very close to buying two. I finally laid eyes on this sterling silver 1993 BMW E36 318 IS.
And yes, this is a picture of my car jacked up at the mechanic’s, where it spent a the first two weekends after purchase for the following “minor” repairs:
- New motor mounts
- New clutch master
- New ABS pump
- Fixed front electric window keys
- New front left grille
- A small unnoticeable dent in the front fascia, between the twin grilles.
- Fixed side mirror electric motors, wind shield wiper sprayers, fog light bulbs, and a whole bunch of other electrical stuff
The car kinda looks cool from that angle, trunk and hood agape and all, don’t you think?
Don’t let that picture fool you, though. The car is very good for its age and the previous owner properly serviced it. It has a sunroof and electric everything, sports suspension (which is somewhat a problem becuase the car sits too low for Cairo’s speed bump-ridden roads) and clear-lens corner lights. The engine is high-revving and has done 110,000 kms, which is considered rather young for German engines.
At this point, a little disambiguation – which I am sure you do not even have the remotest interest in- is due on the”IS” model designation:
In the United States, the IS suffix denotes the coupe body type in the 1992-1997 E36 model range (thus the difference between the 318I, which is a sedan and the 318IS, a coupe). In Europe (and I assume pretty much everywhere outside the US), however, “IS” denotes a sedan or coupe E36 318 with the M42, 140 BHP engine rather than the M40, 115 engine in the 318i.
Confused? I know, me too. At least now you are a little less ignorant about something.
Now if I could just find the schedule for those road rage and anger management sessions.