Initial Ramblings – Summer 2017: 15 Years, 15 Cars, 10 Years of Writing
by JT Burkard
I can’t believe I have been a member of this club for 15 years now. It all started June 2002 when my wife Sandy found our 77 E21 sitting on the side of the road for sale. I initially bought the car with the intentions of buying it, driving it for the summer and selling it for a profit. Something I have done many times before. Within a few months I was in love. It was unlike any other car I have owned. I started going on enthusiast websites and learning more about the car. 6 months later, I became a BMW club member and my first meeting was our combined November/December meeting with elections and the Pinewood Derby. I felt out of place being that I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know much about BMW’s beyond the E21 I only had for half a year, but I was welcomed by everyone I met that night. Little did I know I would still be here, still driving that very same 320i, and becoming involved with the club including writing a column in this very newsletter. I no longer feel out of place.
I believe my first article was published in the July 2007 newsletter about an E21 gathering event I organized and held. It wasn’t a club sanctioned event, just something I set up with guys I knew from another site. I had various E21 owners come from all around the Northeast to attend. I am not sure how writing about it came about but that was the start of my chapter journalist career. Then two months later in September 2007 I wrote an article about Sandy and I renting a Z4 while we were in Vegas cruising around Red Rock in style. October 2007 I wrote about buying and owning an older BMW. December 2007 I wrote about our Whack Your Turkey rally experience. I was becoming a regular contributor and I liked it.
At the start of 2008 I was officially writing a monthly column, still unnamed, just various adventures and thoughts I had about the hobby and cars I’ve purchased. July 2008 I wrote about another one of our Vegas trips including visiting the ever elusive Area 51. To this day I believe that article was one that still got the most response from members and emails. September, I had written on my first Autocross experience. I can’t believe it’s been that long and I haven’t done another one since. The adrenaline rush was intense. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in a $500 car. Novembers article continues the woes of my $500 318i E30 that I just autocrossed and blew the head gasket on. I think that car gave me around 6 different articles to write on. None of them good. It taught me never to buy a non-running car from a kid that has no clue about anything mechanical. But I did wind up rebuilding many aspects of the car and it provided me with a reliable daily driver and high blood pressure.
2009 I found myself rebuilding the transmission on the ol’ E21. I originally had plans on swapping out the automatic for a 5-speed manual but the slushbox stayed. A month later the 320i was used in the movie “Blue Collar Boys” after the producers came to one of our meetings looking for a special car to be in the film. That was a fun experience. Later in the year we went to the Bavarian Auto Show and Shine for their annual event. Seemingly every year I would buy another BMW and this year I wound up with a Sierra Beige ‘77 E21 that has been around the block a few times bouncing from member to member. Somehow it wound up in my lap and it was begging to be saved. It wound up being a daily driver for me for a while.
Then August 2010 I bought a black on black E38 (a 7-Series – JF) at a dealer auction and I fell in love again. It wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot, but it had good bones and it needed some help. This wound up being another resurrection project added to my plate but to this day I say it’s one of my favorite BMW’s I have owned besides my original E21. October was another Vegas article where Sandy and I rented a Mini Cooper Convertible and did our yearly migration to Area 51. Then in December two things happened that changed the course of history. I sold the Sierra Beige E21 in a moment of weakness and tried to buy it back within days of letting it go. The new owner didn’t let me. But more importantly, I finally found my identity – Initial Ramblings. This was my official column name, three years after I first starting writing for this newsletter.
For the next 7 years I have been entertaining you with my automotive adventures, strange and interesting road trips, and anything else I can think of at the very last moment that I need to get this article in on time… or grossly over the deadline. I have enjoyed each and every one of your emails that I received commenting on whatever I wrote that month. The helpful hints, the words of encouragement, the shared stories. This is what keeps me writing each month, and now quarterly. I even started a blog to add these adventures online to so I can categorize them. Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit behind on adding CCA articles to it but recently I started to put my car sales interactions there. If you need some amusement, I highly encourage you to visit. The web address is listed below. If you would like to read all of my past articles, our chapters website www.njbmwcca.org has them all archived. Just click on the month you want to read and enjoy.
Now beyond writing this column all these years, I’ve owned quite a few BMW’s to go with being a member. As I mentioned before, it all started with my Black 1977 320i. I still own this BMW 15 years later and I refuse to get rid of it. In total I have had 5 E21’s – two 77’s, a 78, an 81 and an 83. I also have had 3 E30’s. The 84 318i I blew up, an 88 convertible, and a Euro 1986 325i that came over from Austria in the early 2000’s. That was probably my third favorite BMW I owned. To round out the 3- series, an E36 323i Convertible came in and out of the stable in 2015. No BMW collection isn’t complete without at least one 2002. Mine was a 1975 vintage that was strangely an automatic with air conditioning, no sunroof car from Arizona. I’ve had a couple 5-series as well. A 1978 530i I got from a club member, an 86 528e project that I bought last year and hope to finally start working on soon, and a 1989 525i with a 5-speed. Last but not least the 7’s – a 1985 735i and the auction purchased 1996 740iL I owned for over 4 years and was the subject of several articles itself, including a road trip to Maine.
The past 15 years of being a member of this club have been absolutely amazing. The cars is what brings us together but it’s truly the people who are the reason why I continue to renew my membership. (Did you and Caldwell collude on articles? – JF) Here’s to another 15 years!
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