Initial Ramblings – Spring 2020: The E21 Movement


The following is an expanded article I did for the Spring 2020 edition of Ultimate Classic, the quarterly newsletter for the BMW Classic Car Club of America. For me this was just another step closer to achieving a childhood dream of getting something I wrote published in a national magazine. I do not have a journalism degree or even took any kind of classes but yet here I am, typing away at 11:16 pm before our deadline. My column in our Chapter’s newsletter has always been very fulfilling and I appreciate all of you who take the time to email me or come up to me at an event or meeting to say how much you enjoy what I write. It validates that my ramblings have some value. I have immense appreciation for those who do this for a living. Now, enough of this, onto the article.

In the car world, there are vehicles that slip under the radar for years. Cars that only the most dedicated enthusiast are aware of. Perhaps you can describe them as the neglected middle child. BMW has one of those cars, the E21. This is a forgotten gem and the sleeper of collectable BMW’s. It’s perhaps the Bimmer that has been the most overlooked model. It’s the first to carry a 3-Series badge. It is nestled between the classic and ever popular 2002 and the leader of the vintage 3 series lust factor, the E30. Yet the E21 has had little interest, until now.

For those who are unaware, this car was built from 1975 to 1983, but first available in the US in 1977. We will focus on the US versions. Built during the second gas crisis, these sports sedans were fun, nimble and efficient for the time. The first years 1977 to 1979 were 2.0L M10 overhead cam, hemi-head 4-cylinder motors equipped with Bosch KJetronic Injection and 4-Speed transmissions, or an optional 3 speed automatic. The 1980-1983 versions were powered by a 1.8L M10 4-cylinder and followed by a Getrag 5-Speed or optional automatic. The later versions were also available as an S model equipped with Recaro Seats, front air dam, rear spoiler, cross hatch wheels, and larger anti sway bars front and rear. When compared to today’s basic BMW’s, they are antiquated, but to the enthusiast, it provides a raw, direct and connected feeling to the road. With manual everything, this is a sports sedan in primitive form. I always say the E21 doesn’t do everything right, but doesn’t do anything wrong.

I have been an E21 owner for 18 years now, a 1977 320i. It was my first BMW I owned. My uncle always said his favorite BMW he had was his Alpinweiss 1983 320i. When my wife Sandy spotted ours for sale, I remembered this so I had to see it. I spoked to the seller, loaded up my trailer, withdrew cash from the bank, and headed out to buy it. I was so focused on negotiating of the deal I almost walked away from this car, all over $100. When I got into my
truck, Sandy said what happened? I told her we were at a stalemate and I wasn’t giving in. It must be my stubborn German heritage. My wife then said “Are you going to really lose the car over $100? Is it worth it?” Rationale won over my need win the battle and I grabbed the seller before he left – Always listen to the wife. In the end, we all won.

Since then I have had an additional 4 other E21’s, as well as 11 other models of BMW’s. Still, the E21, and my original 320i are my favorite. When I had first bought mine, you can purchase a nice one needing very little work for $2,000-3,000. In the last couple years, interest in the E21 has seen an increase in popularity. I’ve noticed Millennials are discovering this little gem. As a result there has been an uptick in their value. Maybe this new generation isn’t all that bad? I performed a search of previous sales on Bring a Trailer. The average selling price has been between $5,000 and $15,000 with an astounding price being achieved in June or 2019 for a clean 320i of $25,500. The ultimate E21, a drool worthy 1979 BMW Alpina B6 2.8L, sold for $80,000 on September 28, 2018. This has to be a world record sale for any street legal E21. But for those who don’t have that kind of cash in your Bitcoin account and can do some wrenching yourself, you can still find project cars out there from $1,000-3,000 depending on the needs of the vehicle.

Parts can be a little scarce depending on what you need. Tune up kits and such are readily available, but some stuff is not, like original trunk lid weather stripping. BMW Classic division was still producing a large array of E21 parts, but some have gone No-Longer-Available. Those seeking original used can search eBay or E21 groups, just have patience. I have a small stock pile of parts I acquired from a fellow CCA member as well as parts cars I’ve picked up over the years. The more popular items have already been sold but I still have interior, fuel related, and body parts available. If you need anything, feel free to contact me at my email below.

In 2002, when I bought my 320i, I knew nothing about these cars. I searched the web for information and found Bimmerforums had an E21 section. I joined, participated and absorbed as much as I could. There are a lot of helpful enthusiasts on there. Another informative site that was dedicated to these cars was This was a treasure trove of technical info and repair tips. Unfortunately that site is no longer around. I started to add a lot of that info on my own website but after changing servers, I haven’t done any work to restore these pages yet. Some of you may remember back from 2003-2007 I held E21 gatherings where owners from around the northeast would congregate, swap stories, show their cars and have a bite to eat together. It was a lot of fun but in 2008 I was getting married the same month I usually held them. Unfortunately for the E21 gang, my nuptials took priority. I’ve recently considered resurrecting the gatherings but the pandemic has put an indefinite hold it, at least for this year.

As with any obscure but devoted group of enthusiasts, clubs will form. In the mid 2000’s a group called the E21 Legion came to be. I have no idea what my membership number is but I know it was only 3 digits I think in the 200 or 500 realm. There’s probably several thousand now and I am happy to say the Legion is still going strong today. You can find them on Facebook and Instagram. The most recent and significant advancement for the original 3Series owners is the formation of a BMW CCA sanctioned
SIG (Special Interest Group) called E21 Sharknose Register run by Joel Palmer. You can also find it on Facebook and Instagram under the name e21 CCA. With the CCA sanctioned group, this solidifies the strong resurgence in the interest in E21’s and it will continue to grow. I am proud to be one of the pioneers of this chassis blazing a way to a new frontier. And to think I was going to lose all of this fun over $100?

The Movement is on.

Are you in?

JT Burkard

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Initial Ramblings – Fall 2019: The Great Change


Many of you may have noticed that I missed last quarter’s column. Usually I am running late to the last day of the deadline, or perhaps a little over it. Poor time management, busy life, forgetfulness, writers block, the excuses can go on. Our editor, Jerry, has been very patient with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t even think about the deadline or my column this last issue because I wound up doing something I said I would never do. It took up all of my time and focus. Something that went against my core values. Something that made me re-evaluate my life. What is this heinous act you ask? Have I sold my soul to the devil? Well, not that extreme but close. I sought employment at a new car dealership. [GASP] Well surely you think I went to BMW, right? No, but it was a top choice if there was a dealer hiring at the moment. What about Mini? No. Mercedes? No. Audi? No. Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Maserati, Lamborghini, Lexus, Acura, Jaguar? No. Anything luxury or sporty? No. Ok, enough with the NO (channeling Grumpy Cat here).

So where did I wind up? Ford, yup Ford… sort of. How the hell did I wind up there you ask and what do I mean by sort of? I have owned Dodge trucks for 20 years so just walking into a Ford dealership was automotive adultery. Let’s be honest though, Ford makes very good trucks. There is a reason why the F150 is the bestselling pickup for decades. But, it wasn’t the Ford product that I was looking to peddle; it was something different, more challenging, more commercial. Tow Trucks. Those glorious vehicles that transport your vehicle when it breaks down or needs to be moved from one place to another not on its own power. I am proud to say I am the Jerr- Dan Sales Consultant for All American Jerr-Dan in Old Bridge NJ. [Insert shameless plug]. This isn’t that much of a stretch for me. I have a background in towing. From 1996-2000, I worked as a towing operator. I also owned 3 tow trucks myself in the past 23 years. Plus, I have done a lot of transport work. It seemed like a good opportunity to combine my 19 years of sales experience and my tow knowledge together. I certainly didn’t want to hustle Mitsubishi Mirage’s or Chevy Trax’s.

Photo #1 – Is that a kidney grill?

The first thing that I needed to get used to was NOT being the manager. For years, I have been manager or partner in some capacity for the other dealers I worked for/with. Now I have managers, many of them, and they have managers too. And the paperwork, my God, the paperwork, so much paperwork. I think hostile corporate takeovers have fewer things to sign. Plus, everything has to be precise, not “ish” as the previous places were. Finally, the hours. 40 hour work week? What are you, part time? If you are getting out in under 50-55 hours you are lucky. And it doesn’t end when you punch out. It’s all day and night talking with customers. The moment you wake up until the moment you went to sleep. I was used to that already though.

The upside, volume. This is a busy place. Even doing the specialty wrecker and flatbed sales, it’s got the business. Plus, I get to play with all sorts of trucks, not just Fords. On any given day I would hop into a Hino, Freightliner, Peterbilt, Kenworth, Internationals, and even Rams and move them around or drive them to customers. I am the road salesman so that means I get to travel this vast state, visiting shops, towing companies, body shops, etc. It’s a lot of fun.

Now, how does this relate to BMW’s? Being that I have a 30 mile commute each way, I decided that the E21 needed to stretch its legs a couple days a week. As long as there is no snow or salt on the road, I will drive it. I have to say, 17 years we have owned this car and I still get massive amounts of enjoyment every time I drive it. Crank open the windows and sunroof, get the radio going and cruise all the way up and back enjoying life. When you think you had a rough day, nothing like cruising an older BMW to put a smile on your face.

One thing about working for a car dealership that sells Shelbys and Roush is there are a bunch car enthusiasts there. Several of them, Bimmerheads too! The couple of BMW guys that work there already scoped out the ol’ 320i in the employee parking lot. Yesterday, the one Subaru sales guy said “You are the one with the Mercedes SLK?” I said yes, that’s actually my wife’s car. We have a bunch of stuff. Then I mentioned the E21 to him. He said “I didn’t know that was yours too, we need to talk later”. He owns Audis. It’s still German so it counts. My car guy status has been solidified.

Now that I have been driving the 320i more than usual, I have discovered a few things that need to get taken care of. First, there is an exhaust leak on the head pipe coming out of the manifold. A crack has developed and it’s leaking just enough to annoy me. I crawled under to see how bad it was. I even tried to use some muffler cement as a temporary fix. It didn’t work. I started looking for an Ansa exhaust to replace it with. Years ago I wanted to do a full Ansa system but was being too cheap and decided to pass. Now when I need to do it, I can’t find them anymore. The only Ansa exhaust is basically a stock replacement like the Bosal I have on there now. The down falls of owning a 42 year old car.

The other thing is I need to get a new stereo. The Blaupunkt cassette player that was strangely mounted under the left side of the steering column in 1986 is ready for replacement. Only 2 of the 4 speakers are working and of the two remaining, one fades in and out. Plus, the little 4×6 speakers are old and blown out so the sound quality is subpar at best. Being that I do not want to hack the uncut factory stereo location, I wanted to put a hidden stereo in it.. On eBay I found the perfect solution, a 5”x3”x1” 50 watt 4 channel mini amp that works with iPods, satellite, and MP3 players. Since I rarely listen to regular radio, this was an ideal set up. Hide the unit, run a remote mini jack to plug in your device and jam out. I just have to pick out the right speakers since they all turned to dust.

None of these will be fixed by the time our Whack Your Turkey Rally happens so I will just deal with it over the winter or early spring depending on when I tuck the car away for the winter. Now, if I can only get to that E28 project I bought several years ago, I can rotate that into the daily driving duties.

So for those of you who enjoy this column every issue and were looking forward to my adventures but missed them last issue, I apologize for being so caught up in the new job, I neglected your entertainment needs. Never fear, we have gone back to our regularly scheduled editorial. Stay tuned, more BMW action after these commercial messages.

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Initial Ramblings – Spring 2019: Spring Clean-Up Time


The weather is getting warmer, car events have started up and it’s time to clean up that daily driver, or your Ultimate Driving Machine, that’s been laid up in the garage all winter. Proper vehicle maintenance doesn’t just include oil changes and scheduled maintenance. It also includes proper car detailing in the spring and fall, or if you are a fanatic, every weekend. Heck, some of us are probably so fastidious that the riding mower gets a good deep cleaning, a coat of wax and tire dressing. You know who you are!

When I was in my late teens and early 20’s, I detailed on the side for a few extra bucks. I was in no way a professional, but I could hold my own with buffer and a wax pad, but things have changed substantially in the last 25 years or so. Technique and products have advanced so much that it’s a whole different game now. Being a car dealer, I probably detail several cars a week. From simple wash, vacuum, glass, engine compartments, wheels and tires, to multi-stage paint corrections and interior out clean ups of the dirtiest vehicles. You cannot believe some of the cars I have picked up at auction. Candy, pens, coins, food and garbage crammed into every crevice of the interior. Nasty coffee stains on the consoles and floors. General filth throughout the inside of the car that would make you cry. I have gone so far as to remove the interior, hang the carpet up on a fence, drench it with heavy duty degreaser, scrubbed it, and then power washed it. I’ve done the same to cloth seats that conventional cleaning methods wouldn’t make a dent. A hot water extractor would really be the tool for this, but I do not own one of those… yet. Now, I do not recommend this as this is a last-ditch effort, but I can say that the results were astounding from where I started from. These are extreme measures and I’m sure none of you have let your cars go full of hoarder status so let’s move on.

Being car enthusiasts, we like to work on our cars. We get great satisfaction in doing the work ourselves. I think there is something very satisfying spending a day or weekend bringing the shine back into your car. I highly recommend that if you are ready to tackle a full detail but are unsure, YouTube is an excellent source for proper technique, use of equipment plus tips and tricks. Watch several videos so you feel comfortable with what to do. I have subscribed to several professional detailers and always pick up new ideas. I spend hours at home watching people clean their cars. I may need professional help.

So you want to detail your own car? You will need some basic detailing supplies. I recommend for the home detailer the following tools: A hose with a good nozzle. Better yet a power washer with a wash/rinse attachment. Several microfiber wash mitts. Two wash buckets, one for cleaning and one for rinsing out your mitt and tools so you don’t contaminate your wash fluids. A good set of detailing brushes, wheel brushes, and a stiff hand bristle brush. Clay bar. A good buffer, I prefer a DA buffer/ polisher. I personally use a Porter Cable DA with a 5” backing plate but there are other great machines from Griots, Flex, Meguiars, Torq, etc. With that buffer, you will need a set of Microfiber and/or Foam buffing and finishing pads. BMW’s have soft paint so the microfiber pads are better suited for this but if you have some experience; the correct foam pads can be used as well. Pay attention to the colors and style of the pads. They all have different purposes. No detail kit is complete without an array of microfiber towels for compound and wax removal, interior clean up, and any other general towel duties. Plus, you need at least two dedicated drying towels of microfiber or waffle style. Compressed air is very helpful to clean off the buff pads, as well as blowing out water from trim as well as crumbs from the interior crevices. Your own detailing cabinet may have more or less in it but this will get you started if you are relatively new to home detailing. Now that you have your tools your need your chemical supplies. A quality brand car wash. Never use dish soap as it will strip the wax from the finish. A spray bottle for all-purpose cleaner (APC) diluted 5 to 1 – 5 parts water, 1 part cleaner. I use an industrial strength cleaner from Zep but you can use whatever you are happy with. Waxes, compounds, glass cleaners, tire dressings, wheel cleaners etc. These are all preference. There are tons of companies out there with wonderful products. I have used Meguiars products for over 25 years, but you will find fantastic ones from Mothers, Chemical Guys, Griots Garage, AMMO NYC, Pinnacle, Gliptone, Wolfgang, etc. The newest innovation in detailing is Ceramic Coatings. I have never used them but I have seen the results. Longevity, protection, and a superior shine is what you can expect from using these products. You can get 1-3 years out of these coatings without having to redetail your car. The most important thing when using these coatings is the paint needs to absolutely flawless before you treat it. This is really best left to the professionals to take care of for you. It does cost a substantial amount to have this service done though. For now, I’m sticking with wax and sealants.

So let’s get into the steps for a quality home detail. I typically start with the engine compartment because this is the area with the most grime. Make sure your engine is cold. Use a vacuum to suck out the leaves, pine needles, creature nests, and whatever has collected over the years. Cover up all of the important electronic items under the hood before starting. Next, rinse with water to remove the dust and loose dirt. This is where the powerwasher comes in handy. Use with care and make sure you are constantly moving the nozzle around. Next liberally spray down the entire area with your APC. With your detail brush, start to agitate the dirt and oil in sections. Once you thoroughly clean everything, rinse again. Don’t forget the underside of the hood and all the jams too. Use an old microfiber or towel to dry the easy to reach areas. I like to use compressed air to blow out the hard to reach areas, electrical connections and any standing water. Finally, use some finishing spray to give a protective coating to everything underneath. 303 Aerospace Protectant works well under here.

Next is to move to the interior. Start with a good vacuuming of all of the carpets, seats, trunk etc. remember that stiff bristle brush I mentioned before? This is perfect to use to rub on the carpet and mats to release the embedded dirt and sand. Usually the driver’s carpet area will need several passes to get a majority of the dirt out. If there are any spills and stains, use the APC and the brush to clean the carpet, followed by the vacuum to suck out the excess moisture. If you have cloth seats, you can do the same with any stains and discoloration from dirt. You will need to allow it to dry. If you have leather seats, there are excellent products to help clean these as well. Be careful when using your APC to clean up the leather. You don’t want it too strong or it could remove the dye. A great item to use if your seats are getting dry is a product called Leatherique rejuvenator oil. It takes multiple applications to get the leather supple again but it does work amazing. If you have some hard to get out dirt and scuffs, a magic eraser is excellent but you need to use it gently as you can damage leather or start to remove the dye in the material. The magic eraser also works wonders on the door panels, door sills, kick panels, consoles, and other hard surfaces in the car. Just spray a little APC and lightly rub out the dirt. Cup holders usually contain left over beverages and crumbs. A quick spray with cleaner and agitation with a detail brush will usually clean these areas up. Same goes for door pockets. Use a microfiber towel to wipe off all of these areas, whether it’s the seats, door panels or cup holders. Once the interior is spotless, a protectant is a good idea to keep it looking fresh. Finally, clean all of the interior windows.

Now for the exterior. Start with a good through rinse of the vehicle to remove all of the loose dirt and grime. Next, prepare one bucket with clean water, the other with your car wash. A grit guard on the bottom of the buckets is recommended. Wash your car and make sure you get into those door jams and trunk jams as well. A detail brush is the easiest way to get into the hinge areas. Also the detail brush helps remove the dirt from around the emblems and crevices. Once the car has been rinsed, it’s time for the clay bar. Using with a clay bar lubricant, detail spray, or soapy water, take a piece of the clay bar, knead it and then work in 2’x2’ sections rubbing the paint to remove contaminants. You will notice a considerable difference in the smoothness of your finish. Once done, wash the vehicle again. A key note is do not use a clay bar if you do not plan on polishing the car after as you may create fine scratches.

Now it’s time to do paint correction. Do this in a shaded area or inside the garage. As I stated before, BMW paint is soft so a microfiber pad is recommended for this job. My polisher has 6 speeds, but I genuinely compound on setting 5. I start with Meguiar’s D300 DA Correction Compound. I tape off all of the areas I do not want the buffer to hit. It saves time at clean up as well as reducing the white haze on the trim. Now prime the pad with several dots of compound. Then blot the paint with the pad in several areas so you don’t have this huge blob that will shoot product everywhere. Hold the buffer to the paint then start the machine. Slowly work your way around the panel up and down, then left to right. If you have any light scratches, work the machine over it in several passes, carefully making sure you do not remove too much clear coat or paint if its single stage. Less is more. I typically do half the hood at a time, then a fender or door at a time. Wipe clean before you move to the next section. Add only a couple more dots the size of your pinky nail and move on. This stuff goes along way. After you have completed this stage, changeover to your finishing pad. I use Meguiars D301 finishing wax on speed #3. Again work one section at a time, wiping off with your clean microfiber before moving to the next. Once you are done, make sure you wax the door jams as well.

Wheels and tires I usually clean before the wash and wax process but I never dress the tires until the end. Make sure you have the proper wheel cleaner for the rims of your vehicle. Polished wheels and clear coated wheels can be damaged if you use the wrong stuff so pay attention. Lately I have been using Sonax wheel cleaner with great success, as well as my trusted Meguiar’s all wheel cleaner as well. To dress the tires, I prefer a straight spray over the foaming tire shine. Then I use a tire sponge to even out the coating. You will find the right one that works for you.

So there you have it. A weekend of hard work, but a year’s worth of protection. I stress again that I am not a professional, and if all of this is intimidating, or just not fun, seek an experienced detailer. Now if you will excuse me, I have another YouTube video of a guy cleaning his car to watch.

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Initial Ramblings – Winter 2019: Discover the Pod, Become the Pod


I discovered something that has been around for at least a decade and a half but I haven’t paid much attention to until recently; Podcasting. It’s kind of a throwback to the radio shows of yesteryear. Host or Hosts will talk about just about anything: Sports, cooking, crafts, self-help, fitness, music, etc. If you can think of it, and talk about it, it’s out there. Of course, automotive themed Podcasts are plentiful as well. Perfect for when you are driving or at the gym, as you don’t have to watch anything. Just go about your task while being entertained. I prefer them for long distance driving duties.

My first podcast I listened to was Spike Feresten’s Spikes Car Radio. A Cars and Coffee type of show brought to you by one of the writers of Seinfeld and his own TV show Car Matchmaker. I am a fan of Spikes and when he announced he was doing a p-cast, I looked it up and started listening. Each one is around an hour long. He has many guests from Jerry Seinfeld, to Kevin Neilson, Tom Papa, Tommy Kendell, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dick van Dike and a bunch of others. They talk about car-related things. Porsches are a big subject as Spike is a P car enthusiast. But they also speak of random things as well as fun things about the guests. The first time I listened, he had Richard Rawlings, of Gas Monkey Garage fame, on talking about how he got the show started. He pitched the show for several years until it was picked up. Learning the backstory to him pitching the show was the hook for me. Unfortunately, I just have a hard time dedicating 45 minutes to an hour to listen to them in their entirety, unless I’m on one of those before mentioned trips, or wasting time at my desk.

I am a Car Sales Professional, so it only made sense to see if I can find any podcasts on car sales. I discovered a great, although overly scripted show, called Be Less Typical Car Sales. The hosts, Patrick & Courtney Hennessey, opened the curtain of the industry that has such a bad rap and offer insights to what it takes to work in the world of car sales. They have various guests from different dealerships explaining their ideas to build their own brand, how to sell confidently and honestly, and overall positive sales ideas to improve the customer’s experience. Being in the business myself since 2000, I always look for ways to grow my own skills and learn new things. These are usually around 30 minutes long.

There is another great show I found about a week ago called Engine Noise, Hosted by Jeremy and Matt (no last names). These guys are on the lighter side of the car stuff. They are more random in their topics, from classic cars, to repairs and other car stuff. This one I find myself listening to more and more because it’s sort of a free for all, much like my column here. They don’t do as much research on their topics I’ve noticed. They just keep it organic and roll with it. You can tell these guys don’t have every word written out for them and their chemistry works. Overall, a good and entertaining show.

In the interest of this article I googled to see if there were any Bimmer-related podcasts. Sure enough, I found the BMW Pod with Fredo and Prop. They have 6 episodes at the time I am writing this article, and only debuted January 25th of 2019. I can expect more will be released by the time you read this. They are all between 10-16 minutes long, which I feel is the perfect length of time. They talk about all things under the hood, design, history, of BMW’s and Mini. Both of these guys are employed at BMW dealerships. One is a BMW Genius; the other is a Creative Director. Interestingly enough, they record their shows inside a BMW while driving it. So far I’ve listened to 3 shows. Two were inside a 5-series, and one in an i8. That’s good enough for me to continue to tune in. The audio isn’t as good as the others, as you expect from being recorded in a moving vehicle, but you can hear them clearly enough. I like the concept so I will continue to tune in.

So this now leads to my next adventure. I have car stories, and lots of them. As some of you who follow me on Facebook know, I am always posting my adventures in car sales. Well, I’ve been encouraged by some to start my own podcast to tell these stories. I am lucky that being a musician I have the basic equipment on my computer already to record a quality podcast. I’ve watched a bunch of videos from a guy named Pat Flynn, who is well known in the podcast world. He offers excellent YouTube videos on how to start making them, where to host, how to get sponsors, etc. Best of all, they are free. I have followed the plan he talks about and outlined a few shows already with topics. I even have a fellow car salesman friend of mine who is interested in being a regular guest. He also has a bag full of interesting tales from the sales desk. I am shooting for each solo episode to be around 15 minutes long. I think it’s a perfect time frame to keep interest and attention. The shows with guests would be around 30 minutes long, depending on how it goes, and how much gets edited out. We will see.

So what is the name of this podcast you ask? Initial Ramblings, Stories of a seasoned car salesman. You may not get tips on how to buy a car cheaply, but you will hear stories of people who tried… and failed. The whackos that want to do business in a doorway, without paperwork. The cryptic text messages, the good deals and the bad, and everything in between. With 19 years of doing this, I can tell you with certainty that I will not run out of material to talk about. The vibe will be fun and comedic. There are too many shows out there that are “how to” and “learn something”. I would love to use this platform to tell these tales to the masses, and perhaps give you a glimpse on what goes on behind the scenes from the salesman’s point of view. Stay tuned!

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Initial Ramblings – Fall 2017: The Mysteries of BMW


Something happened that I can’t explain. Paranormal events? Aliens? How were the Great Pyramids built? Does the Money Pit on Oak Island still contain treasure? Is there such a thing as Government Intelligence? Why did Elvis Presley’s 1958 BMW 507 have a horrendously hard life before it was rediscovered? Ponderous questions I know, but something even more perplexing happened that I simply don’t have an answer for.

It was a warm summer day. The squirrels were gathering acorns. A light breeze was in the air. It was the perfect day to clean some cars. I jumped into our E21 to move it into the car washing position at the house so I could bathe it. I turned the key and nothing; the battery was dead. Not an uncommon occurrence. I originally thought the 1986-era Blaupunkt stereo was the cause of the drain so I disconnected the power to it. Apparently something else was causing a draw. I will most likely install a battery cut-off terminal, as soon as I find where I put it in the garage of plenty. This time though, it was the hazard switch. A familiar flaw for E21s. The red hazard button has a small pin holding it in. After time, it will bend ever so slightly, releasing the button and engaging the hazard lights. Apparently they went all night an this was enough to drain the battery fully. I removed the switch so I could take it apart to repair it.

I took my jump box and fired it up. As I depressed the brake pedal, it went right to the floor. It had as much resistance as that forgotten eggplant left in the corner of the refrigerator for 3 months. Not that I know anything about that. I found this very odd because I had just driven the car within the last 2 weeks, so I was surprised it failed just sitting there. I remembered the master cylinder and rear wheel cylinders were replaced within the first two years of ownership. But that still was about 13-14 years ago. I opened the cap on the reservoir and the brake fluid had all escaped leaving a dry void in its place. I topped it off and tried to see if there were any leaks. It remained drier than comedian Steven Wright’s delivery. It is a 40 year old car, so anything can happen. I figured maybe a brake line rusted out and finally failed. Perhaps in the next day or so, something will start dripping. I parked the car until I had the time to address the issue.

Let’s jump ahead to a week before Halloween. A good friend of mine had his lift open and I had to trailer the BMW up to his shop. I hate having our 320i on the trailer because it means something is wrong. It’s only been on the trailer 4 times. The day I bought it and took it home. The Chapter’s summer rally where it failed to start as we were about to depart. Another time when the transmission started slipping and I had to drop it off to the transmission shop, and finally this day. The day before I was to bring it up, I topped off the brake fluid again and pumped the brakes a bunch of times to see if I got any pedal. Nothing, not even the slightest bit of resistance. Like that eggplant. The following morning I prepared the trailer for loading, hop in the E21 and drive it onto the trailer. Strange thing, I had a hint of brake pressure at the very bottom of the pedal stroke. That’s odd, but then again I did top off the fluid. Some of it could have flowed back into the lines just enough so it would stop itself at a crawl. I wouldn’t trust it to drive down the street though.

When I arrived at my buddies place, I slid in to roll it off the trailer, using the hand brake to stop it. I pressed the brake pedal, which was now hard, like it’s supposed to be. Well, that’s just odd. I cautiously got it off the trailer and what do you know? The brake isn’t fading, and it is stopping perfectly. I pressed really hard and again, no brake fade. I get out and look on the trailer to see if there was anything leaking. It was all dry. This can’t be. A self-healing car? That’s absurd. I had a “Christine” movie flashback where Arnie was standing in front of his 58 Fury saying “show me”.

We got it up in the air on his lift and started inspecting everything. There were no leaks for moisture around the master cylinder. There was slight dampness around the proportioning valve but no actual drips or any signs of recent leakage. We traced the lines, hard and rubber. We inspected the calipers and wheel cylinders. Not a sign of any brake fluid leakage at all. This is some sort of wizardry. After an hour of head scratching, mild cursing, and an impromptu inspection of the exhaust system resulting in discovering some small rusty cracks and holes in the pipes, we concluded that either some seal was dried up from lack of use and the fresh fluid got everything soft again or maybe the fluid loss was occurring between the master and the brake booster and it was gathering in the chamber. Without definitive proof of where the liquid was going, I conceded to watching the levels and look for any signs of future leakage. In all my years as a semi-professional, half-assed backyard mechanic, I have never seen or heard of anything like this.

As of the time of this writing, the brakes are still rock solid and the car stops perfectly. The fluid level is holding steady and nothing is leaking. Did I just stumble across the Bimmer fountain of youth where all issues resolve themselves? Perhaps there was an extraterrestrial intervention when I wasn’t looking? If I leave it alone, will the exhaust leaks fix themselves as well? Probably not. I really don’t know why just topping off the reservoir without bleeding the system the brakes are now cured. Some mysteries may never be solved. [Time to call Vic Lucariello, Sr. – JF]

Now if you will excuse me, I have some produce to buy and leave to ferment.

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Initial Ramblings – Summer 2017: 15 Years, 15 Cars, 10 Years of Writing


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 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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Initial Ramblings – Spring 2017: Craigslist is the People of WalMart of the Internet


As an automotive broker, consignor and dealer, I find myself spending a good portion of the day on the internet placing ads on various paid sites as well as on free ones like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, etc. There is a certain element I find on these sites that you don’t see anywhere else. I am talking about rude, inconsiderate, combative, confusing, and disrespectful “buyers” who have no boundaries. It’s an interesting segment of society that only comes out under the cover of darkness of the internet. Now, not everyone is like this, but I would say a good 83.68% are virtual tire kickers with attitudes to match. This is, of course, according to my independent scientific survey. This doesn’t include the scammer segment of the buying populous, but we won’t get into them in this article. This is just a small look into my world as an internet vehicle marketer.

Just last night, at 11:00pm I received a phone call from an unknown number. I thought to myself “Who the [expletive] is this at this hour?” I let it go into voicemail, which they did not leave a message. But right after I received two text messages: “Wheel still sale” and “Call mi at 732-xxx-0000”. This morning I responded with “Yes, the wheels are for sale and it’s extremely rude to call someone at 11pm”. Their response was “ok, thank you”.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook have seen me post about a few of these interactions and I have actually started to put them on my blog as well for all to see with screen shots from my phone so you can see that yes, these actually happened. The most notable I will share with you with spelling and punctuation as sent by the consumer to retain its authenticity: “Hi I could u Chrysler. I hewed 900 ok for you” I responded with “I don’t understand”. They followed up with “U have four sale Chrysler. How much pirays” – I laughed so hard, I couldn’t even respond. Are pirays the new Bitcoin? This one goes down in the JT Text Message Hall of Fame.

Another popular one from my JTTMHoF: “Do u got anything better then that I take a truck 3rall that works good I give 1000 for” – I’m sorry, but I’m all out of 3rall’s at the moment.

A third for your entertainment: “hello, i want to ask the lowest price of your car on craigslist”. I ask “Which car? I have several advertised.” They state “the first one posted”. I ask “I don’t know which one was posted first. Can you please let me know which car you are interested in? Thank you.” They never responded back.

But wait, it’s not just text messages or phone calls. I had a glorious interaction with a man who showed up at my place to buy a car I was selling for one of our fellow club members. It was a Metallic Blue 2007 Pontiac G6 with 30k original miles. This car was perfect. I did my research on what the realistic price for this car would be comparing to real world comps. This is the best way to gauge a true value. I listed it at what I thought was a very reasonable price, especially since it was the lowest mileage one on the market.

I listed the car and several hours later I get a phone call from a very interested party. He said “this sounds like the exact car I’m looking for and I’ll come around tomorrow lunch time to see it”. I had high hopes. Noon arrives, as well as my buyer. The first thing out of his mouth is “What are all of these cars? Are you a flipper?” I said, these are my personal cars, they are not for sale (admittedly, it does look like a car lot with all the cars Sandy and I have collected). He says “Is that a Mercedes under that cover? What are you asking for that” Yes it’s a Mercedes; no it’s not for sale. That my wife’s car. Then he’s pointing to the other cars and asked what was under the other car cover. I said that’s our Alfa Romeo. He then goes on how those were horrible cars and other Italian car comments. This is starting out smashingly, with insults.

I direct him to the G6 in the other driveway. Immediately he tells me all the problems these GM products have and how he guarantees this car is ripe with issues because he has had a few. I said if you owned so many of these cars and they are so problematic, why do you still want to buy one? I basically called his bluff. I know his game. Shoot down the car so you can come in at a low-ball offer. This guy doesn’t realize I am a professional in this game.

I open the door, fire the car up, and he checks under the hood. First thing out of his mouth “This isn’t a garage kept car like you said, I can see it stayed outside. What else aren’t you telling me right?” The engine compartment was super clean and had ZERO signs of being left outside. He was basically calling me a liar. That doesn’t sit well with me at all. He proceeds to tell me the tires are worn (they weren’t) and all these other mythological issues the car had. I thought to myself: Wow, you must be some kind of savant mechanic because you didn’t even sit in the car or drive it yet and you are telling me it’s going to need thousands of dollars of work, on a mint condition car with 30,100 miles. All with an attitude that he seemed to have the moment he stepped out to see the car. My patience was quickly running thin.

Next, he asks me how I got the car. I tell him I am selling the car for one of my fellow BMW club members, because he is tired of dealing with people from Craigslist, like you. He just ignored my little dig at him. He then says “well whose name is it in?” I said the owner’s name, I am selling it for him as a favor and he just explodes with all kinds of gibberish like I’m jumping title, what if the DMV questions who he bought it from, I’m illegally selling the car, etc. I ignore him.

Then he said “what I think is going on is you bought this car for very cheap and you are trying to sell the car for a big profit and that’s wrong” I quickly cut him off and reiterate the truth, and to not call me a liar because this conversation is going to end quickly. He then asks me “Who came up with this price?” I say the seller and I came up with a fair price for the car in comparison to similar cars currently on the market. He says “Well KBB private party says it’s worth much less and needing tires, I want a $500 deduction, and that’s before I drive it, and find more issues the car has.” I inform him that guides are not realistic with cars like this. I am going by real world cars for sale at the moment. His response was “Yeah, but they are dealers and do financing and offer warranties. I don’t buy from dealers; I buy from private parties so I avoid all the bull”. I encouraged him to find a car in the price range he wanted to be in because those cars have triple the mileage. I knew he wouldn’t find another one equal within a 1,500 mile radius. I already looked.

He continues on his almost-tirade when I said I had enough. I closed the hood, shut the car off, locked the door, I reached out and shook his hand that he wasn’t even offering to me, and said thank you for coming to see the car, I am sorry we can’t make a deal. You are going to have to leave. I started walking away and he responds with “that’s it, you’re not going to even negotiate with me?” and then starts spewing I’m a flipper, illegally selling, not following the law, I’m flagging you on Craigslist, etc.

I never turned around, I didn’t even respond. I just walked away and let him ramble on until he left. What a nutcase. This guy needed some Prozac or something. I feel real sorry for the next person he meets when car shopping. “I only buy from individuals.” That’s because you want to wear them down with your anger so YOU can steal the car at a bargain basement price. I’ve been in this business for 17 years and I don’t think I ever had to deal with someone like this before.

Yes, these people do exist and I seem to find them all. It’s my gift, like seeing the Matrix. Maybe I’ll have my own TV series “Tire Kicker Hunters” where you watch me deal with the bottom of the barrel each week. There won’t be a need for a script, these interactions come naturally. Until then, I’ll just keep posting these stories on my blog for all to enjoy. And please don’t forget when car shopping to always bring your pirays and 3ralls.

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Initial Ramblings – Winter 2017: An Unlikely Result


As with every Whack Your Turkey Rally, we begin our preparation the night before. I find the clipboard, make sure the mechanical pencil is in working order, fuel and clean the car, and check out the directions to the start location. Well it took a while before I found either of the clipboards. The one is black plastic. The other is a cheaper brown colored hardboard style. Both were MIA. After an exhausting search with helicopters, bloodhounds, and a professional tracker on horseback, the later of the two was found, in the trunk of the E21. I guess it’s true, it’s always in the last place I left it. The pencil was still attached. It still worked and had refills in case we run low. Next was looking at the start location. I Google it to get a visual so I have an idea where we are going and write the address down for the Bimmer Barn on highway 202 in Branchburg (note this detail for a little later). For whatever reason, I forego the filling of the car. Procrastination? Lazy? I don’t know.

The next morning we get up, amazingly on time. We get ready and head out of the house. We stop on the Parkway to fill our vintage 320i because of my lack of petrol attention the night before. 5 minutes wasted. As we cross the Driscoll bridge going north on the Parkway Sandy says “Don’t forget we have to get off here” in reference to the other year I wasn’t paying attention and we had to go to the next exit, u-turn and head back to get onto 287. I said “no I remember, we are not going to screw up this time.” Famous last words? You have no idea…

As we travel up the road I figure we would get to the start at 9:15am, which is typical for us on arrival time, well, actually 9:30 is more like it. We exit and get onto RT 22 then 202. At the split we get onto 206. We go down 206 for approximately 9 miles and find another BMW shop that wasn’t Bimmer Barn. I said to Sandy “Um, can you double check the directions? We are not where we are supposed to be.” Sandy looks at the address I wrote down which was 999 RT 206, Branchburg. Something was wrong. We are not in Branchburg but possibly Hillsborough. I actually said to her “You must have put in the wrong directions. We are way off.” She insisted she had everything correct from what I gave her and was getting mad at me for blaming her. We pull off the road and she looked up the address on our club’s website. 999 RT 202… wait… 202? We had 206, correction, I wrote 206! And I was blaming her when it was my fault. ARGH! Now it’s around 9:40, and we are WAY out of the way, and I have an angry wife.

We plug in the new and correct address and hurry through the back roads to cut the straightest path to the start point. The entire time we were saying this was a disaster and we are probably not going to make the rally. There was a moment where we were just going to find a diner, have breakfast, and head home. We did, however, arrive at Bimmer Barn at 10:15, and hour and 15 minutes late. The lot was empty and no one was there. Darn! We turn around and park in the driveway in search for the nearest diner so we can at least feast our troubles away. Then there was a knock on the window. It’s Rallymaster Dave! They were waiting for us after all inside the building. It’s a good thing we didn’t just pull out. We get our instructions, laugh at our misfortune and off we go. We were quite thankful they waited for us.

At this point, we decided that the rally was going to be a bust so we ran it for the scenery and to get lunch with our fellow club members at the end. And perhaps some redemption from my directional screw up. Getting lost to the start point is never a good sign. With zero pressure on us we just laid back and started to grab clues and run the route. After the first page was complete we said to each other “We are actually doing pretty decent, wouldn’t it be crazy if we actually won?” Highly doubtful.

We continue on and missed a clue or two. No big deal. I told Sandy I wasn’t going back because it won’t make that much of a difference. I was more concerned about time. I think we turned around for only one clue since it was only a half mile section, and we got it. As we filled the pages, it looked like we were, dare I say, confidently optimistic? The best thing about running the rally so late was we didn’t see another car from the club. We were alone on this journey, which I think actually helped. Towards the end we just drove the last couple miles to make up for the time we were about to lose and if we see any clues along the way, we will grab them on the go.

We arrived at the Niks Wunderbar German Restaurant on RT 22 in Readington Twp. I dropped Sandy off at the door so she can run in so we don’t lose any further time. We were 5 minutes late as it was. I park our trusty E21 and join her. With cheers from our other members, and an hour late to the party, we find some seats and order lunch. Within 30 minutes the winners were announced. I hear “With 5 minutes late and 11 wrong, Team Burkard 3rd Place” – What? You are kidding me right? We thought we did well but honestly didn’t think we were going to be anywhere near a podium finish. 3rd place, WOW! Perhaps this is going to be our new strategy. Show up late, and win! I guess that was a perfect end to an unperfect start. Very unexpected.

If you have never done one of our rallies, I encourage you to try one. It will be three hours of fun for you and a friend/spouse in the Competition class or fun for the whole family in the Family class. The route we ran this time around was fantastic. The back roads of Somerset and Hunterdon counties are filled with streams, ponds, lakes, farms, plus many historic locations and buildings. It is truly picturesque. You can’t get a better day in your BMW at legal speeds than doing one of our Chapter’s rallies. Don’t think about it, just do it.

And if I have learned something from this experience, don’t blame your spouse for your mishandling of information. It may result in a silent ride home, or perhaps a 3rd place finish. Until our next adventure, stay Bavarian my friends.

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Initial Ramblings – Fall 2016: Emerging from its Slumber


By JT Burkard

This has been an interesting year for me. I went into business for myself. It was a huge leap of faith but I know it was the right move. After 15 years of employment as the Director of Operations at a specialty car dealership, the owner retired and I found myself no longer there. I could have easily gone to another high-end dealership with my experience. I thought about applying to several of the nearby BMW dealerships. I also considered going to Porsche, Mercedes and Audi. Ultimately I decided this was a push to get me to do something that I have talked about for years. I took a chance and jumped in feet first and started my own vehicle marketing firm. I have to say it’s been the best decision I made in a long time. The hours are better, the casual attire policy fits me perfectly, the commute couldn’t be better, there is a self-serve restaurant within walking distance from the home office and I get to do I what I do best without anyone trying to micro manage me. Plus, I get along with the boss well! The only problem I have is with the 4 feline intern employees that need constant attention while I am working at my desk. Did you ever try to list an ad on the internet while getting pawed on the arm? It’s not conducive for productivity.

I have to say working for myself has its benefits but it also has its downfalls. The biggest one is that I wound up burying my E21 in the garage under stuff. At the beginning stages of this venture I utilized my single car garage and driveway as a detail center and repair workshop for some of the cars that I picked up to resell. The trunk of the 320i was inadvertently used as a workbench to put detailing microfiber cloths on, extra car covers were on the roof, tools, parts boxes, and other things that found their way there. I do have two covers on the car, one thicker indoor outdoor cover, then another one made of parachute type material to protect it but that was just for when I was walking past it, not to protect from bench duty. I had a towel down on the trunk as an extra buffer but still that was no excuse. The garage got completely unruly to the point where I haven’t used the car all year. Heck, I haven’t even seen the car all year!

With the Show and Shine at the Deutscher Club coming up on September 22, it was going to be the reason I had to straighten up the garage, dig the BMW out and start using it. So on the 21st I started, anywhere and everywhere. I cleared off the boxes and small items that were on the hood area, I removed everything else that was on the trunk and stored under the back of the car as well, and within a couple hours, the car was free. The following morning I had scheduled the day specifically for getting the E21 ready. Well, I wound up going to the dealer auction instead but I was able to get home in time to spend an hour or so to wash and clean up the car quickly. I was hoping to give it a nice detail, two stage compound, & wax but with my limited time I just had to wash it and spot detail. The rear quarter seemed dull. Perhaps from me sliding between the car and the shelf that’s on that side of the garage, the friction from the cover caused some minor dulling. I buffed out that quarter quickly and it removed most of the blemish. I dressed the rubber and the tires and I was ready.

The moment I got behind the wheel, everything was right. Man, I love driving this car. I felt ashamed that it sat in the garage for 10 months unused. I cruised up the Parkway with a big smile on my face and 45 minutes later, I was at the Deutscher Club. I pulled in and parked next to a beautiful 2002. It was my first drive of the year in the car and nothing more appropriate than to the German club for our BMW event.

Now that the car was out of the garage I had to focus on the next event coming up, the Circle BMW Show and Shine on October 8th. The Friday before I was able to spend the day and go over the car well, I buffed and waxed it. I vacuumed the interior, which really didn’t need much, cleaned the windows, etc. Wow, it was looking terrific! Honestly, I must have stepped back and stared at the car countless times saying “I can’t believe how nice this looks”. The weather was calling for possible rain during the afternoon of the show but I didn’t care. I was using the car for why I owned it, to enjoy it. What a great showing it was too. Lots of BMWs of all makes and models and even a Ferrari and a Porsche showed up. Since I live in northern Ocean County this was a very convenient event for me being only 20 minutes away. Plus, Circle is a great dealership and a wonderful supporter of our club. I hope they do more events like this in the future.

With that show out of the way, I was shooting for the final event I wanted to attend, the Cars and Coffee of NJ gathering in Millstone, NJ on October 16th. I really enjoy these because it’s not a traditional car show where people get trophy’s or stale music being pumped out by a DJ and people sitting behind their cars in folding chairs. Everyone is walking around to check out roughly 600 cars of every type including Hot Rods, Exotics, European, Muscle Cars, and Japanese, whatever you can imagine. It’s all there. The month before, I was parked between a VW bug and a Lamborghini; this time it was a late 80’s Mustang and a Corvette. It was nice to see several BMW club members wandering around as well.

When I left, I stopped at my sister’s house for a surprise visit. My oldest nephew who is 15 was excited I had one of my “cool cars”. I never realized but he never got to go for a ride in the E21. Well, this needed to be addressed and I said “let’s go for a ride”. He was never in a car that had manual windows or a crank sunroof, so right off the bat he was intrigued. It was a fantastic Uncle / Nephew bonding experience. We went down the roads that he knew and wound up on roads neither of us knew. It didn’t matter; eventually we would find our way back. I can tell by the smile on his face he was hooked. It was really the icing on the cake to my E21 adventure of the year. Honestly, that moment was better than any of the shows and events I attended. To me, this is the essence of owning a classic car, to bring history and the experience to a new generation.

The only thing left to do is the Whack your Turkey Rally and then it goes back into the garage, now cleaned and organized, for the winter. I’m not sure the Feline interns wouldn’t be of much help in that though.

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Initial Ramblings – Spring 2016: Times are Changing


By JT Burkard

It occurred to me while I was vending at the Englishtown Raceway Park Swap Meet in April how this hobby has evolved in many ways but has stayed the same in others in the last 25 years. The need to buy, build, restore, modify cars has not changed at all. As people inflicted with this disease with oil in our veins and carbon in our brains, we WANT to be around cars every day. We like to get our hands dirty. We want to be around others with the same desire. It consumes our free time. This will never deviate from course. It’s the technology that has transformed the way we search for items we need.

Twenty-six years ago I was just out of high school. I had a 1980 Firebird Formula I was trying to fix up, which I still own. I remember going to the junk yards with friends on the weekend or days off from work. We would start off on Texas Rd in Morganville and hit up a couple yards, then move to B&B in Marlboro, and then wind up at Red and Black in Jamesburg or Jacks in Englishtown. It was an all-day scrap yard-fest, picking and looking at the stuff that was in there. Most of these yards had sections of older muscle cars and classics just rotting away, ready to give up their vital parts to keep ours on the road. I remember one place that had nothing newer than 1975 in it. There were old Chryslers with 331 and 392 Hemi’s in them. A 421 Tri-power Catalina, and in the corner was a wrecked V12 XKE that looked like is sat in a swamp. I also remember a BMW, either a 1600 or 2002 with no windows, or interior rotting away. There was also a 70’s Dodge van gold with brown interior, heart window on the side with a platform for a bed and mirrored ceiling that probably had more stories to tell than an adult magazine. Something told us never go into it, not even for the free candy.

Those were the days when we needed stuff, we went and got it. If you needed a part that wasn’t at the junkyard, you drove down to the local parts store, speed shop or specialty dealer, got in good with the parts guys, and then you hung out and told stories of last week’s garage adventure, or what happened at the track. I distinctly remember going to a Performance Centers of America and spending 4 hours in the showroom bench racing and telling tall tales with the regulars. I don’t think anyone was really telling the truth about their cars that day.

Then there was that 1”-thick mail order catalog that you got monthly or quarterly. Everyone seemed to have a JC Whitney book lying around in the garage. You flipped through its hundreds of pages and wrote down the part numbers of the things you needed then called the supplier with your order. I still have some old magazines pre-net era and its funny to see “Send a self-addressed stamped envelope for a free decal and product flyer.” I still like calling some of the parts places. For example, I speak to the same sales guy at BavAuto I have used since 2002. We tell E21 stories as well as other things, much like my youth at the shops. To me there is a bond you get when you deal with the same people over the years. Something you don’t get over the faceless internet.

But since the internet is here to stay, and rapidly advancing over the last 15 years, one can’t help but to go on various websites, click the evening away on the computer, or tablet, and buy whatever you need at 11:14 PM and not have to speak with a single person, or tell the wife. All in the comfort of your home, pants optional. I am guilty of late night eBay purchases myself, most of the time clothed. It’s quick, easy, cheap, and sometimes you even get free shipping. Everything is at our fingertips 24/7. Even the small guy can put his own stuff on auction sites or online classifieds and sell them to anyone in the world. A virtual online swap meet if you will.

But then there are similarities of the two time periods. Even though we don’t go to the junk yards as much, the art of the quest is still alive and well. We just don’t leave the house. Countless online classifieds offer us great ways to look for those used or no longer in production parts. We now have the whole world at our fingertips to search for that elusive piece for your car or a new vehicle to wrench on. I have bought so many more vehicles simply because I don’t have to drive around and look for cars on the side of the road, search want ads or paper shoppers. I can sit while watching TV, go on my iPad and look for things that tickle my fancy. It’s made life easier. Perhaps, too easy.

What I did notice while I was at the swap meet was there is still an interest in it. This year there was a resurgence in people coming out and buying parts face to face again. Fathers and Mothers with their sons and daughters looking at crusty gold as a family. High school kids playing hooky from school to go buy stuff. It’s great to see this tradition still alive and well. Selling and buying at the swap meet was always something I looked forward to, even now. Maybe it’s because I am a people person. Maybe it’s because I have been doing it for so long its part of my spring ritual. I am not sure what the answer is but I’m happy to see that it hasn’t lost its appeal.

One thing is for sure, no one would want to see me trying to sell my stuff without pants.

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