Have you ever felt like you’ve lost motivation as a car enthusiast? Whether you can’t find the time and let your interest slip away, are disillusioned with the expense, are frustrated when you can’t solve a problem, or any number of ways you can lose your interest, I can tell you, it happens to all of us. In fact, it happened to me over the past few years. I knew that I would lose a significant amount of time to spend with my hobby when I transitioned from my full-time marketing position at ECS into the life of a law student. It was a given that my wrenching time in the garage would need to give way to studying torts, evidence, and the like. But what I didn’t expect was that I would somehow lose interest in cars. Unfortunately, I did. But you know what fixes that depressed attitude? Finding a way to be excited again, of course! This week, it’s story time as I share some of the ups and downs of being a car enthusiast when you don’t have the time to be.
Let’s take this story back to where it started for some context. If you may recall, in 2022 I departed from ECS and wrote my farewell piece, which you can read here if you like. After five wonderful years working what I would call a “dream job,” it was time for me to finally earn the Juris Doctorate that I’d had my sights on since childhood. So, I accepted an offer from Vermont Law School. My fiancé and I packed up our house, cars, tools, motorcycle, dog, and all of our effects for a cross-country move to New England.
Once here, my garage space shrunk to less than half of the size I’d been accustomed to, my time availability all but disappeared, and I fell into the role of a dedicated law student. During those first few months, I discovered how important a community of like-minded friends is to car enthusiasts. None of my classmates here are remotely interested in old European cars or car culture in any way. This meant I was constantly choosing between spending time with my friends doing non-car things or spending time by myself doing the things I enjoy without any good company. Naturally, in an effort to develop a network of friends here, I chose the former much more often than the latter.
Then, in January of this year, Josh Shirk (marketing planner for ECS), called me up and asked for me to come back in a limited capacity by writing these weekly articles and maintaining our online blog. Naturally, I was excited to revive a portion of my influence and involvement with the enthusiast community I’ve called my home for more than a decade. So, I began trying to spend more time back in the garage and working on my projects so I’d have something to share with all you lovely readers.
While I’ve loved being back in some capacity, it isn’t without its challenges. I still have very little space in which to work on my cars and motorcycle. I still have limited time to dedicate away from my school and household responsibilities. Adding a weekly article to the mix, on top of wrenching, has certainly put a strain on my mental health and exhaustion levels. But you know what? I truly love my hobby and the opportunity to share it with others through my writing. Nothing would ever entirely remove that love and interest from me, but I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been without its difficulties.
That leads us to the present day, where I’m trying to juggle my projects and school work to the best of my ability. In doing so, I’ve found that working on things I want to work on has been a release while working on things I have to work on has become a stressor. Recently, the barnyard X3 that I’ve previously written about has needed quite a bit of work (they do this weird inspection thing here in VT and apparently they don’t take kindly to CELs or faulty airbag lights). While I have put DAYS of cumulative work into this car over my three years of ownership, it still needs a few things. Unfortunately, what it needs requires space and time that I don’t have. That positive feedback loop of needing to do work and not being able to (which is a first in many, many years for me) just became too much. Between it, rebuilding the R100RT engine, and doing side projects on my lovely 996 with Rennline, the X3 went from being a plucky little runner to the problem child in my life. Now, nothing is really wrong with the car, in fact, it’s mechanically in the best shape that it’s been in several years. But the fact that I’m constantly risking a ticket for lack of inspection (stupid f*#%ing Vermont) means that the convenience that a beater with a heater offers is now outweighed by the possible inconveniences that it could create for me.
So, I decided it was time to move on from that car and buy something that’s a bit more professional looking and less of a project car. Of course, being me, that meant buying something I wanted first and worrying about selling the X3 later. This brings me to the beginning of my mood revival: this absolutely stunning Vermontgruen 1998 E38 740iL. And who says retail therapy doesn’t help?
Yes, this gem of a long-wheelbase executive cruiser is serving several purposes for me, not least of which is being a car I actually wanted and a mini-project that I’ve always kept in mind as something I’d like to do one day. Allow me to clarify that statement: when I bought the X3, it was because I needed a car. I had sold the E30, my WRX, and another project E30 I haven’t really written about here. My only car at the time was my Porsche, which I did not want to drive every day and couldn’t use for anything more than enjoyable driving or car shows. So, I started looking for an E46 in a manual that I could use as a daily/beater. Unfortunately, that was peak COVID and prices were INSANE. As you may recall from the initial introduction of the X3 back in 2021, I found that car in a former ECS engineer’s side yard, where it had sat for several years. It was the right price, easy enough to make run and drive, and had a wiggle stick. So, I picked it up knowing it only really needed to be a cheap runner.
Well, now that we’re here in the present and it’s become something that is no longer convenient, I’m ready to move on from it. As I said, it wasn’t what I really wanted to begin with, but was something I couldn’t pass up as an opportunity to save a somewhat rare BMW. But again, I never really wanted an X3 and it’s never truly had my heart, which I think is what has made me begin to resist working on it more than I absolutely have to.
This is very much not the case with this 740. One night, while browsing through FB marketplace for cheap BMWs as I often do, I spotted this brilliant green early model long wheelbase car. While I have a nearly unbendable rule of “no automatics,” one car has always been on the list of acceptable automatics for me: the E38. Yes, I’ve always had this curiosity about these cars. I’ve never had a V8, I’ve never had a big-body sedan, and I’ve never had an automatic, but the thought of a big comfort cruiser has always been an appealing “what if?”
It just so happens that I need a reliable (or reliable enough) daily driver, something that will be comfortable for a possible 100-mile commute to Burlington I may have next summer for an internship, and something that I actually want to work on and keep long term. As I looked at the pictures of the car, I just felt this immediate pull towards it. This was the right car at the right price and the right time to scratch that cheap luxury limo itch. It would also be something that doesn’t draw too much attention to an intern at a law firm like my Porsche or beat-up X3 would. The E38 is the right combination of professionalism without taking itself too seriously. It’s comfortable, it’s got plenty of power, and it doesn’t make any real statements about me other than that I’m probably somewhat into old cars. Perfect.
After a conversation with the owner, I knew I had to have this car. It just turned my mood from stressed and distraught into hopeful and excited immediately. In that conversation, I heard his story with the car. Those stories, to me, are what give a car this intrinsic value that makes the vehicle somehow more than the sum of its parts. This story, in particular, is exactly the type of history that helps me to develop a relationship with my cars rather than just ownership.
The previous owner told me that it had been his neighbor’s car since new and was the first BMW he saw as a young man which made him think he had to have one. Naturally, as the previous owner began looking for his own car before heading off to college a few years back, he thought of his neighbor’s green E38 that had been the object of his affection for most of his later childhood. As luck would have it, the original owner agreed to sell it to him and the E38 became his daily driver through college. In both the original owner’s and his ownership, it saw dedicated and meticulous service, plenty of love, and careful attention to detail. This type of relationship is exactly what I look for when seriously considering a car, as it tells you so much more than just the paper trail of maintenance records ever will. You can feel that love and care in the paint, in the condition of the interior, and through the boxes of spare parts accumulated over the years to keep the E38 in spectacular condition.
Thanks to that history, I knew this was the right E38 to be my first foray into the big-body cruiser world. I knew this was going to be my E38 and something that I would pour into, which I sorely needed to pull me out of this funk. After a rainy drive south to Boston and back, it became mine. Now, I’m sitting here writing about how lovely it is, but it does need a bit of work. But for the first time in about a year, I’m finally excited about the prospect of wrenching again. Sure, it needs stuff that won’t be fun to do, like the hood latches and bowden cables, the power steering reservoir, some electrical work, window regulators, and some suspension refreshing, but overall this car has that “it” factor for me. It’s motivating me to be interested in working on something again, even so much that I actually started doing some maintenance to the X3 and finished a pile of upgrades and maintenance I’ve had sitting around for the Porsche for months.
All that is to say, I truly believe I was closer than ever to losing all interest in this hobby. I had no interest in finishing off the X3, which made me not want to do the fun stuff on my Porsche or finish the R100 engine rebuild. I was quickly approaching a cliff that I might not have been able to climb back out of. Fortunately, this E38 was there to save me. I know it sounds a bit melodramatic, but it’s true. Sometimes, the best way to find motivation for things that have become less than interesting is to experience a reminder of why you love what you love. For me, that is old BMWs (when they’re not being extremely difficult).
With the E38 here and parked alongside my collection of Eurotrash, I’ve spent more time in the garage this past week than I have in months collectively. No longer am I coming home after classes and studying to just collapse in a depressed heap on the couch watching YouTube. Now I’m back to my true self and excited at the end of the day for my much-needed garage time. I’ve found a fellow parting out an E38 with almost everything mine needs, have parts on the way, and, for the first time in months, I’m ecstatic to be back to my roots. Sometimes, all you need is that reminder, that thing that can anchor you when you’ve fallen out of love with your passion. We all need that, I think, especially now, when it seems that the car scene I’ve come to love in the past fifteen years has drastically changed.
Yes, with no ability to make Euro District or Udderly Euro, the death of H2oi, and the lack of car stimulation here at law school, I’ve felt farther away than ever before from satisfying my car needs. But here we are, with one $2,000 green sedan, I’ve been able to revive my interest. I hope that you, dear readers, never experience that close call with abandoning your passion. But if you do, never forget that all you need is a kick start to remind you why it is that you do what you love. For me, it’s the story of an old BMW, the feel of something from what I’d call the greatest generation of BMW’s history, and that knowledge that you have been blessed with this chance to be a part of that story.
With that, I’m off to the garage to keep digging into this 740iL. Stay tuned for the maintenance breakdown of this E38 on a future edition of Tuned In Weekly. Take care of yourselves, folks! See you next week.