Car trips and car memories…

The pandemic does many things to us, and I’m sure I’m not the only one taking more time to reflect on the past (or maybe it’s just age, who knows…). Anyway I was sitting contemplating the other day and quickly realized how many of the old memories are linked to one of the many cars I’ve owned or experienced in various ways. Given you read this blog I dare guess it may be the same for you as well? So in a slightly philosophical way, I thought I’d take you down part of my own memory lane this week.

By the time you read this (and assuming you do so in the week after publication), we’re in Zermatt for a hopefully wonderful skiing week ahead (yes, we are lucky to live in a country where ski stations are still open!). We drove here from Zurich in the family car par excellence, a Polestar-treated XC90 (at least that…) which was packed to the limit as next to our family my daughter’s boyfriend is also here with us. The first time in 20 years or so we had someone else outside of the family as part of a longer trip but obviously a natural – and enjoyable! – evolution. Living in central Europe since our children were small, car trips have been very much part of their life since their youngest years, and we always had issues understanding other families telling us about how their children screamed after 30 minutes in the car and asked when they’d be arriving. For us it was the contrary,..

The only cars you see i car-free Zermatt are the electrical taxis and hotel cars…

Many of these trips were between Switzerland and my native Sweden where we had a summer house during ten years. Roughly 1600 kms in one direction, usually over two days with the night spent in northern Germany. I remember these trips well, the cities we passed, the route that became familiar through the years, the places we spent the night (nothing better than a real German Schnitzel & Weissbier after a day of Autobahn!) and of course also the feeling, especially at the time the family car was the AMG E63, when the left lane opened up and you could floor it! What I don’t remember is the time no doubt wasted in congestion and heavy traffic – somehow you forget about that, even when it felt hopeless at the time. The most vivid memory was however 7-8 years ago, when my wife and I had decided to fly up to Sweden instead and spare the children the long car trip. Upon announcing this my daughter (who was in her early teens) burst out in tears – for her, the car trip was equal to the start of our vacation, and something she looked forward to. So the flight tickets were cancelled and we were back on the road.

The picture left didn’t happen very often, but I remember that more than the picture right…

The Triumph TR4 I had during almost ten years was another source of vivid memories. From finding it in Copenhagen early December to driving it from Basle (where it had been shipped to) to Zurich a few weeks later in far from ideal oldtimer weather. Basle is no more than 100km from Zurich but it was still a bit of a shock when after coming home, the oldtimer specialist I went to for a check-through said “it’s a good thing you only drove here from around the corner, because these breaks are nothing but rust…”. After that, as long-time readers of the blog will know I was extremely lucky with the TR4, hardly having a single issue over all the years. The most memorable trip I did was no doubt the one my wife and I took to Lausanne 5-6 years ago. We chose the small roads, over many mountain passes, even running into a real Swiss cow festival. A car memory that definitely sticks, but unfortunately in the end, those trips were too few and far between, reason why I sold the TR4 last year.

A very memorable trip, but unfortunatley there wasn’t enough of them!

There have been many cars through years but going all the way back to the beginning when I was 18 and got my first car, a -75 Golf, as blue as the ocean, with a beige interior. I bought the already well-used Golf in northern Sweden, drove it the 600km or so to Stockholm, and then all the way from Stockholm to Florence for a summer language course. I still remember arriving to Florence late one evening, with the rain pouring down and a map on my lap to help me find my way in a completely unknown city. It took a while and I had an early practice of Italian ahead of the course when I had to ask for help, but I finally made it. It may be a surprise to younger readers but it was indeed possible to find places before GPS’s, and it had the additional benefit of actually having to speak to people! After the course I drove the car from Florence to Nice, had it there for a year whilst studying at university, and then drove all the way back to Stockholm. By that time my Golf had around 270.000 km on the clock and I hadn’t had a single issue during the 15-20.000 km or so it had been mine. There is truly something special with your first car!

Even more special than your first car is perhaps your first car memory, which for me is linked to the years we lived in Monaco when I was a child. I’ll never forget the weekends we spent skiing in the southern Alps in the winter. Most of the way back would typically be one big traffic jam, and you would always have the tough guys driving past the whole line on the narrow mountain roads, calculating that they would somehow be able to get back in line when someone came in the other direction. It mostly worked, but not always, as proven one time by a Renault 5 Turbo II that passed us and a few hundred meters later had crashed straight into another car. You’re certainly allowed to be nostalgic over old cars, but it’s important to remember that most things were not better before – car deformation zones being one of them!

A great car we’re yet to explore on the blog – but not famous for its deformation zones…

Now the children have grown up and this ski trip is perhaps the last family car vacation we do together. The XC90 is a lease for another couple of years so I’ll guess it’ll stay with us until then, but as you know I replaced the TR4 with my 650 convertible last year, hoping that will be the main transport for my wife and I when the children start their own lives. The Beamer will hopefully become a source of new car memories to treasure in the future and I do look forward to them, just as I know we all look forward to the day we can return to a more normal life than most of us have right now. So hang in there and until that day comes, make sure you cherish your own car memories and stories – and perhaps share them with someone!

The best of 2020!

A few weeks ago, “Time” magazine dubbed 2020 the worst year ever. Given wars, natural catastrophies and other things that hit some of us every now and then this may be a bit exagerrated, but most of us are no doubt happy to leave 2020 behind, hoping for a 2021 where notably vaccines will help us revert to a more normal life!

For the blog it’s been an exciting year and thanks to you, dear reader, a very positive one. We have never before had so many readers and in the digital age it sure is nice to see people who share our passion for cars but also for the written word! Therefore, let me first express a sincere thank you to all of you! In this last post of the year I wanted to provide a recap on the content you have most appreciated on our different topics of sports cars, classic cars, other cars, F1 and what you could refer to as “other news” from the car industry. I’ll obviously provide links to the posts referred to in case you’ve missed them, or want to catch up on them again.

Sports cars

This is the largest category in terms of reader interest, and the post that by a margin caught most of your attention in this section was the one titled “The best Ferrari is a Maserati” that I actually published last year but that saw continued interest this year. I talked about the merits of the Maserati 3200 GT and the tremendous value for money it provides when compared to Ferraris of the same type, especially the 3200 GT’s powered by the naturally aspirated Ferrari V8! Luckily values haven’t really gone up since so there is still a bargain to be had.

The 3200 GT is still going strong it seems!

Next to that lovely Maserati, you also found the post on the most interesting sports car launches in 2021 of interest. More than any other this post made clear that the trend is indeed electric, even in the supercar segment, and that traditional supercars like the new Maserati MC20 are becoming few and far between. Given most engine sounds are more or less artificial anyway these days, why can’t they make an electric car sound like a naturally aspirated V12?

Classic cars

In the classic car segment, it was nice to see that the topic of classic cars as investments caught your attention. As most real assets classic cars have seen steep increases in value during the last decade and the days when you could find something that was really out of value are gone. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider a classic car and it actually cuts to the core of that post, namely that you should do so because you love the car and love driving it, rather than for financial reasons.

Financially a homerun – but how many get to be driven?

In terms of specific classics it was not much of a surprise to see that how much 911 you get for a budget set at EUR 100.000 was of interest, and although that budget buys you less today than ten years ago, it still gets you a lot of Porsche. Even though values have increased, there is still few cars give you as much driving pleasure, combined with if not increasing, then at least very stable future values! I was perhaps a bit more surprised to see that the Jaguar XJ-S had as much attention as the 911 and perhaps it’s a very different car, but no less interesting!

The 911 remains a very popular retiree!

Other cars – or future classics

In this slightly diverse category that includes the cars that are not yet classics but maybe will become so one day, or that are simply interesting from some other perspective (usually irresistible value for money…) you especially liked two posts: the one on the BMW F12/F13 (i.e. the 640/650) and the one on the Bentley Continental GT. As some of you know, a bit later in the year I sold my old Triumph and bought a 650 Convertible for the proceeds (more about that here), so I’m with you all the way on that one!

Before deciding on the 650 there were a large number of cars on the list of potential candidates. The Bentley Continental GT was somewhere on there as well and in many ways it’s an irresistible package, but it wasn’t for me. It doesn’t change the fact that I’ll always be envious of those of you who go ahead with what could be the bargain of your life!

A lot of car (incl in kgs!) for the buck

F1

The F1 season was indeed a strange one, but also a record one for Lewis who clinched his seventh title. Thanks for your interest in the posts where I’ve also tried to provide a bit of insight into what happens when the track lights go out. Next year will definitely be an interesting one with more teams competing for race wins, great driver line-ups and if we’re lucky, perhaps also with spectators on the stands!

He did it again – for the 7th time!

Other news

Looking at news around the car industry, many of you were intersted in my favourite car Youtubers, and I hope you’ve also enjoyed some of them. If I was to re-do that list today it would look a bit different, but that only highlights the richness of what’s out there. You also liked the story around Aston Martin and its new boss Tobias Moers who brings both long experience but also an ownership share of AMG, hopefully a combination that will be sufficient to secure Aston’s future.

Ultimately, this is what it’s about…

Also judging by numbers, if there’s something you would like me to hear less about, that’s electric cars, be it Tesla (that’s been featured a number of times) or general input around EV’s. That’s absolutely fine, we’ll try to keep the focus in 2021 on engines with cylinders, powered by petrol!

With that, again a big thank you for your support during this year and if you haven’t done so yet, then do indeed follow the blog (top right corner)!

A Happy New Year 2021!

What to consider when buying your dream car

When I sold my Triumph TR4 this autumn after ten years and re-invested the money in my deal-of-the-century BMW 650i, quite a few people came to me both questioning my choice, but also asking for tips of things to think about when buying the dream car with a big D. Based on my experience over the years, I therefore decided to put together a few points in this regard that make up this week’s post.

My choice of switching from an oldtimer to a modern car, as mentioned in my previous post that you can read here, was basically a practical consideration based on how little I was using the TR4, that fact that I neither have unlimited space nor an unlimited budget, and a realization that our needs have changed. This is not to say you shouldn’t realize your oldtimer dream, but whether it’s an oldtimer or a modern car you’re dreaming about, there are some basic things to bear in mind.

Age is just a number – or is it?

The car’s age is obviously an indirect function of what your dream car is, but the point here is just to think about the implications the age will have on your ability to use it. To come back to my TR4, the longest trip I did in ten years was with my wife to Lausanne and back, around 600 kms. It was a great trip without any issues, but when we came back home I wasn’t really longing to go any further and I left the car standing for 3 weeks.  If you’re more hardcore or more passionate this will sound ridiculous, but at least for some of us it’s relevant and something you should consider before deciding.

…when life was more hardcore than today…

Other aspects of old vs newer include some of the things we are so used to in modern cars that we don’t even think about them. Take for example the isolation of the convertible top – there is a very big difference between a 50-year old car and a new one in this regard. Connectivity is another one of those things – if you love connecting your phone, remember that Bluetooth is a recent invention. And remember that speaker systems have evolved. Unless you want to listen to the engine all the time, make sure you’re happy with the sound, because drilling holes in the door panels of your new companion is perhaps not what you dream about.

The art of lobbying

The dream car your mind is set on is not necessarily the dream of your partner or other family members, and this is where some convincing and lobbying comes into play. Believe me, that’s a far better way to go than to start by buying the car and putting your partner before a fait accompli. I’ve tried and it’s nothing I would recommend.  I’ll never forget the day we returned from holidays and whilst I brought in the luggage, my wife listened to the answering machine where a car dealer I had just made a deal with but not yet told her about called to confirm it. Somehow, I hadn’t found the right moment… She eventually came around, but I won’t try that again. Your family doesn’t need to be as enthusiastic as you, but it’s good if they’re in on the project and don’t hate your dream car – you risk becoming very lonely otherwise. Furthermore, if it’s a two-seater, that obviously means any children have to stay home. If it’s a convertible, it won’t necessarily be very comfortable in the back seat with the hood off. And so on.

The thrill of maintaining

All cars break down. To a certain extent this can be avoided by going through all the checks at the time of buying, but stuff happens. It probably happens more with oldtimers than with modern cars, but there’s more stuff that can break in modern cars, so all things considered, it may well come out the same. Also, if you believe like I did that oldtimer mechanics are good-hearted guys in it for the passion and not for the money, think again…

Many oldtimer garages still look the same, but prices have gone up…

Whether old or new, there is obviously a cost associated with your dream vehicle, and that cost will depend heavily on both the car’s age, its condition and its complexity. Looking at oldtimers, my TR4 was a relatively safe bet given it was a no-frills car with a four-cylinder engine originating from a tractor (it sounded great but revving wasn’t its thing…). A 12-cylinder E-type or an Aston Martin V8 are a completely different story, as friends of mine have experienced over the last years. I’ve now replaced my TR4 with a modern, 8-cylinder double-turbo 650i and when the guarantee expires, I’m potentially up for much heftier bills than with the TR4, but I like to think that at least I’m aware of it. You should be so as well, and you should set a projected budget aside. If you’re insecure, speak to a specialized garage or a car club who will be able to guide you. Please remember this. I know a frightening number of intelligent people who somehow managed to forget all about it until the day the bill is delivered…

Is depreciaton a friend or foe?

With the exception of a small number of collectible cars that gain in value from day one, as a rule of thumb nothing depreciates as quickly and heavily as luxury cars and as a general rule, the more they cost as new, the more they will loose. After a period of typically 6-10 years, values then stabilize at a fraction of the initial price, and this is when it gets interesting. Allow me to take my 650i as an example. 6 years ago when it was new it cost CHF 175’ with options. 50.000 kms later I paid CHF 36’. That’s a nice little depreciation of 80% or if you prefer, 2.8 CHF per km. Even if Elon gets his way, the whole world turns electric in five years and my resale value goes to zero, I’ll never be close to that depreciation. Also, and this was important to me, a great advantage of buying a heavily depreciated luxury car is that it was built at the time to cost CHF 175’, not CHF 36’ or anything in between. That shows in every single detail, and it’s a very nice feeling.

If this is you’re thing, depreciation runs in the 100.000’s the first years…

That’s one side of the coin, but there is of course also a reason for the heavy depreciation, and that’s the maintenance cost. Having said that, I’m a very strong believer in the market being very far from perfect in this regard, meaning that if you do your research, you can to a certain extent “beat” it. As a rule of thumb, never ever be in a hurry. There are of course situations where it’s warranted to act quickly but generally, there will always be good cars around. Take your time, do your checks, look into the history, speak to experts, call the car club etc. The more you know, the more likely you are to buy the right car, and the better prepared you’ll be.

When I set eyes on a 6-series, it was these type of considerations that led me to opt for the updated 450 hp V8 rather than the pre-2013 408 hp version. The extra power was nice but above all, a bit of research showed that the previous engine had a history of engine failures that can become very expensive. This was not at all reflected in market prices however. I knew which options were important to me, and also that I wanted a fully serviced one-owner car. When that car in the right colour scheme then appeared back in August, I was able to act quickly. Of course things can still happen and I certainly don’t want to sound like a know-it-all in this regard, but I’d like to think that knowledge and some experience have at least lowered the risk.

NEVER go for “almost” right

Finally, perhaps the most important point of all. Coming back to the point of not being in a hurry, never – ever – go for the car that almost has it all. If you want a manual 996, don’t buy the Tiptronic thinking you’ll get used to it, wait for the right one to come around – it will. Don’t buy a blue car if you want a black because it’s almost as nice and after all it was cheaper. You risk thinking about it every time you walk up to the car. If you dream of the 8-cylinder, don’t by the 6-cylinder version. And so on. If you’re realizing a childhood dream, you want reality to be as close to that dream as possible an “almost” won’t cut it. When the right car comes along, you’ll be glad you waited!

So there we go. Not by any means a complete guide, but hopefully a few points that can help guide you in your quest for the dream car! Good luck!

BMW 6-series (F12/13) – hard to resist!

Chris Bangle is a name associated with everything from love (for some) to dislike of various degrees (for most) in BMW circles. The 65-year old American designer who today runs his own company out of Italy, notably working for Samsung, came to BMW in 1992 as chief designer and was responsible for mostly everything that came out of Munich in the following 17 years. Of all the various models he led the work on, one of the more controversial was no doubt the 6-series grand tourer, internally known as E63/64, launched in 2002, and available both as coupé and convertible. Pretty much everyone agreed that whereas the front and side views were more or less ok, the rear view was not, looking lack the trunk lid of another car had been fitted by accident.

Things improved slightly with the 2008 facelift, as seen above.

Fortunately the launch of the successor F12/13 range in 2011 and built until 2018 meant a vast improvement. The range now included the previous coupé and convertible but also a four-door grand coupé, that I will however not focus on here. The new car was the work of Adrian van Hooydonk who had succeeded Bangle as head designer (but who was partly responsible of the E63/64 as well, so he doesn’t come out completely unscathed…) and produced a far more appealing package from all angles. In V8 650i-version, both body shapes usually cost between EUR 120.000-160.000 with options. Today, excellent cars can be had for EUR 30.000-40.000 with less than 100.000 kms on the clock, for a less than ten year old car that looks as modern now as it did then. That makes it a very compelling proposition!

Why didn’t they do that from the beginning?

Coupé and convertible share the same, almost 5 meter long body, but the convertible is around 150 kg heavier, pushing it on the wrong side of 2 tonnes. More weight is added if you opt for the 4WD Xdrive version that could be had with all engines, although the rear-wheel drive ones are more common. You would think such a big car offers ample interior room, but whereas you sit like a king up front and have room for all your luggage especially in the coupé, the rear seats are cramped for any person bigger than a mid-sized child, especially in the leg area.

A lovely place to be – as long as you’re in the front.

BMW offered four different engines in all three versions and whereas the 6-cylinder, 308 hp diesel can perhaps be an option for the coupé and for lovers of torque (knowing it produces 680Nm), I still personally struggle with a diesel engine in combination with a convertible. That leaves the two petrol options, a single-turbo, 6-cylinder with 315 hp, and a double-turbo V8 with 402 hp until 2013 and 444 hp thereafter. The same engine is also boosted to 553 hp in the M6 version, which today is however almost twice as expensive as the 650i. The six-cylinder 640i certainly has enough power for the character of the big Bavarian, but the V8 in the 650i excels in outright power, torque and sound, and would be my choice.

Steering away from the M6 is also based on the 6-series not being a track car, or really a sports car in that sense at all. It’s a fantastic machine for the left lane on the autobahn or for large open roads, but neither size nor weight invite to being thrown around narrow mountain roads or on track days. The 6-series is much more of a well-behaved cruiser, enjoying high speed transport in luxury and comfort to St. Tropez as much as posing in front of Club 55 once you get there. That’s why I would also choose the convertible over the coupé – it’s the perfect body for this car!

The M6 certainly looks good, bu it’s debatable if its character suits the body format.

Contrary to what the reputation would you have you think, the 6-series only comes out average in quality surveys, with problems notably linked to the very extensive electrical system, the A/C system and also coolant leaks. This shouldn’t be exaggerated but buying form a dealer with a warranty is certainly a good idea. You also want to make sure all electronics are working and, for the convertible, that there are no strange noises or issues with the hood – open and close it a few times just to make sure. Owner and service history are obviously also important, but fortunately, many of the owners tend to be on the right side of 50 from a pre-owned car perspective.

All in all , a pre-owned 640i or 650i is a wonderful proposition and quite unbeatable in terms of value for money. This is after all a modern car with all the luxury you would expect at the original price point – but not really at the one they can be had for today. Interestingly, especially in convertible form, it’s also a car without real competition. A Mercedes SL of corresponding age is more expensive and a strict two-seater. Audi never built a larger convertible than the A5-series, which in terms of comfort, luxury is on a very different, inferior level. A Maserati GranCabrio/Coupé is was never a very convincing car and additionally may make you look like something you don’t want to. It will also cost you far more. If you ask me, go for a 650i, choose wisely and enjoy the satisfaction of having done a good deal on a very complete car, and looking very good this summer!

A great buy with the additional benefit of making you look great!