Clunkers of the world unite! Forget your concourse dreams and join me in celebrating the truly awful, rusted, and neglected! Continue to polish and wax and buff, I haven't washed my car in three years.
I am the proud owner of a silver 1989 e30 BMW 325ix with a sagging tie rod, frozen door locks, eight yards of play in the steering, zero working seatbelts, piss poor air conditioning, and a headlight that wont stay level. I'm older than it by a whole year, and i suspect it lost it's virginity way earlier than me. It was the first car i've ever bought and I purchased it with my own, hard earned, college graduation present money. It is also a complete lemon.
When i went shopping for a car i wanted something unique that exuded lots of character, so naturally I needed to have an e30 BMW. There were lots of good choices too! There was a red one that had been lowered and featured yellow headlamps (which are illegal in California, smart ass), a showroom quality white one, and a black convertible to which the owner just finished dropping a manual transmission in lieu of the stock automatic (He said this was the first time he's ever "modded" his car. So, good luck with that!).
Fate brought me to my Bimmer (or Beemer if you're from the south) one sweaty July afternoon just I had been walking around my neighborhood dissatisfied with the boring current selection. As I discovered, a little over five years ago this car was driven from Missouri to the suicidal hell that is Downey California, where it found itself sitting in a tire sales store lot without so much as a second glance. As the man who was selling the car explained various details of it, i just stared at it. I imagined that the first person who coined the term "beautiful" was just thinking forward to the day one would have to describe this car. In reality it couldn't have been dirtier if you ran it through a Bob Sagat stand up routine. Primer has peaked through the once triumphant silver paint and bird excrement seems to magically spawn onto the hood without any nearby trees. About halfway through him describing that he just changed the oil i told him it was sold. Three grand later i drove off with it. Since then in two months it has stalled and been subsequently pushed out of a busy intersection on Sunset Blvd during rush hour (Remember, it's an automatic too), mysteriously sputtered to life after 10 minutes of key turning and swearing, broken it's entire right front control arm, and as of recently, had a nasty problem of not disengaging reverse.
So then, why did I purchase this car with so much work that needed to be done? I could have simply walked away, deemed it a project from hell and moved on. Well, I bought it because I saw what nobody else saw. I saw a beating heart. When everyone else looks at it they are repulsed, when I look at it I see a beauty queen. Think of it like Shallow Hal, only without the being psychically molested by Tony Robbins part.
You see, when you own a beater you experience more life than you ever will know. Everyone needs to own a lemon at one point. Some of my fondest teenage memories involved sitting at the side of a road waiting for a tow truck to whisk my friends 1996 Ford Windstar away for the 6th time. A beater is something everyone can relate to, even without knowing anything about cars. When my car refuses to start, stalls, or breaks a part, I am there experiencing the moment with it. Because of this my car is never dull. It could drive brilliantly on an open road one day, then, without warning, stab me in the face just to make sure I am alive. Where the hearth has moved farther and farther from the family, I see it as moving closer and closer to the car.
Now, it should be noted that I am not saying buy an Alfa in any way, shape, or form. In fact, Alfa owners who buy them just to say they are always broken but "you wouldn't understand till you own one" are posers. Owning an Alfa is like buying a dog to meet girls, you just end up with a sloppy Great Dane at the end of the day. If you really want to experience that thrill, buy a real lemon, like an Isuzu Impulse for christ sake. Really own up to it.
So i say to you, posh Honda Civic owner, obsessive Volvo wagon enthusiast, generally weird and misunderstood K car collector, embrace a beater car! Did the bumper fall off? Congratulations Mr. Chapman, you just ADDED lightness! Does the wheel wobble at speed? Screw it, driving a car was never supposed to feel safe. Crap cars bring you to the essence of motoring! It's all about fearing for your very life as you control something greater than what your mortal being could contain. It's what our forefathers would have wanted (Note: Washington did own a Dodge Challenger SRT so, there are arguments to be made).
When my car breaks down i can't help but smile, because i know that i am the only person that will be twice as excited when it comes back. It's like a wild summer romance. You only see them once a month, yet, when you do get together you burn the house down.
Only you will see how incredible the effort, frustration, and second mortgages in return for that one ride of freedom is.
This piece was written and submitted by a Jalopnik reader and may not express views held by Jalopnik or its staff. But maybe they will become our views. It all depends on whether or not this person wins by whit of your eyeballs in our reality show, "Who Wants to be America's Next Top Car Blogger?"