Hello, Jalopnik! I am one of the new writers on staff here, and I want to introduce myself to all of you. My name is José Rodríguez Jr., and I am E36 crazy. Not because I have an extensive fleet like that of our own Deutsche-car-obsessed Mercedes Streeter or our in-house Jeep maniac David Tracy, but because like a moth to the flame, I keep coming back to the E36 platform and BMW in general.
The more observant among you have probably seen the E36 in my avatar already and thought, “Get a load of this guy.” It may be true that no sane driver wants to own some BMW that’s more than two decades old. But, as you all likely know, car ownership is not just about sanity or rationality.
Case in point: Not only do I daily an E36, but more specifically, I daily an E36/5. You can hardly see it from the photo but that E36 is a hot hatch! It’s the 318ti, and I refuse to ever let go of that wonderful machine. It is practical, easy to work on, and its M44 inline-four engine is high-revving and reliable. When you combine those attributes in a chassis that shares its wheelbase with the other E36s, all the while shedding some weight, it makes for a very fun car. Let’s say it’s a little tail-happy. It’s no M3, but I love it all the same.
I’ve been all over in that car. I brought it home to South Texas from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, seven years ago in an ill-advised and ill-prepared long drive after the previous owner apologized and left me plateless, citing bad experiences with previous buyers. Of course, I understood and entrusted my journey to the Car Gods. I’ve rowed my 318ti’s gears through the American Southwest. I’ve traversed a wide swath of Texas in it. Those of you who have driven here know that the Lone Star State looms large, and driving from Panhandle to tip is quite a trip. I’m no stranger to these hours on the road.
That is precisely what led me here. Driving is the closest I’ve come to space-travel. Well, it is space travel, but you know what I mean. You sit in the cockpit of your car. You plug in all manner of electronics and lock them, lest your attention be diminished from the task. You click in your three-point restraint. You disengage the clutch and turn the key. The machine wakes up. The road is waiting.
Driving is one of the greatest and purest joys of my life. My Bavarian compact just happens to be my longest-lived partner on the journey. I can’t make a full account of what draws me to it. I don’t know if it’s my obsession with design, if I got hooked on Platonic ideals while I went to school for philosophy, or if I picked up an inordinate love of small spaces, small cars, reading Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.
I also trained as a creative writer and hope that I can make South Texas proud by honoring the local writers in whose tradition I wish to follow. Writers like Tomás Rivera and Gloria Anzaldúa.
They, too, were from the Rio Grande Valley. They, too, knew its long arid roads well. Stay tuned for more from South Texas and, beyond that, from the Latin American car market. See you in the blog. See you on the road.