NEW YORK—Six days. Nearly 3,000 miles. Thirteen states. Almost 50 hours of driving. And through it all, zero mechanical issues. Though I almost can’t believe it myself, I am thrilled to report that our 1970 BMW 2500 successfully crossed the finish line last night, completing its white-knuckle dash from Seattle to New York City.
I confess to legitimately not knowing how this voyage would end when my brave partner Raphael Orlove and I started it. The car, formerly owned by Sam Smith and now being delivered (by us) to another friend on the East Coast, has been described as a crappy old car wrenched into reliability on the cheap. We didn’t know if it would break. We didn’t know if the clear weather forecasted would give way to snow or worse. We didn’t know if another driver or some road hazard would put us out of commission. We didn’t know if we’d be able to secure the parts we needed if something catastrophic happened.
Then again, if you know how something’s going to end, is it really an adventure?
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The truth is, this journey went as well as it possibly could have. Our BMW 2500 was an absolute trooper, with a bulletproof, silky smooth inline-six engine that had plenty of power to keep up on the highway. The ride was pretty good. There was plenty of room for all our stuff and a trunk full of parts, tools, motor oil and coolant. Nothing broke except for a speedometer needle.
I’m kind of sad that this story didn’t end with us making some glorious, heroic roadside repair, but given how cold it was in some of the states we passed through, I’m pleased I didn’t have to deal with it.
The sixth and final day of driving, from Detroit to New York, was one of the easiest and most pleasurable days we did. We faced little traffic, only light sprinkles and we knew where we were going by the end of it. Compared to Sunday’s 14-hour slog from Minneapolis to the Motor City, it was a cakewalk.
The only issue we really faced—if you can call it that—was a squeaky belt up front, one that we debated taking apart and inspecting or replacing entirely. But in keeping with our “don’t fix what isn’t broken” ethos on this trip, we didn’t, and it ended up being just fine. In fact, it made a lot less noise yesterday, which Sam speculates is due to less moisture. Even the lack of windshield wipers wasn’t too much of a problem, though we probably dumped a gallon of Rain-X on the windshield by the end.
I can’t stress enough what a trooper this old BMW was. The whole trip was a testament to what you can do in a properly maintained, tough old mechanical car—one where you have fewer things that even can break and sideline you entirely.
Of course, we had a ton of help. This was a nationwide effort, really. There was Sam, who expertly wrenched on this car and offered guidance the whole way; Jay Swift, who fixed the ignition issue and gave us the invaluable charging box; Jamie, a friend of the new owner Clay, who stashed the car in her garage; Clay himself, a gifted BMW mechanic who offered plenty of counsel; our friends Kristen and Pete in Minneapolis, who put us up for the night; our new buddy Martin who picked us up at the Seattle airport; Jalopnik’s Managing Editor Erin Marquis, who let us crash at her place (and sleep in a bit) in Detroit before the final leg; and dozens of Jalopnik readers who emailed us offering advice, places to stay and wrenching help at every point along the trip.
We ended up not needing that help, but we knew we had the backup of the internet’s best car community if we did, and I’m extremely grateful for that.
So now the 2500 will be hanging around NYC for a few days until Clay comes to pick it up. As much as I’d like to not be in a car for a while—walking sounds nice after six days of barely doing it—I am going to miss this machine dearly. It never let us down, even as we asked a lot of it. And it’s proof that with the right preparation, backup plans, help from your friends, good weather and some luck, you too can cross the country in an old car if you want.
I encourage you to get out there and do that if you haven’t. I’m glad I did.