Penning A Love Letter To A BMW E24 6-Series, The ‘Great White Shark’
Photography by Ricky Shull
I had already known you for a couple of years before we were brought together, and when I first saw you, I was blown away. I had never seen anything like you, and you won me over almost immediately. Your design, color, wheels, and stance had my complete attention. I was enamored with your shark nose and goofy shape, and was thoroughly entertained by your custom air suspension. To me, you were one of the best looking cars that I had ever laid eyes on.
We became parts of each other’s lives during the most stressful point of mine. Out of the blue, I saw the message from my friend that said you needed a new home. The next day I went to check you out, and brought you home in the most stereotypical impulse-buy fashion. Driving you home was almost surreal—probably due in part to the lack of sleep and stress from school and personal life, but let’s just call it the excitement of owning my first classic car.
The thunk of the driver’s door, the purr of the motor, the funky suspension, the dried and cracked steering wheel… It all felt so right. Right away I knew what I was going to call you: the Great White Shark. It was a no-brainer, really. I was even a little bit tacky, getting you that vanity license plate with your name stamped into it. Needless to say, I was very excited to have you.
It didn’t take long before I dressed you up a bit too. The M Parallel wheels you wore when we met looked nice on you, but (to my surprise) they were replicas and in pretty bad shape, and I couldn’t have you wearing fake shoes. It was a bit of good timing then that I came across your old BMW BBS Style 5s and opted to make a deal with a friend. We spent that whole summer exploring the city and running through the back roads. It was fun—hot, because your A/C was out—but it was a summer to remember all the same. The fall was no different; we kept racking up the miles and enjoying our time together. I (foolishly) even drove you around town in the winters. The A/C might have been out, but your heat worked just fine!
We did pretty much everything together. I drove you to car shows and meets, we’d explore downtown Kansas City, run around on country roads… You drove me and my other crush around for my senior prom, and you helped me clear my mind when she started dating a different guy weeks later. We’d go look for new places to shoot photos, we’d hang out with friends, and go on cruises with cars of a much higher caliber: you were the perfect subject for a car-crazy photographer, and also got the attention of every old guy who remembers his “just like it was yesterday.” The reactions on people’s faces as you let the air out of your suspension were (and still are) priceless. We spent as much time together as we could that summer, because I would be off to college in the fall.
I didn’t know what to do, since I wasn’t able to bring you to Texas for my freshman year. Luckily, my parents were forgiving and my dad cared for you while I was away. Every so often I would get a text from Dad showing that he was taking you for a short spin, making sure you were running well. Coming back for breaks from school was awesome. I got to see family and friends of course, but more importantly I was once again able to take you for a spin.
Summer came around again, and this time I was determined to get you to Texas by the time I returned to school at the end of it. I began my mission to get you truly roadworthy—you might have done very well around town, but there was no telling if you’d make it on a road trip or not yet. We got you sealed up tight, breathing through new pipes, aligned, and tuned up. We wrapped those Style 5’s in new rubber and installed a few miscellaneous parts too.
We had gotten everything sorted for the drive, except for a the go-ahead from mission control. Even with my investment to make you Texas worthy, my parents still weren’t so sure about how well you’d manage in a different state. It was understandable, since they wanted me to have safe and reliable transportation—after all, I had many more automotive connections in Kansas City than in Texas, so if I got stuck at school I might actually be stuck. Still, as a car guy, it was devastating to leave you behind.
Again, you sat in the driveway while I went back to school without you. Lucky as I was, Dad helped to convince Mom that you could handle the Texas roads. We were finally reunited in late October, and you didn’t miss a beat for the entire 600+ miles of the trek from Kansas City to Texas.
However, it did tire you out and some unexpected maintenance was required upon arrival. Now that you were here, I had the added responsibility to care for you, and balancing school and work with your needs was (and continues to be at times) a challenge. Your air-ride suspension needed a little TLC, and it was time for new spark plugs as well. Simple tasks in theory, but for a busy student it meant going to the parking lot at odd hours to have a bit of time to work. And there was the whole power steering debacle this semester, which threw a big figurative stick in the spokes of your BBS wheels.
As I questioned my capability of handling this responsibility, you were away with a mechanic, getting your power steering buttoned up. Gone for three weeks to accommodate the mechanic’s schedule, the time apart gave me a lot of opportunity to think. I began to weigh my options about ownership, and even listed you for sale at one point. It had been a topic of thought for a long time about what to do with you, from having to leave you in my parents’ custody, to finding a balance between school and Shark, I explored every option to find the best plan of action.
At this point I’m still unsure of what the best path is, as I battle with finding that best plan for both of us. However, as I sit about 50 feet away from you writing this, I can’t help but fall in love with you all over again. It’s been about five days since I got you back from the mechanic’s, and only a couple more until our third anniversary. You handled our 100-mile excursion yesterday like a champ, and the drive to Austin and back was done with ease today too. So as I sit here I can’t help but enjoy the way you look, sound, and drive. It’s all sublime and intoxicating. Though you may be presenting me with some serious challenges, I can’t help but appreciate what you have been for me. More than just a car, you’ve been a conversation starter, friendship maker, escape, therapist…
The bond between man and machine is an interesting one. Machines normally make life easier for man, but when it comes to the automobile, it also becomes an extension. It is a creative outlet, a networking system, a release of energy. And with old cars, the character of a well-worn machine makes the experience even more unique. Because of this, you have cemented my love for the automobile, as well as built an affinity for vintage vehicles and BMW. Whenever we part ways (if we part ways), I will always appreciate what you’ve done for me and my passions. But for now: here’s to three years, and here’s to many more. Let’s go for a drive.