This Is What It’s Like To Drive The BMW 1600 Cabriolet
When I was first born, my parents had one of these. Until I hit five years old, it was the perfect car for the three, and eventually four of us: no roof, bouncy German seats, no seatbelts. I have fond memories of rolling about in the back seat like a monkey while my parents would putt around town running errands. I’d be lying if I said at that age I understood the design appeal of the BMW 1600 Cabriolet, but at some level there was an intrinsic connection to the spirit of the car: it was built for fun.
Somewhat tragically, mom and dad sent it up to Vermont to be restored by a man who was “the” guy to restore 1600 Cabrios. Two years later, it was slowly revealed that this man was, in fact, a fraud, running something of a classic car ponzi scheme. I remember the long road trip to retrieve the car that had been left uncovered in a field outside of Brattleboro…for two years. Even the duct tape applied to an initial tarp had long since turned to dust and fiber. The car was effectively rotted through, yet we trailered it down to our house to meet its inevitable maker, a body shop we owed a bit of money to for work done on an ’82 Porsche 911 SC. The trade was done, and we never saw the car again.
It’s funny how stories like that stay with you. In the grand scheme of things, it’s been a tiny negative anecdote on my family’s long and prosperous love affair with cars. I’d wager more than a few of you have similar tales to tell, (and I’d be curious to hear them in the comments below).
So: I have to say that when I was handed the keys to this particular 1600 Cabriolet from the BMW Group Classic collection, on a drive starting in Bamberg Germany, it was something of a big moment for me.
Most people wouldn’t be unfamiliar with the design language of a 1600 Cabrio. I’d imagine most would simply mistake it for a 2002 convertible, which I guess in a way it kind of is, but in many ways it’s much more. There’s a sense of purpose in the way that the lines of the car were thought out, a subtle restraint that reveals itself with the roof down and the windows tucked away. It has that lovable angular grill, it has that typically buttery BMW gearbox, it has that elongated rear deck that sticks out over the back wheels. It’s genuinely difficult not to look at this car and smile.
Driving it is, unsurprisingly, a dream. Light in the corners, peppy around the 3,000-rpm mark. It’s just the right dosage of power for cruising; no more, no less.
I was able to put a couple hundred kilometers on it with my friend Timo (he runs the Instagram account @SportFahrer) and we were both in agreement that this was, without question, one of the most fun cars we’d ever driven. In a way, it was to come full circle for me, to have the experience of understanding what drew my parents to that car—and what made the heartbreak so real to see it go away when it did.
Prices seem to range quite broadly with these in particular, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already on the hunt for one.
Photography by Ted Gushue