Editorial: Cherish the Past- Embrace BMW\’s Future

BMW 2002 Turbo

Over the past year I have done a lot of soul searching because of events that have transpired in my personal life. I am not going to delve into that side of me here, though I thought it pertinent to briefly mention it as my opinions and views have been greatly impacted by it all and sometimes one needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

Many if not all of us have experienced joy, and its polar opposite- sadness and in one way or another we get over the sadness by experiencing further moments of joy. A prime example is the smile I get on my face when firing up the mighty V8 in the early morning and feeling the car beneath me rumble oh so subtly. In that moment I forget all the worries and difficulties that have overtaken much of the rest of my day and crack that well deserved smile.

It is the simple things in life that we tend to overlook until they are no longer there, the little moments that in the end add up to a whole lot. It is the feel of the road beneath us as we drive that allows us to feel connected to the earth, to give us a sense that we are actually in control of something rather than just being a passenger on the roller-coaster of life. Our cars bring us many such moments and that is why we cherish them.

As enthusiasts we strive to return to the state we view as happiness, to the time when cars were simpler; when there were keys that actually turned in tumblers and radios that were afterthoughts. Spare tires in the trunk with a jack and an extra quart of oil were not items you called a flat bed for via a button in the roof. They were just there. Three pedals were on the floor and those other kind of transmissions were unreliable and less efficient. Airbags- What ‘s an airbag?

That is all in the past, it is a time that will no longer be, time has moved on but for some reason we are stuck there like “Disco Stu ” is stuck in the ’70s. We want modern cars to somehow replicate the way cars were back then because we have this belief everything was great.Boy are we wrong. We are just remembering the bits that brought us joy, you know that stuff I mentioned above about replacing sadness with joy, well that is the underlying cause of all this wanting cars like they were.

When we talk about that E30 M3, we discuss feel and connectivity; we neglect to mention being crushed by an oncoming SUV or the greenhouse gas emissions it spews. We don ‘t discuss the quirky transmission or difficulty with structural repairs. We block out the bad with the good. That is amusing considering we usually are a society that is caught up with the negatives of things. Catch anything “good ” on the news lately? Me neither.

We view performance as 0-60 and times around a track out in the middle of the German countryside but is that even performance anymore? I tend to feel that those methods of judging performance are becoming dated like our coveted original M3. In the 1950 ‘s people looked to the sky as the future, the Jetsons were on TV and concept cars had the look of flight. Sixty years later very little has changed in transportation aside from styling and safety. We still drive cars mostly powered by dinosaurs, granted they now have some measures to decrease emissions.

In the not so distant future there will be a paradigm shift in the thought of performance, mark my words, it will be more about getting the most from the least rather than just getting the most. We finally may be seeing a change in cars and transportation in general. We will all see this future on display in a working prototype at Paris, the future is now and BMW is taking the lead. It may not be a super car by the standards that have been ingrained in our heads by decades of reading car magazine ‘s written by self proclaimed experts in the field, but it is the first step towards a positive change. It will have a three cylinder diesel and two electric motors (as promised a year ago). It will now be a reality rather than a vision.

As enthusiasts do we embrace this brave new future and what it holds or do we still cling to the past we so covet? That is the decision each of us needs to individually make. We will always smile at the feel of the road and the rumble of a V8 but who is to say that the almost silent whir of an electric motor effortlessly rocketing us (thanks to its copious torque from the get go) can ‘t produce that same smile? We will find something to smile at and move on at least in our day to day commute- as there is always the weekend and that is when the E30 can come out and play.

I have grown to believe we should live life through the windshield, not the rearview mirror- just as we do when we take to the track. I am looking forward to what the future holds and to judge it on its own merits rather than basing things on the past. I know my view is not for everyone but like I said, I have my reasons.

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  • Dylan

    Nice article Michael. Like you, I look forward to the future but I’m not really sad of letting go of the past. The great thing about cars, especially enthusiast cars like the E30 M3, is that they’ll always be there. Researching and buying a second hand car is a joy and a pleasure all on it’s own. You can still go out and buy a 2002 or an E30 or whatever it is you love…so we’re not really losing anything.

  • Dylan

    Oh, and another thought I had recently…who says that new cars will always be “better” or more of what you want? BMW is a company that a) employs people, and b) has responsibilities to shareholders. It doesn’t matter how good a BMW is, it’s their business (literally) to make a “better” one and convince people they’ll be “happier” for owning it. I don’t blame them, but I don’t think we should lose sight of what we already have and the amazing fleet of cars already out there, waiting for us to enjoy.

  • goat

    Well written… I had a kindred spirit feeling reading (including the intimation that “life is a knotted wood”). Thank you Michael!

  • Thanks- This editorial has been on my mind for sometime, and I am glad that my message was understood, since we all know at times my message isn’t taken so well.

    I just think we should be happy with the past and reevaluate what we view the future is to be.

  • JonPD

    Great article Michael, keep up the deep thoughts.

    I do not share this belief you have however. For me history will always define the future. While its true the future takes paths that are impossible to clearly see today always the base fact is that its always an evolution of the past.

    While I am one of those that adores the past vehicles BMW produces I don’t expect them to build to a standard in the past. One would hope that as you move forward you can filter through the decades of good and bad moves and bring the best concepts forward in to help shape the future. Look at what a BMW is today and it has some to do with the actual car, but honestly a large part of the car buying decision is based on the cumulative history of what BMW has made and done.

    I agree dogmas should not rule the future but I also think forgetting what built your success is a ill fated folly. A great example of this is the new 1M, ///M stood back and looked at what enchanted people about the E30. The did not try to rebuild the E30, they looked at the current generations of cars and asked themselves how to evolve that feeling into the current day.