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The E30 BMW 325i I just purchased immediately became my daily driver. I commute roughly 25 miles on the highway to the FCP Euro offices every day. In previous mornings I would listen to a podcast on my way down and music on my way home. In the E30 things immediately changed.

There wasn't any AC, so I couldn't hear the radio with the windows down. The head unit lacked any inputs anyway. My solution eventually became a bootlegged bluetooth adapter with a single earbud.

Aside from that, the interior looked ratty, primarily because of some old hound's tooth fabric on the shifter and parking brake boots.

The sunroof crank hung down in front of my face, the rear end had more bounce than an R Kelly song, and there was this relentless blinking "CHECK" in the cluster. Remember, I’m new to this.

If this car is supposed to be a driving machine, maybe it doesn't belong on the highway, at least not now. At slower speeds the car was much more tolerable, even enjoyable. It seemed to handle well, it felt light, and far less numb than my 6-speed MK6 GTI at home. There was enough wind to keep me cool, and it was quiet enough that I could at least hear myself think. Think about strategy for the car.

I came up with this set of priorities, I'm sure they’re ground-breaking:

  1. Safety & reliability
  2. Functionality
  3. Aesthetics

Now a few weeks into the car, I find myself often straying from this set of priorities and reminding myself where my money actually should be going. It's my set of guidelines to make sure this car ends up where I want it: A reliable, fun, daily driver that I enjoy showing to people.

I immediately veered from my priorities:

  • Clean the crap out of the car
  • Fix these damn ugly shifter and parking brake boots
  • Remove the trailer hitch
  • Replace the discolored high beam
  • Fix the rear shocks
  • Fix the driver's door lock cylinder
  • Fix the engine mount

On day 2 I took a bottle of Windex, some Armor All wipes and a shop-vac and got to work. After only about an hour of cleaning, the car looked remarkably different. It wasn't so disappointing to sit in, I could see through the windshield, I had pulled off the stickers from the car, and began working on the shifter boots.

I ordered two different boots. The first a Genuine BMW parking brake boot, the only one currently listed in the country. I couldn't take the look of the accordion plastic ones and decided to splurge on leather for both boots. The shifter boot came from *GASP* eBay for $12. I wanted to see if I could spot the difference between the two once installed.

The parking brake boot went on easily, straight tabs in the back, snap tabs in the front. Though I admittedly couldn't figure out how to fix the transition from leather boot to handle. It was like there should have been a ring or something, it took me a week or so of thinking about that one before I finally saw the solution at FCP Euro's first Cars and Coffee event.

The shifter boot looked great, it was a little long so I just snipped it down. However it didn't fit on the plastic ring that anchors it in place. Or at least stretching it over the ring wasn't a one person job. With a second set of hands from my wife, we wedged the ring into the boot, snapped it into the console, and it sprung back out.

Attempt two yielded better, less precarious results. However it faced the same dilemma as the parking brake boot, how does it transition? It just ended with rough cut leather ends up to the shifter knob, an old-looking Momo ball shifter polished to chrome by hands before it. More on that revelation in a future post.

Ultimately, the two boots looked similar but we drastically different to install. One being quick and obvious, the other tedious.

The car looked a lot better. I had immediately broken my priorities but it was satisfying to see meaningful (at least to me) progress that made the car more enjoyable to sit in.

Lastly, I removed the trailer hitch. I couldn't take the look and I have no use for it. I plugged the holes with rubber grommets and tried (without success) to straighten the rear valence.

My wife and I drove the car to the movies one night, driving home that evening was the first time I had driven it in the dark. 3/4 of the headlights worked and those that did work were misaligned and discolored. It became very clear we probably wouldn't make it home alive. Wonder Woman was going to be the last thing I saw.

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Written by :
Alex Frank

Alex and his team are responsible for all consumer facing activities at FCP Euro including Service, Catalog, Marketing, Content, Branding, and Motorsport. An avid photographer, rock climber, skateboarder, and traveler he's inspired by things bigger than he is.

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