Commentary

I’m A Living, Breathing, Car Geek

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Most of us buy a car for practicality reasons. Commonly-used adjectives for this group of people are: comfortable, reliable, safe, good fuel economy, good second hand or resale value and so on.

The other group of people are usually car geeks; basically nuts who would buy a car for its 50:50 weight distribution, power outputs, engine noise, racing pedigree or 0 to 100 km/h times. I belong to the latter group, naturally.

I have an E36 328i, which has been converted from an automatic to manual. Yes, in KL traffic, one would be mad to have his left leg depressing the clutch pedal most of the time. But I derive fun from changing the cogs myself. My fellow colleagues, Vernon, and Andrew, who have an Alfa Romeo 146 and Proton Satria R3 respectively, would agree with me.

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Isn’t she gorgeous?

I fell in love with the E36 from the British Touring Car Championship days, going up against the likes of the Alfa Romeo 155 and the formidable Volvo 850 R. I would love to own the E36 M3, but due to its rarity in Malaysia, and not to mention higher cost of maintenance, I settled for the second best. The other reason is the famed BMW in-line-6 petrol engine which is one of the finest engines ever to come out from Bavaria. Okay, two more reasons – rear wheel drive and almost 50:50 weight distribution.

Owning the car for the past 4 years or so now, it has its fair share of ups and downs. Although it is 18 years old now, it has never left me stranded by the road side. Blasting Ulu Yam – Genting, North-South highway and even Sepang was fun and mesmerizing. It is a great conversation starter with those who used to own E36’s and to those who still do, immediately become chums. Additionally, Google became the E36 troubleshooting manual, mechanics became close friends, and workshops became the new hangout place. These are the things that are missing with new cars, which are becoming more and more surgical, a tool.

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My car is now at the workshop. There is this strange metal grinding sound when started, which sounds like someone has just poured a bucket of ball bearings into the combustion chamber, instead of oil. I hope it won’t be an expensive fix.

A loved one has been pestering me to sell the car but I have yet to find my next object of affection. I have a few criteria, which I think will make the pool of suitable candidates even smaller; it has got to be a manual, at least having 192hp/280Nm, rear wheel drive or all wheel drive, good handling characteristics, not more than 10 years old and within a budget of RM 100k.

Impossible? Help me…

About Jack Lee

Jack Lee is an unqualified petrol head (some say, to be one, you have to own an Alfa Romeo) who is disappointed with cars which are getting more and more electronics and the lack of interest in cars shown by today's youths in general. He owns an almost 20 year car from Germany, which has almost 50:50 weight distribution, 3 pedals (manual, FTW!) and believes that everyone should spin at the last corner of Sepang circuit at least once in their life. He also holds the distinction in TCG as the person with the lightest right foot, of course, when compared with his colleagues' mutated cast iron right foot.

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