Its July 1987: Full Metal Jacket is playing in movie theaters nationwide and the E24 M6 graces the cover of the July issue of Car and Driver. Gasoline hovers around 0.90 cents per gallon and U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For hit top of the Billboard Hot 100 music chart. I wasn’t even born yet – until December that year.
The Summer of 87 is when the previous owner of my E28 began shopping for and ultimately purchased his 1984 533i from an ad in the local paper. The dealer invoice I have dated July 16, 1987 indicates a sale price of $19,000 which became $21,084.50 after tax and title. He would drive the car for the next 31 years until I bought the car in July 2018.
Last week, I sent an email to the previous owner to ask some questions that I had hoped would help me understand more about the car and it’s long time owner. We hadn’t spoken since the pandemic began in 2020, but I knew I wanted to ask him some additional questions while I still could.
Here is the discussion that we had.
Why did you choose the BMW 533i back in 1987 – was it just a good deal from the original owner, or were you specifically seeking out a BMW?
At the time we bought the 533i, BMW was the recognized leader in road handling, Mercedes the leader in luxury. Few argued with that. I wanted the best road handling car I could get. There was no real competition, unless you could pay a mint for an exotic car.
Were you considering other vehicle makers besides BMW?
I never really considered another brand. I just searched the ads in the paper and saw the 533i advertised. The owner was a tech company owner who made a fortune selling his company. He liked the 533i, but his real loved was his Porsche 911 black on black. He didn’t keep cars around very long, according to him.
How was the 533i perceived by others during the late 80’s and 90’s during your ownership? Was it a special car? Today a BMW is so ubiquitous they’re hardly considered special anymore.
German cars ruled. Yes, today you see them everywhere, almost all leased. Even 20-somethings driving a new lease.
Why did you keep the car for so long?
I loved the car. I intended to keep it forever. We just finally realized that we were not driving it, and we really only needed one vehicle for both of us. And an SUV was the most functional. The 533i sitting in the garage all the time made no sense.
Were you ever tempted to trade the 533i in over the years for a newer model like the e34 5 series or e39 5 series?
No, never tempted by a newer model. I think German cars were at their peak when I bought the 533i. Once the German companies decided to jump in and compete for larger volume by dropping their quality edge to hold down price, it wasn’t the same IMHO. I’m not saying they aren’t solid cars today, but they don’t seem to me to stand above the crowd like they did when I bought the 533i. You may have a different view on this; you are closer to the current models than I am. My view is clearly biased in favor of the 533i (smile). Just look at that paint job! Yes, change was forced on them by environmental regs, but still it was just one of the many high quality edges they had back then.
From an old service record, I saw that you had the car serviced at the now famous Vasek Polak dealership during your time living in Hermosa Beach, California. How was the experience at that dealership?
I honestly don’t have any memorable service experiences at BMW dealerships, other than to remember they were expensive! I didn’t begrudge the cost, since the mechanics were well trained at that time and I rarely had any problems. Solid service.
Thank you so much for being generous with your time to answer my questions. I really appreciate it.
I hope you are still enjoying the 533i. I have never loved a car like that one. I really like the Jeep, but not with the same affection. But life moves on and we adapt.