Long-term wrap-up: 2000 BMW M Roadster
It’s time to close the chapter on our 2000 BMW M Roadster, our first attempt at owning a near-exotic car. We bought it in early 2008, and sold it last month, barely driving it for 7,000 km in more than three years. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know if you plan to buy a premium sports car on a budget.
The first rule of buying a high-end sports car is to only buy one if you can afford the maintenance. If you blow your life-savings just buying the car, new or used, and then cannot afford a spark plug, then don’t even bother. Which brings us to the second rule of buying an exotic car — buy one which shares a lot of common parts with regular cars. We weren’t exactly rich back in 2008. That’s what made the BMW M Roadster such a realistic purchase. A whole bunch of parts were shared with the regular BMW Z3 and even the BMW 3-Series. All we had to worry about was not blowing up the hand-built MPower S50 engine. Being an older car too, there were no worries with the car shutting down due to software glitches that seem to affect some newer cars.
The next point to remember is that if you own an exotic car, it will get vandalised at some point by jealous losers who can’t afford a car like yours. Ironically, since we parked it publicly in the middle of well-lit Karama with a good police presence, it stayed relatively safer than parking on some dark empty street in front of an expensive villa in Jumeirah. Still, it got lightly-damaged twice by hit-and-run drivers, the screw-on antenna got stolen, and a tyre was once deflated. We bought it from the previous villa-dwelling owner with key-marks on the paint already. On the other hand, my Jeep has never been bothered. Avoid dark empty streets, sand lots, empty spaces where grown men play cricket and upscale neighbourhoods where kids bicycle. We hear that vandals even damage cars parked in underground parking lots, so there’s only so much you can do, short of moving into a villa with a closed garage. Anyway, keep some bodywork money handy, and avoid fancy cars with expensive-to-fix aluminium or carbon-fibre bodies.
If you plan to drive hard, remember that these cars can go through clutches, brakes, tyres and even gear-synchros quicker than you can sneeze. That’s why many owners sell them just before the major maintenance comes up. Heck, we sold our BMW right after changing the tyres but before getting to the clutch-and-gearbox work.
Before you even start looking at buying a low-slung sports car, also note that it is impossibly impractical. As much as you idolise Lamborghinis and Ferraris, they are hard cars to drive in daily traffic, with poor visibility, firm noisy ride, hard controls and back-breaking seating positions. The low ground clearance means you have to watch where you point that thing. And having a pussimatic gearbox doesn’t make it much easier. That’s why many have such low mileages. These cars are best enjoyed on open roads.
And at the end of the day, you cannot worry about resale value. If you do, then buy used. If it really worries you, then stick with your Toyota Yaris. When it comes time to sell, you will get lousy offers and you have to sell it cheap if you really need the money.
We didn’t need the money, so we never advertised it for sale. In fact, we knew that we’d only get stupid offers from stupid people. But if you have a really unique car, offers will come to you directly. A dude, who already owned an Aston Martin, saw our car getting polished at some garage, contacted us and wanted to buy the car. We weren’t seriously looking to sell at the time unless the right offer came along, and the car wasn’t in the best shape, as we never got around to fixing the torn seats, the faded paint and the crunchy gearbox. After some haggling, we arrived at a price of Dhs 30,000 and we sold it without even trying. That’s a depreciation of around 33% over almost four years, not including expenses. Not bad at all. Our BMW is now in some premium garage, getting restored even better than we had intended to. Take some pictures for us if you spot it.