As the astute reader may have deduced, cars are one of my strongest passions. My research interests are informed by performance driving, and my weekends are often spent underneath a car working on one project or another. I've been lucky enough to own some interesting cars throughout my life, and I can't help sharing a few of them here. One might note that I have a disposition toward classic BMWs; they have an almost unmatched blend of performance, practicality, and style.

1998 BMW M3


My current daily driver is a Cosmos Black e36 M3 coupe, shown here next to my father's M3 sedan. The M3 is the pinnacle of the 3-series, with a more powerful engine, sport suspension, and unique interior and exterior bits. In contrast to its predecessor, the high-strung, relatively primitive e30 M3, and its successor, the luxurious, blisteringly fast, and tempermental e46 M3, the e36 hits - to my mind, at least - an essentially perfect combination of power, handling, light weight, simplicity, reliability, and daily practicality. Although its 240 hp isn't overly impressive by today's standards, the car has a telepathic connection to the road; in 1997, Car & Driver magazine called the M3 the best handling car in the world at any price. Thus far my weekend fun has included the normal checklist of fluid replacements and maintenance items for any new car. The car is bone stock for now, though I suspect any number of minor power and handling modifications lay down the road.


2003 BMW 530i


This is our current family car. It's a rare combination with the factory sports package (lowered suspension, unique wheels, blacked-out trim and sport seats) and a manual transmission. My projects with this car tend toward maintenance, although aging BMWs have plenty of that to go around. My most recent project was a full cooling system replacement, including radiator, thermostat and water pump, which is a preventative measure on all BMWs over 80k miles. The e39 generation 5-series was one of the last classically-styled BMWs, and was an exemplar of the company's committment to blending performance, handling, and practicality. Some of these values seem to be on the wane in today's climate of increasing technology and weight, so these cars hold a special appeal to BMW purists.


1990 BMW 325iX


This 325iX was my daily driver before I found the M3, and a rare example of the first all wheel drive BMW (note that more recent AWD BMW cars reverse the nomenclature - 330Xi). It's an e30 chassis, like the 325is below, which provides agility, crisp steering, and a classic design, with the addition of all wheel drive to help with the nasty stuff. During its stay in my garage, it received a Turner Motorsports performance chip in addition to a full fluids flush, an ignition system overhaul, a thermostat, a voltage regulator, an oxygen sensor, a custom set of red & black coco mats, and a handful of other odds and ends.


1997 Mazda Miata

Miata Front

This was my most recent project car. In addition to being a fantastic lightweight driving machine, first-generation (NA) Miatas are simple to work on, with a classic longitudinal engine/manual transmission/rear-wheel drive layout. Parts are relatively cheap, and there's an endless supply of things to do on a (nearly) classic roadster. I installed an OEM manual steering rack to replace the factory power steering, 15" Enkei wheels and Bridgestone summer performance tires, a Hard Dog rollbar, and an OEM cruise-control unit, in addition to normal maintenance. I decided it was time to let it go when we found out we were having a baby - on to cars with more seats!


1995 BMW 318ti


This was our workhorse 318ti that we owned for a number of years. The e36/5 designation 3-series represented a short-lived attempt by BMW in the 1990's to compete in the market with the Volkswagen Golf. It held the unique position of being a small rear-wheel drive hatchback, which unfortunately was not enough to overcome its relatively underpowered 4-cylinder engine and premium price tag, so the 318ti only lasted a few years. In retrospect, the 318ti was an underappreciated distillation of BMW's core values. It was lighter by several hundred pounds than the other 3-series cars of the day, had unmatched steering precision, was an absolute blast to fling around corners thanks to its simple e30-derived semi-trailing arm rear suspension, and could carry two bookcases to boot! In practice, ours was near bulletproof, requiring mostly normal maintenance (well, and a few window regulators) as it touched 150k miles.


1987 BMW 325is


This 325is was my daily driver during my graduate school days at Clemson, and my first e30. The e30 platform is one of the all-time classic BMW bodystyles, with timeless lines, light weight, incredible handling, and ample power for the time. Although the 325is lived in the shadow of its more famous M3 brother, it was lighter and only several tenths of a second slower to 60 mph. The 'is sports package included a unique front air dam, sports suspension, a limited slip differential, BBS basketweave wheels, and sport seats. My only modification to this car from stock was a UUC short-shift kit that tightened the shifting up tremendously. I swapped this car within the family for the newer 318ti when I moved to Rhode Island, and it went on to protect my sister from a head-on collision with a much larger SUV that flew through a red light. She emerged almost unscathed, but the car was totaled. It deserves a special place in automotive heaven, if such a place exists.


1987 BMW 535i


This beauty was my wife (then girlfriend)'s car when we lived in Clemson. I will admit to nudging her in the direction of the e28 5-series when she was car shopping, as my family had owned several 533's during my high school years. The car was a beautiful blue over blue leather interior, with a 5-speed transmission and a very quick and sonorous 182 hp M30 6-cylinder engine. We sold it when we moved to Providence since two cars were redundant in the city, but we do miss it. Someday we hope to make room in our collection for another e28.


1973 BMW Bavaria

1973 Bavaria

Every car enthusiast has one that got away, that he wishes he could have back. For me, this is that car. I owned this 1973 Bavaria for a few years in college, and sold it when I faced the prospect of 11-hour trips back and forth from Clemson, SC to my home in Pennsylvania. In retrospect, this was not my wisest move, especially since its replacement was an ill-fated 1988 Toyota Supra which I quickly sold.


I didn't do much work on this car myself, living in college housing at the time, but the previous owner had installed a 5-speed transmission, a sport suspension, and an electronic ignition system. These made the classic sedan a fearsome handler, which combined with the 2.8 liter straight six made it an absolute blast to drive. I did get it repainted from a Mercedes grey to its original teal, which made an eye-catching car even more beautiful, and installed a pair of Recaro sports seats from an early 1980's 320iS. This was the beauty that got away.


1966 Corvair Monza


This was my first car, and the first of two Corvairs I owned in high school. Corvairs got a bad reputation as tail-happy due to their rear-engine configuration, but the truth was that this had been entirely cured by the time the second generation debuted in 1965 (ask my high-school aged self how I knew). They were beautifully styled cars, and were a clear influence on the 1967 Camaro that Chevy developed to battle the Mustang. Unfortunately, the pony car wars proved fatal to the Corvair, as its flat-6 engine was no match for a raging big-block V8, even in 140-hp Corsa guise. It's too bad, as the rear-engine configuration and light weight allowed handling unmatched by its pony-car brethern, and on par with European imports such as the BMW 2002 and the Porsche 911. The car you see here was a 2-speed automatic with a whopping 110 horsepower from its twin-carb engine. It was in beautiful condition, but I craved a stickshift and more power, so I traded it for a green 1965 Corsa with a set of headers. I eventually gave up Corvairs when I went to college, briefly for a 1983 BMW 533i, and then for the 1973 Bavaria above.


1953 Kaiser Dragon


I've saved the best for last. The Kaiser has a very special place in my heart, although it's not yet in my garage. This car has been in the family since the late 1950's, and is the car my father learned to drive on. It experienced engine troubles in 1967 and was tucked away in a series of garages until the late 1990's. At that point my father and I decided it was high time to restore this beauty back to her former glory. College, graduate school, and several moves made this a slow process, but in the summer of 2005 we drove her for the first time in nearly 40 years! The restoration is ongoing, with most of the chrome needing replating and the top requiring a fresh coat of vinyl, but she's mechanically sound, and the interior is in perfect original condition. The paint is also original; it's not perfect, but it is amazing how much some elbow grease and quality compounds were able to bring it back. It's a real pleasure and an honor to drive such a classic, especially one with as much family history as this. Here's a picture from a few years back, early on in the restoration:

Undergoing Restoration

The first place we took her after the restoration was to visit my grandfather, who had owned her so many years ago.