This is not going to be a column about my vintage-car mechanic. For one thing, I don't have a vintage-car mechanic. I have, instead, a vintage car that needs a mechanic. It's not for want of trying. You may have seen my lovely little fjord blue 1973 BMW 3.0CSi in these pages eighteen months ago, which is when a very wonderful friend gave it to me as a very wonderful present. I wanted to do a few things to it before I put it on the street, mostly minor stuff like a tune-up, new brakes, new rubber. There was a slow fuel leak that also needed professional attention. Although this was a car that still fit into my spectrum of cars that can be worked on (cars where you can almost stand in the engine compartment next to the engine), the fuel leak made me decide not to attempt the work myself.
So. You may have first seen my lovely little 3.0CSi parked in the lot of Eurotec Motors. This is one of Ann Arbor's premier independent BMW service shops. It is very, very busy. It's not only that you need an appointment to be seen, it's that the appointment could be months after you call. I was certainly willing to keep my car covered until my date rolled around one month later. I borrowed a trailer from our great friends at Stony Creek Collision (you can only imagine how a car magazine becomes great friends with the best bump shop in town) and hauled the BMW in on the appointed day.
Ninety days later, you may have seen my BMW still parked exactly where I left it.
You never get angry with good mechanics. You just beg the guy to be honest about whether he plans to lay hands on your precious metal in the next, oh, year or so. And when he sheepishly says, well, no, he doesn't, you cheerfully hire a tow truck to haul it across town to his archrival, Haner Motors, another independent mechanic who says he'll get it right in, meaning that week. He says. And I'm sure he means it.
You may have seen my pretty little, now filthy dirty, fjord blue BMW 3.0CSi sitting in the driveway next to the shop. You may have seen it covered with maple leaves. You may have seen it dusted with snow. You may have noticed a new dent in the left rear quarter- panel (something to do with a snowplow). But how do you make the hang-dog mechanic, the man who is so busy he can't answer his phone, the man everyone who's had a car pass through his hands says is a great guyhow do you make him work on your car?
There is a breakthrough when you call to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the day you had the tow truck bring your car to him. He feels so bad, he actually puts it on a hoist and orders a part for it.
But then, even the promises stop. Apparently, he has an extra hoist and can afford to leave your car on it for months on end. Months, mind you! So, finally, I give up. We borrow the trailer from Stony Creek againand a new Sierra 1500HD Crew Cab with Quadra-steer from GMCto take it away. We take it all the way back across the country to Alex Vogel, a New Hampshire friend who had admired it on its maiden voyage from Massachusetts and who, it transpires, likes to work on BMWs.
What I really want to write about is this Sierra. You already know that Automobile Magazine just loves this truck. We have given it five All-Star awards for best pickup, one for every year since its redesign in 1999. The Sierra is comfortable, looks great, and has the best engines in the business. We like its features, although some (such as a fourth door for the extended-cab model) came late to the party, and others (adjustable pedals, for instance) have yet to make it.
We used its Chevy twin (a Silverado in 3500 dualie trim), powered by one of the finest diesel truck engines on the planet, to bring the BMW home in the first place. The truck got as many nods on the highway as the car. This time, we wanted a good long drive with Quadrasteer, the first four-wheel steering system in the full-size-truck industry. It sounds killer on paper, doesn't it? With Quadrasteer, the full-size Sierra can spin around almost in the same tight circle as a Saturn coupe instead of the huge swath of real estate a regular Sierra requires for the same maneuver. Well, it's even more stupendous in the real world.
We needed new tires for the trailer before we left town, so my husband, Tim, buzzed over to Belle Tire and spun the truck around at the loading dock so the trailer would be facing in. The mechanics came roaring out onto the dock, falling all over themselves, demanding that he do it again. "No one has ever done a U-turn up to this dock!" they told him. "Do that again!" Hero time. Before I could grasp the capabilities of Quadrasteer, he astonished me by doing a U-turn on a narrow two-lane that had a bit of a wide shoulder, all the while with me shouting, "What the hell are you doing?!" No drama, no binding, no sweat. Like a Saturn coupe, I tell you.
At highway speeds, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts, significantly calming lane changes and overall yaw control. The downside is the cost: $5525, added to our Sierra's base price of $33,620. Yikes almighty. But here's the deal: Quadrasteer (which is standard on the high-and-mighty Sierra Denali) is bundled as a package deal with heavy-duty trailering equipment, manual-select ride control, limited slip, a 145-amp alternator, and roof marker lights. It's not offered all by its lonesome, although the word on the street is that GMC may soon do just that.
Quadrasteer was so great that we, as owners of a 50,000-mile Suburban, had to wonder: "Can we get it on a Suburban?" Well, yes, but only on the three-quarter-ton model, and not with the Duramax 6600 turbo-diesel that we love so much. How about a Sierra Crew Cab with Quadrasteer and the diesel? No such luck. The Duramax is available only on heavy-duty, two-wheel-steered Silverados and Sierras. We had to dig awfully deep into the dizzying array of engine, transmission, and option combos before we gave up and decided that we'd just have to hold on for the debut of a Quadrasteer- and Duramax-equipped half-ton Suburban.
Now we're just waiting for the spring thaw and the word to come from New Hampshire. If you live up there, you may have seen my pretty little fjord blue, 1973 BMW 3.0CSi sitting next to Alex Vogel's shop. If you have, and it's still there, would you call me right away?
He promised me he'd get right to it.