The trip counter on this car stands at 66,284km. For a 20-year-old car that’s peanuts, and probably explains why the bodywork and interior is in such good condition.
The red leather seats look as if they’ve hardly ever been sat on. You’d guess that this little Beemer has been doted on by one very, very careful owner. That’s only half the story, however. It has only had one owner, but far from nurturing this car, they did everything they could to destroy it.
That owner is the US oil company Mobil. In 1990 it bought this BMW 325i, with its state-of-the-art 2.5 liter in-line 6-cylinder engine, and decided to drive 1.6 million kilometers in it.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. They didn’t drive anywhere in it. They didn’t even leave the garage. They stuck it on a rolling road — the vehicle equivalent of a hamster wheel — fitted it to a never-ending fuel tank, stuck the throttle at 136kph and kept it running, day and night, for four years. It’s enough to turn your green heart black.
Mobil didn’t totally deprive the car of love. They followed all BMW’s recommended service and oil-change schedules. After 1.6 million kilometers on the treadmill, the car’s power plant was taken apart by mechanics, who were astonished to discover that engine wear was negligible and still within factory specifications for a new car.
BMW were understandably thrilled that their product was so durable. Mobil, too, were thrilled, as they saw it as proof-positive of the life-enhancing benefits of their synthetic oil products.
To help raise awareness of the importance of checking your engine’s oil levels, the 1.6 million kilometer motor has been unshackled from its rolling road and given its head on the open road. It’s estimated that half of us never check the oil level of our car. In fact, most of us would probably be hard-pressed to even find the dipstick, yet this 60-second check could save you a fortune in repairs.
Of course, the oil and BMW’s genius explain why the engine is in such good shape, but it’s the fact that the car has barely seen the light of day that explains why the body and interior work is almost perfect. If it had endured two decades of street life there’d have been many more scars to boast about.
The modern equivalent of this car would cost you up to £30,000 (US$48,000), but in its day this 325i was the height of refinement. It has an onboard computer, airbags, cruise control and a decent stereo, but a drive in it today on a motorway feels charmingly basic.
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