Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Rare Beauty Bernadette

By James M Heaney

Bernadette is a 1975 528 BMW - first of the five series;

Featured as car of the month for May 2008 at First of Fives

528 E12 double barrel carburettor 2.8 ltr 6cly

In those days the 528 was wholly made at Stuttgart in Germany. The E12 started life in September 1972 as a 4 cylinder and replaced the 1500/200 series. Known as the “new class of cars”. The E12 came to Australia in 1974.
The E12 was designed by French stylist Paul Bracq who joined BMW after leaving Mercedes… the E12 was directly and wholly aimed at the 280 Benz (“First of Fives”). The 528 with it’s wedge shaped body must have seemed refreshing and youthfull against the boxy Benz at that time.

I saw Bernadette in stunning metallic brown with matching chrome and her alloy shoes sparkling at the European car showroom at Port Melbourne, Australia in the early nineties. My partner at the time told me not to touch her as she’d be too expensive to run. I did the opposite and bought her anyway. I was looking for an old Benz or something European and it had to be from the "old school" smell like leather, wood grain, classic shape, stately looks, and of course the bonnet open the reverse to - how sensible - conventional cars ... Bernadette filled the bill. With her long bonnet and short backside (like all good German sports car should be) I fell for her wedge shape so James and Bernadette became an item. My partner also loved her.

When I finally brought her home Bernadette was my Sunday car, as I always had a run-a-round car, but also would drive her on week days to clients. We spent long weekend drives and picnics in the old girl she never missed a trick and always had a presence when parked.

She loves to eat the highways and feels at home travelling @140 K but hates the cold until warm. She tolerates stop start traffic and loves a bit of a drink with her 1 ton frame she's a tough old bird at the best and worst of times.Bernadette was always reliable and never let me down.

In 2003 I came back from being OS for six months. Bernie was being look after by family members she was not excercised. While driving merrily down the freeway with the music on and a bright sunny day, windows down. I heard a noise I look at the bonnet and saw steam coming from all directions I looked at the temp gauge to my shock the tempeture was on boiling. She coughed, spluttered and chocked. Bernadette died at 29 yo with the original motor.

It was a sad day as the mechanic driver told me the worst “you’ve cooked the engine”. As I was traveling behind her I was watching her on the back of a truck in all of her classicness she still looked beautiful even in death. Everybody said “it’s too expensive to get fixed and she’s old, parts are hard to find”, etc etc. The money I needed for her was a problem at the time as I'd just returned from OS, so she stayed at my friends for some months.

Everybody told me the same thing - get rid of her, even the mechanic told me it wasn’t worth it, you’re wasting your money to completely redo the engine from the ground up... so I did it anyway.

I was happy to do it and never regretted it. Bernadette was always a reliable car and besides she's rare and no one has a car like her and that alone was enough.
WELL THEN the family said “What a good car” the mechanic said “What a good car and a brilliant motor” and sung her praises. He became a fan, and everybody said the car would it will last another 29 years. Hmmm...

Somebody scratched her in Fitzroy, a trendy suburb of Melbourne, running a coin down all of her left hand panels - it was 1 cm deep. The only car in the street damaged, she was parked near hot sportier cars, Range rovers, but they wanted to damage the old girl… I also had the ash tray pinched and have never been able to get a replacement as it was upholstered with chrome around the edges not available in the country. Parts are getting harder to find.

Bernadette is rarer each year often people would have a look at her and say nice old BM, or they don’t make em like that any more to that extent. The past BMs, MERCs are the true German classics how I expect a European car should be…. (somewhat lost in recent years blending in this more of the same is best attitude) I have to agree I have no interest in the newer BMs and prefer other makes… It’s OLD BMs for me and the second one is going to be a 2 door …a rare one again- besides Bernadette needs a partner!

Model 1975 528 double barrel carburettor
Colour : Metallic brown
Interior: beige
Made: Germany
Exported: South Africa then Australia
Re- built engine after cooking motor 15000kms
Mechanically sound
Only minor cosmetic details need addressing
Pin stripping
Raised bonnet
Power aerial
Power steering
Air con
Alloy wheels

The beauty about this model is that nobody is collecting it, so it’s becoming rare; they’re too busy going after M2s and eventually they will be become extinct and I'll have one of the few left.

Update Bernie with her new shoes
Bernie featured in Classic and Sports Cars April addition 2013

Bernie at Doncaster BMW AUST 2010 launching new 5 series Pic 1 and 3

Bernie is shown often Melbourne CITY SQUARE 2012

Pic1 Art By Guy Allen

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