We shopped for days to find a decent car with automatic transmission. We looked at new cars but at the time, the BMW dealer searched all American-spec BMWs in Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium and there wasn’t one car that I liked that met our needs. The main one being, it had to be an automatic.
We went to one slimy used car lot after another. This is an example of one of the worst. Luckily, the office that we needed to go to for registration was closed when we found a potential car on this lot. We think we dodged a bullet there. We continued to look. We were extremely frustrated at this point and the rental car was getting expensive. It was about to push us over our move allowance. Our last ditch effort was to buy a car from the commissary lot. The Army allows individuals to park cars on a lot near the commissary to sell them. Ryan went and found a few cars. We made some phone calls and decided on the 1992 Green BMW 3 series. The car seemed to be well maintained and it was top of the line in its day. It once had power locks, which no longer worked. It had a 6-slot tape deck… yes, a tape deck. It also had power windows, an anti-theft system, which also seemed to be an anti-Danette system and it came with winter tires, which are required in Germany in the Winter.
This car looks harmless, right? Well, it actually wasn’t a horrible car unless you count the fact that the “winter tires” were actually all-season tires for a 5 series BMW and would not fit on the car, the battery that died while we were sitting at a light, the transmission, that occasionally would not shift into higher gear, or the fact that we were both pretty terrified to drive it in the snow since the Germans do not plow down to the concrete. They leave a layer that is just think enough to turn to a sheet of ice (see Longest 40 minute commute ever blog). We made do with the Green Monster November to February even with all of her flaws.
Our first issue occurred the day we signed the Bill of Sale. But, this was not the Green Monster’s fault. The registration office gave us American-sized plates for our German-spec car. There was no way to attach the plate so we put it in the window and drove to the PX to get something to attach it to the car; zip ties, velcro, anything. However, if you do not have plates affixed to the car properly, it is grounds for a search and apparently the rent-a-cop gate guards have you hold you there until the MPs come and say it ok for you to enter the base. So, after the search and waiting for the 12-year old MP to come and authorize us to enter.
Then, once in the PX the only thing we could find to attach the plate to the Monster was boot strings. So, this is what we did. It was certainly a sad day for the Monster, I’m sure. We were told the previous owner took great care of her. Whatever, it got us through the gate.
The real trouble started, on our way back from Trier, which is 2 hours away, I tried to read the manual. The German manual. We were on the side of the road while typed different part names and terms into Google Translator to try to identify why the “exclamation point” light was lit up on the dashboard.
It was a happy day when we we found a new car and were authorized to place the Green Monster on the For Sale lot. But, I will admit that I was certainly feeling guilty about selling that car to anyone. I hope the Monster is better to her new owner.