Driver Interview: Andy Powell on BMW

Andy tells all about the Bimmers he's owned

The drivers behind the cars we love are just as important as the vehicles themselves. We took a moment to sit down with Andy Powell, of Bimmer Shops, to talk about his personal experience with BMW vehicles and his love for the make.

The BMW Experience From the Perspective of Andy Powell

What drew you to BMW as a make of choice? When did you first start to prefer them?

I was initially attracted to them in highschool. Everyone wants a car when they’re 16; I looked for cars that I could plausibly be able to purchase, and at the top of the list was a 2002 BMW coup and a BMW 6 series (a 635 that was made in the mid-late 80's).

I Looked for cars on Ebay. You could afford [these particular models] because they were challenging to own. In the end, my parents ended up steering him away from it and I bought a Jetta.

After high school, I met a buddy at Georgia Tech that had a 94 325is that he loved; he had driven it since he was sixteen. He re-lit the fire, and I decided I had to get one.

What model was your first BMW, and what models have you owned since? When did you make the switch and why?

I drove the Jetta from when I was 16 to when I bought a BMW at 19. The catalyst was that I wanted something more fun and more interesting than the Jetta; the Jetta was every sorority girl’s car at the time. My first Bimmer was a 1988 325. It was navy blue and had belonged to my ex-girlfriend's sister. The E30 is a beautiful car, especially with the '88 body style. I’d love to have one today.

Besides the E30, what other BMW models have you owned? Did you name any of them?

The E3 we called "Old Blue"; after that I had an M5, "Emma". For a short time, I also drove a 1994 318i convertible that was forest green with a tan colored manual top; driving it around wasn't as glamorous as we'd imagined and we quickly sold it. When we moved back to GA, I bought another BMW sight-unseen - It was a fantastic 2003 330i from a private seller in South Carolina.

Once you started to drive a BMW, how did driving it change your experience as a driver?

The handling, but more specifically the feel of the steering, is very different in a BMW. They do a great job, not in the new ones not as much as the old ones, but still a great job communicating the feel of the road, but without being "punishing". By punishing i mean, too harsh. Porsches are known for the same thing.

Every car has a few stories. Any particular ones you remember about driving your BMW's?

With the M5, on one of my early dates with Ally (Andy's wife), we went to Zuma Sushi down Freedom Parkway in Atlanta.* When we got off on Freedom Parkway, the axle fell off. The differential side held on, but the rest fell to the ground. I brought the car to a stop and got out to see what I could do. I had a set of alan keys in the car, and three out of the six bolts had held on and hadn’t fallen off. I got out of the car in my “swanky date clothes” and fixed it, then continued onto the restaurant.

What was maintenance like on your E30 and M5?

The E30 was trouble so it required a lot of work; it had had a tough life. The M5 is a very high maintenance car, that one was in particular. It required expensive routine maintenance, particularly at the time that I owned it as it was approaching 200,000 miles.

What has been your favorite thing about driving a BMW?

The sound of a BMW is the best part of the experience; every one of the Bimmers I have driven had a different, but great, sound. The inline 6 engines sound so good. The most distinctive sound was the M5; it was a little visceral, a little angry sounding.

*For those not familiar with Atlanta, Freedom Parkway is a heavily trafficked road that stays packed during most hours.