Hey, folks, it is with joy that I announce that my new book, The Best Of The Hack Mechanic: 35 years of hacks, kluges, and general automotive mayhem from Roundel magazine, is now available on Amazon at the link below.
I know that not every FAQer is a BMW CCA member, and that's okay, but I think that many of the silverbacks in the crowd will appreciate that the look and feel of the book is intended to evoke that of the mid-80s Roundel when my mentor Yale Rachlin still manually laid out articles, sent out for type, and pasted it up on oaktag sheets with hot wax.
As I explain in the introduction, I began writing for Roundel when then-editor Parker Spooner published my first unsolicited article, "The Heartbreak of Automotive Obsession," in 1986. I followed with other articles, which Parker also ran. Then, in June 1987, I received the phone call that changed my life: Yale Rachlin explained that he'd just become editor, liked my stuff, and wanted me to contribute regularly. My articles continued. At some point, Yale asked me to write a monthly column. And so, in early 1992, "The Hack Mechanic" was born, and continues to this day.
It was fascinating putting the "best of" book together. Nearly all the themes in which I trade—just trying to keep your car running without taking it into the dealer every time it hiccups, auto repair as a meditative Zen-like experience, the joy of problem solving (I can't fix health care but I can replace this windshield washer pump), Siegel's Seven-Car Rule, keeping a line between project cars and daily drivers—appeared fairly early. There were, however, a few surprises. I'd nearly forgotten that, because my wife and I moved to a house in Newton MA with a single-car garage, and that garage had to keep my '73 3.0CSi out of the elements, I sold my main 2002 ("Bertha") in 1988 and didn't own another 02 until we had the new garage built in Newton. So many 2002s have come and gone (40 in total) that the fact I didn't own one for 15 years seems just like a blip on the radar.
Not surprisingly, some of the references in the columns are a little dated. Obviously, prices for cars and parts are much higher than they were then. Fortunately, I know more than I did when I was just a kid figuring this stuff out on my own, so I made editorial comments in the text to bring things in line with current reality and recommendations. To be clear, although there are some repair articles in the book, it's not a "use 10mm wrench on bolt B"-style repair manual. It's more of a kaleidoscope of 35 years (40 if you count the years in Austin before I moved back to Boston, joined the CCA, and began writing) spent wrenching on BMWs as both project cars and daily drivers.
Because, since I left my engineering job five years ago and have been trying to make a go of it as a self-employed writer, and write not only monthly for Roundel magazine but also weekly for Bimmerlife.com, and do the same weekly/monthly thing for Hagerty, I'm not posting here on the FAQ as often as I used to. But I still regard the FAQ as the 2002 brain trust, seek its wisdom regularly, and direct others here. I've never claimed to know it all. But I do try to pay it forward and be as available to people as possible.
I do sell signed and personally-inscribed books on my laughably antiquated website (http://www.robsiegel.com), so if you want me to inscribe one for your dad on Father's Day for teaching you everything you know, it would be my privilege to do so, but really, I'd prefer if you just bought on Amazon, as that allows Amazon to do its "people who bought THAT also liked THIS" thing and for the book to grow some sales legs.
With the rise in 2002 values, we're seeing some changes. Nonetheless, the vintage BMW community in general and the 2002 community in particular remains the best car community I've ever seen in my life, with people eager to help newbies, whether its answering questions here or on Facebook, or stopping when they see a disabled 02 by the side of the road and ripping their trunk apart to find that spare condenser. It is my hope and belief that that incredible feeling that we have each other's backs won't change even as the demographics widen to include folks who don't know what a giubo or a long-neck rear end is.
It has been my privilege to be your Hack Mechanic, and my sincere hope that I have another 35 years of it in me.