This wasn’t the first time I’d opted for European delivery. In fact, after counting all the license plates I’d collected from these international adventures, I discovered I was on my eighth visit. Normally, when my wife learns I want to go to Stuttgart or Munich, she digs in her proverbial heels. So I had to package my automotive connection with a week in Paris. I made the arrangements to pick up a BMW 335 at the Munich factory. Here’s how the deal went down…
My local BMW dealer booked my order, and then faxed my specifications and delivery date to the Fatherland. After factory approval, I filled out some simple forms, made a copy of my passport and faxed ze paypaz to Germany. In exchange, I received a five percent discount off the U.S. list price (the dealer is free to discount further). Done.
European rental cars are dull and expensive; figure that’s another $2k saved. Oh, and you also get to ignore the break in period and drive as fast as you dare on unrestricted segments of the Autobahn. As the MasterCard voice-over guy says, priceless.
As this was my fourth visit to BMW’s Munich HQ in two years, the staff treated us like old friends (i.e. they treated us with a certain awkward formality that would have instantly disappeared whilst imbibing local beer in a neighborhood rathskeller). After signing the inevitable insurance form (the European delivery package includes two weeks of “free” insurance), my hosts demonstrated a raft of electronic features I’ll never use, handed a picnic lunch and wished a safe journey.
Our first destination: the Rhine River, about 300 miles distant. As we were motoring during harvest time, I wanted to stop en route to let my wife could experience Federweisser. That’s the German wine made from the first press of the grapes (like Beaujolais but nowhere near as frivolously named), traditionally served with a kind of onion quiche.
We stopped at the first decent looking town along the Neckar river: Bad Wimpfen. Meine Deutsch was good enough to accomplish the task at hand. Our appetites sated, we spooled-up the twin turbos and headed to Stromberg for Johann Lafer’s reknowned kitchen.
Cruising at 110mph on the Autobahn, you soon realize why German car makers couldn’t give a rat’s ass about cup holders. Who’s got time for coffee when the slightest mistake would take a half mile to conclude.
We arrived just before dark, just in time to unclench my hands from the wheel and freshen up for dinner. Our room was in an old castle tower, three stories tall, on the hotel’s third floor. For those of you keeping track, the bedroom was five floors from the restaurant. Excessive consumption of wine was… problematic. Fortunately, I was served the finest steak I’ve ever eaten (from Austria, no less) and, um, rabbit.
The next day we crossed into Luxembourg. I was only able to average 24 mpg in Germany. Restricted to a maximum of 80mph, I achieved closer to 30 mpg. Good thing too, since fuel cost upwards of seven bucks a gallon.
I wanted to go to Luxembourg, if only because I don’t know anyone who’s been there. We enjoyed a world class museum designed by I.M. Pei (not I. R. Baboon) and flaming garlic shrimp (Portuguese style) from Chez Bacano. Our third day included a jaunt across Eastern France, with pit-stops at Nancy and Metz, before settling in for the night outside of Reims.
I enjoyed the three finest glasses of wine of the entire trip: a 1999 Deutz Blanc de Blancs Champagne, a 2003 Puligny Montrachet and a 1999 Phelan Segur Bordeaux. My wife, who does not drink, savored every last drop of the Bordeaux. Of course, three or more ducks relinquished their livers for our gluttonous gustatory satisfaction.
The next morning we drove to the Charles De Gaulle airport to drop off the 335 at the shipper: TT Car Transit (easily located by Terminal 3). Unfortunately, the gentleman who normally handles my paperwork was delayed in traffic. As I had a plane to catch, his assistant located the Main Man via cell. He talked all three of us through the procedure.
Six signatures later, I removed the front license plate as a memento of the experience, handed over one of the car keys and let the nice lads at TT whisk us off to my departure terminal. Six weeks later, I picked up my ride, safe and sound, at my local dealer.
If you’re leasing your new Bimmer, you get one free month; so you pay for the car without possessing it for a couple of weeks. If you pay cash, payment in full is required 30 days prior to pick up. The warranty expires in four years, but the memories last forever.