Last Night a Telephone Saved My Life…

BMW 850 CSi green
An 850 CSi. Not boring.

I’ve recently decided, after years of resistance, to change the telephone system at Munich Legends. We are moving to something called VOIP, which – for those of you who aren’t deeply into telecoms – is where your calls are sent in the same technical way as your emails (packet switching), the switchboard is effectively in the cloud, and the calls are more or less included for free in a low, fixed, monthly amount. So, why did I resist, you may ask? Well, I ran a telecoms company in a past life, and VOIP was a disruptor. It basically killed our margins. I happily sold my company, Voicecom, before VOIP took over the world, but it was the arrival of this technology that finally left me feeling I had to get out. So, to admit that my old enemy has finally won, took a long time – but I have to tell you: it’s been cathartic.

Its been cathartic because it’s reminded me of how much I hated my old job. How much I hate telecoms. How utterly dull the whole affair is. And it reminded me how lucky I am to finally be doing something I love. Also my phone bill is much lower.

It is something that comes up often – usually on an ‘enthusiastic’ road test – a customer will say something to the tune of ‘it’s a tough job you’ve got, isn’t it’? I smile, whilst trying desperately not to look smug, which is difficult – because they’re right, and its obvious. They say to be an effective seller of cars, one has to be dispassionate. They are lumps of metal. Bits of stock. You can’t afford to get emotional. But I think that’s utter nonsense.

At a specialist like Munich Legends, you have to love what you do. If you don’t, people will simply not enjoy discussing their passion with you. They’ll go elsewhere. But, to be fair, in this job, if you can’t enjoy yourself, there’s something missing up there. Allow me to give you an example.

A gentleman called recently with an 850csi he wanted to sell after 20 years of ownership. Now already I’m interested – they made a paltry 160 in RHD, making it one of the lowest ever production runs from BMW, and good ones that don’t need a fortune invested in them, are rare indeed. Moreover, the car was previously owned by Laura Davies, the one-time #1 women’s professional golfer in the world. I was intreagued.

That afternoon, another gentleman walked into the showroom and enquired about acquiring an 8 series for his collection – ideally an 840ci sport…you can see where this is going. The 850csi was looking like it may be something of a project, so in terms of price, not that far out of budget. Arrangements were made for my buyer to return as soon as the 850csi arrived, and a few days later, barely an hour after I saw the car for the first time, we agreed a deal, and a plan to get the car back into top order. ‘What’s the history like?’ he asked. I replied that I hadn’t had a chance to go through it – perhaps he’d join me and we’ll look together?

As we sat down and opened the huge box file, our mouths dropped open. Aqua blue metallic was a BMW special order, one of 16 850csi examples worldwide in this colour. Included in the documentation was, amongst other things, the original bill of sale. The detail of how the car was spec’d is a collector’s dream come true. With a base price of £66,000 – in 1993, mind – the special extras took this car to a whopping £95,597, and they even kept the schematic showing every single piece of interior trim or seat component or panel, and what colour it would be. On it went – and to say we were both fascinated would be an understatement.

By the time we’d finished, I knew I’d made a serious, grown man feel like a kid at Christmas. I’d found my seller a buyer within an hour of dropping his car off, at full asking price. I’d earned my commission, sure, but I’d also made a new friend.

And when I look back over the last year, I suppose you could say that story plays out again and again. I spend all day talking to responsible adults that I know run successful businesses, and there they are, skiving an accounts meeting to talk to me about M3 CSLs. Some of these guys run their business, it seems, almost solely so they can spend their spare time and money on cars. There’s almost an unspoken, conspiratorial element to it, where we know we’re being naughty, but we don’t care.

One serial car nut recently bought himself an E46 M3, and asked me if I could also keep the car in our storage facility. ‘My wife doesn’t know’ he told me, sounding like a little boy who’d nicked a bag of boiled sweets ‘but I’ll just tell her its better than me having an affair’.

The fact is, we’re in a dream business, and we’re in the business of selling dreams. I know, because I’ve been there myself – lying there in bed, unable to sleep because tomorrow, my latest car arrives. The innocent, childlike joy of starring out of the kitchen window at that shiny new toy, just like I did when I got my first bike, aged nine. That never happened with telephones.

So when I get grumpy because a car won’t do what its told, or someone’s late for work, or a customer doesn’t turn up, I’m going to look at my new telephone system and I’m going to smile. And I’m going to say to myself, thank you VOIP technology…you saved my life.

Dan Norris, Straight Six Magazine by BMW Car Club GB (March 2022 issue)

Straight Six Magazine March 2022