Admittedly at the time I thought this was okay, as the 850 T5 was still around, and Rickard Rydell was halfway to winning the then mega-glamorous BTCC. But I still wished he had gone for the BMW; I had fallen in love with its unfussy, blocky-yet-smooth shape, and the allure of its creamy straight six. I was also taken with the fact that it was a faster sprinter than its saloon brother: my memory tells me 0-60 figures of 6.1secs versus 6.4secs, though I can only find the figures for the saloon (part of a five-star Autocar road test, no less).
When our own classified admin guru Rusty-C forwarded me the advert as a potential SOTW, I very nearly asked him to delete the ad (I didn't of course - that would be grossly unethical). It just felt like exactly the car I'd been looking for. It was Boston Green, it had the alloys I remember seeing in the magazine road tests (lovely, delicate 10-spoke jobs), it had beige leather. Heck, it even had dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors. This was a car that cost more than £26k when it was new - and probably beyond £30k with all the option boxes ticked - being offered for £995.
I definitely had to see it. There followed a weekend of nervousness as I tried - but failed - to get in touch with the vendor. Eventually I managed it, and Mr Will and myself trundled over in the PH Landie to take a look.
The car we were presented with, however, was not quite the cherished high-miler I had imagined. The lacquer was peeling off the paintwork in a few places, there were more than a few scratches (including a touched-up key line all the way down one side), and there were two chunky dents, one in each rear door. I felt a bit deflated.
A quick spin around the block cheered me up still further. The engine seemed smooth and solid, the five-speed auto responsive, and the steering and suspension felt fresh and free of suspicious knockings. I was pretty much smitten.
Then we looked at the history. This revealed a string of service stamps, and all the old MOTs. It also revealed the fact that the odometer is currently reading a thousand or so miles fewer than it did when it was MOT'd last September. Ah.
So I am now the proud owner of a scruffy, 14-year-old BMW of dubious mileage. Is it clocked? Probably. Could it have been a typo at the MOT station or simply a dicky mileometer? Maybe.
I don't care, really - because I think it's brilliant. And I've been in plenty of 200k-mile-plus cars, and this doesn't feel like one. Besides, as the vendor rightly pointed out, if you were going to clock it, wouldn't you just 'misplace' the incriminating MOT certificate?
Advert reproduced below:
BMW 328I TOURING AUTO SUPERB (1997)
140,000 miles £995
BOSTON GREEN METALLIC WITH OATMEAL LEATHER TRIM , SPOKED FACTORY 16 INCH ALLOYS WITH NEW TYRES ICE COLD AIR CON. POWER WINDOWS, MIRRORS, LOCKS, ON BOARD COMPUTER , PARKINGSENSORS , SWITCHABBLE AUTO , DUAL AIRBBAGS , SECURITY SCREENS.