Off to meet the Stig

TopGear006_4998446b1dc24-lightboxWorking from home freed me from my company’s tyrannical internet restrictions and allowed me to regularly check the M Coupe forum I belong to: www.z3mcoupe.com. On this particular morning a fellow forum member who had recently bought his Coupe, after getting some advice from some of the more experienced members, decided to repay this favour by offering some tickets to go to his work for the first dozen or so members who added their name to a list.  Wow some bloke’s work I hear you wonder – did I mention that this chap worked for a certain automotive TV show on BB2?

I quickly added my name and successfully bagged a ticket to TopGear!

Once I got the ticket in the post and it was all confirmed, I entered full-on 10 year old mode, literally counting the days until me and another eleven Coupes went to play at Dunsfold Aerodrome, home to the indestructible Toyota pickup, several reasonably priced Chevrolet Lacettis and the Stig.

The day arrived and I set off down the M40 with a Cheshire Cat-like grin; I had arranged to meet three fellow Coupe owners just off junction 4. From there, we were to convoy down to Guildford to meet the rest of the lucky forum members.

I was pretty excited when I saw the first mini collection of Coupes as I’ve only seen two others Coupes on the road the whole time I’ve had mine, but I knew that this was just a quarter of the eventual convoy.

After a brief, rather rapid at times, trip round the M25 we pulled in to a Happy Chef to meet the rest of our associates. There waiting for us were another three Coupes, so we exchanged pleasantries and started talking about all things M Coupe, soon comments like “nice exhaust” and “cool wheels” were flying round left, right and centre. I know this is geeky but if you’re going to be geeky about a subject, the BMW M Coupe is a fine choice.

Over the next hour five more Coupes turned up with a variety of modifications, suspension setups and even a few left in stock condition, like mine. After everyone had a good look at everyone else’s cars, the pack took to the road like a scrambled Spitfire squadron. The convoy began its journey down the dual carriageway and was soon met by lots of pointing and waving from onlookers. You could see people going, “Ooh, there’s two cars which are the same, no wait there’s three, four, five, six, errrr…” Seeing an M Coupe on the road is a rarity but to see twelve spread out across all the lanes of the road just looked amazing and it felt pretty cool to be part of the parade.

We snaked our way through Surrey, with the occasional dash for fun thrown in, and continued to get lots of attention from onlookers. I’m not sure if it was all complimentary as some of the Coupes were fitted with pretty loud exhausts and it must have sounded like a swarm of giant hornets as we passed through countless small villages. The Beemer hot rod is not a quiet car to start with but the addition of a sports exhaust makes it really, really loud. After thirty minutes of convoy fun we were in the queue to enter Dunsfold Aerodrome.

Once we were inside, we all parked up next to the famous track and again geek talk began in earnest, with comments like, “bl**dy hell, your’s is loud” and complaints about the bumpy back roads we’d taken to avoid the queues. The M Coupe is pretty stiffly sprung but a lot of the forum members have theirs set up super-stiff like Go Karts which must make bumpy roads feel like driving over a ploughed field.

After about twenty minutes, the doors were pulled back and we entered the TopGear studio. I felt like a little boy at Christmas entering Santa’s grotto. The floor manager gave us the usual health and safety rant then introduced Jeremy, James and Richard to much applause.

The show we saw being recorded was the one where they built limousines out of cars like Fiat Pandas and MG’s. The studio filming takes about 4 & 1/2 hours but it flies by as it is sooo much fun being in the audience. The presenters were on top form and were absolutely hilarious with lots of off-air jokes which would not be allowed on a network as prestigious as the BBC. At the tea break in the middle of the shoot we had a chat with the chap who had got us the tickets and found out which item was being filmed next. This allowed us to get on the front row and yes, I was on telly…for about ½ a second!

When the filming was complete the M Coupe Squadron disbanded to head back to their respective hangers and again I convoyed north with two others. On the way back we were able to have a bit of fun with a new Porsche Cayman and once again proved that our nine year old cars can still mix it with the latest performance machinery and in this case even outpace them.

When I got home I reflected on a truly excellent day, and was just so thankful that I’d stuck with the BMW M Coupe after writing the first one off. It just continues to deliver fun and good times like this in spades and is civilised enough to use every day.

In the next Entry the Coupe heads to the capital for some Tunnel Run madness and meets up with a certain Mr Yu.

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Julian Munford