I’m excited to publish the first of a two part interview with Alex Palevsky, a very well known name in BMW enthusiast circles. Alex has been a contributing writer to Bimmer magazine since the magazine began in 1998.
In 2001 he and Regan Clark launched BMW M Registry, the definitive online information source on BMW’s most exciting vehicles. The site contains exact specifications for every M car produced by BMW, and thousands of M car owners have listed their vehicles on the site.
I’ll publish part two next week. Note to readers who know I drive a 1999 M3 — I had nothing to do with Alex mentioning that M model below, though I obviously agree strongly!
When did your love of cars and driving start?
I have been obsessed with cars since birth. I began collecting Matchbox and Hot Wheels as soon as I could speak, then that segued into collecting car magazines and car brochures around the age of four. Since my parents both drove Mercedes for much of my childhood, I guess I naturally tended to favor German cars from the beginning, though I always had a special affection for BMW.
I finally convinced my father to trade in his E-class for a 1985 635CSi when I was 12 and that only fueled my affection for the marque. Though I would have loved to have had an E30 3 Series in high school, my first car was actually an A2 VW Jetta GLI.
What led you and Regan to conceive and launch BMW M Registry?
I met Regan Clark in 2000 when we used his immaculate E28 M5 for a Bimmer magazine article. We instantly clicked since we both share a passion for intensely researching the history of BMW M and its products, and we often lamented the fact that there was no single resource on the web that compiled all known factual information on BMW M automobiles.
Back then, most of the information about BMWs on the Internet was very incomplete and/or riddled with errors, so we wanted to create some kind of central repository of information that anyone could access and that would contain only verifiable facts about BMW M, not just the same misinformation that we’d seen printed over and over again throughout the years.
In addition, we were both obsessed with tracking down the rarest, cleanest and lowest-mileage BMW M cars out there, which was becoming a lot easier to do thanks to the Internet. So we thought that also featuring a registry component to the site would allow any M Series owner in any country to share information about their car with other BMW M enthusiasts.
Though Stan Simm had already started to compile a list of M5 and M635/M6 owners who subscribed to his printed M Register newsletter, he kept that list private, which was of little use to the general public. We wanted a site that included all M cars ever produced and that also could be seen by anyone at any time.
What is the best driving experience you’ve ever had in a M car, and why?
That’s really hard to narrow down to a single experience. The many solo drives I took over the backroads of Marin and Sonoma counties in my old E36 M3 during the 1990s do immediately come to mind, probably because that was my first M Series BMW and it was so much better than any other car that I’d ever driven up to that point.
Though the E36 M3 is often over-looked these days, I still think that it is one of the very best BMWs of all time from a driver’s perspective, even nearly two decades after its introduction. Though obviously not nearly as powerful as later M3s, the E36 possessed a real sweetness to its character that just isn’t present in the newer models, which have grown much more capable but also quite a bit less involving to drive.
Aside from the E36, I guess I’d have to perpetuate the tired old cliché and say that the E30 M3 ranks right at the top of my list. Provided they are set up just right (which very few actually are), nothing beats an E30 M3 for sheer driving pleasure. It’s a car that takes full commitment from the driver to go fast, yet it’s so agile and light-footed that it almost dances in your hands.
It’s truly a shame that BMW will never build anything like the E30 M3 ever again, since I really think there is still a market for a boxy little rear-drive car with a low curb weight and a high-revving four-cylinder engine. BMW likes to claim that the 1 M Coupe recaptures that M3 spirit but it’s actually nothing at all like the E30 to drive, despite having its own unique appeal.
What cars do you own today?
I’ve had a number of BMWs and M cars over the decades, but the current stable is down to just an E30 M3, E34 M540i and E34 M5 Touring, as well as a couple of Porsches and an Audi S4 that I use as my daily driver.
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