- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2001

When Dr. James Sprague gets around to writing his autobiography the shortest chapter will be titled: "New cars that I have purchased."
His first and last new car is one and the same, a 1970 BMW 2800CS.
During his student days he had inherited a well-worn family hand-me-down, which happened to be a BMW. He was pleased with virtually every aspect of the car so when he was in a position to buy his first and last new car the decision of what to get was easy.
He was living in Colorado 30 years ago when he decided to combine pleasure with more pleasure. He flew to Germany and bought his new BMW at the factory in Munich. It carried a price of $8,517 when new.
From the factory he motored westward for some skiing in the French Alps.
From there it was on across France to the port at LeHavre where the car was shipped to Baltimore while he flew on ahead.
The openness of the cabin was what attracted him to the car. "The cutting edge design," he said, got to him.
The 192-horsepower output of the 2.8-liter engine was a plus as well since it has only to propel 2,990 pounds of BMW.
Back in the United States Dr. Sprague took the sleek hardtop coupe to Colorado. As assignments changed he moved to Atlanta and then Chicago before the Washington area beckoned in 1984.
"It was my daily driver until 1978," he said. After that he got another car to share in the daily grind.
During his days in Colorado and Chicago he discovered a great truism: "It's very bad in snow."
He ran the BMW until well after 200,000 miles had been recorded, then the odometer broke. During that time the car was repainted twice, the upper end on the engine overhauled and a new clutch installed. The handsome interior was also reupholstered in the same leather and fabric as it was when new.
BMW manufactured the sporty 2800CS model from 1968 to 1971 during which time 6,900 rolled out the factory door.
The roof is supported by exceedingly slender A and C pillars. The flow-through ventilation system exhausts cabin air through a port in the C pillar. The port is virtually invisible because of the BMW emblem positioned over it.
Those gracefully slender roof supports are what eventually doomed the car because it could not meet safety rollover standards imposed by the United States.
Visibility, however, is better only in a convertible with the top down.
The driver settles into the snug bucket seat and notices in the rosewood-trimmed dashboard the 150 mph speedometer next to the tachometer with a red line at 6,200 rpm. Those are but a couple of subtle clues that this BMW is built as much for go as it is for show.
Dr. Sprague can attest to a recorded speed of 128 mph. Front disc brakes and drum brakes at the rear can bring the car to a smooth and steady halt.
The car, built on a 103-inch wheelbase, draws its dynamic attractiveness from the fact that it is about 3 1/2 times as long as it is tall. The racy silhouette is 53 inches high while the bumper-to-bumper length is 15 feet, 3 1/2 inches. Helping to lower the car are the 195/70 R14-inch tires.
Typical of the era in which it was built the bumpers are fitted with rubber inserts. Above the front bumper is, as sure as the sun rises in the east, the BMW twin grille and above that the long hood, which is adorned with 21 chrome-tipped louvers on each side of the center line.
Although the cabin is snug the designers made the most of every square centimeter of space. Knobs to operate the wing vents are virtually flush with the door panels. The top of the dashboard is hollowed out to form a tray of sorts. Nice touches like that are to be found throughout the BMW.
In 1998 Dr. Sprague had his BMW 2800CS restored.
Since restoration he has discovered his car can still deliver fuel economy ratings in the mid-20s mpg range, not bad for a car with nearly 250,000 miles under its valve cover.
Although the BMW was out of commission for quite a period Dr. Sprague found he was right at home in the familiar cockpit.
The two steering column stalks operate differently than on modern cars. The right one activates the turn signals and the left stalk flashes the headlights in the best European tradition.
Of course, these details were common knowledge to Dr. Sprague. After all it is his first new car.


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