On the face of it, a book by James Ruppert on the subject of German cars from the 1980s is always going to be of interest to PetrolBlog. The Bangernomics Bible has already inspired me to purchase the PetrolBlog Shed and I’ve got a long standing love affair with cars from the 1980s, particularly those from Germany, France and Italy. So you would hopefully excuse the mild excitement when I got my hands on a copy and clapped eyes on the cover, resplendent in the colours of the German flag and featuring an E30 BMW convertible.
The book sets out to prove that in the 1980s, German cars ruled and “every other car made anywhere else in the world was rubbish”. Few people are better placed to deliver such a verdict than James Ruppert. Not only is he the nation’s leading expert on used cars but he also spent 18 months selling BMWs from the prestigious West London dealership on Park Lane. During that time he got up close and personal with BMWs old and new, as well as numerous part exchanges and competitor vehicles.
The clever thing about ‘The German Car Industry: My Part In Its Victory’ is that it tells two stories in one. In the main, the book works like an encyclopedia of German cars from the ’80s, occasionally dropping back to relevant history and sometimes dipping a toe in the ’90s. There’s naturally a BMW bias, but if you’ve got a thing for old school Mercs, Audis and Porsches, you’ll find something of interest here. Even if you think you know it all, I guarantee there’ll be something new in the book for you.
But there’s also another layer to the cake and that’s James Ruppert’s own career as a BMW salesman. From the interview right through to the day James left to pursue a new creative career, the whole experience is relayed in a humorous, lighthearted and engaging manner. Some of the personal stories are the stuff of legend, like the time wasting gentleman called Mr Hart who took a 635CSi up the Mall at 100mph. Or the father who was buying a 320i for his daughter. James tried to convince the buyer to opt for a sunroof, to which the customer replied;
“Mr Ruppert, if she had the roof open, boys could dive inside”
He was apparently deadly serious! There are also references to the celebrities who came into the Park Lane showroom to purchase a new BMW. The dealership ran a no discount policy, so even the likes of ’80s charmer Nigel Havers failed to get any money off. In fact, he actually arrived wanting a 6 series, but once he realised that his budget wouldn’t stretch far enough, he settled on a black 323i. His charm must have paid off though, as he did managed to get a free Blaupunkt radio. James must have been having a good month of sales.
In truth, it’s the personal layer that sets this book apart from others on the same subject. It creates a unique backdrop to the serious content and in true Ashes to Ashes style, actually takes you back to the ’80s. Little touches like ending each chapter with a reference to a particular song helps to create the illusion that you’ve gone back in time nearly 30 years. Nicely done.
But James Ruppert’s encyclopedic knowledge of German cars is a reason why you’ll keep this book on the shelf and keep coming back to it for reference. By delving back to the genesis of the German car industry, the book provides a great understanding of why the likes of BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Porsche are considered to be the cream of the prestige car sector. It is amazing to go back to the early ’80s where Audi was still finding its feet and the remember the original ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ TV advert. The choice of Geoffrey Palmer as the voiceover was a masterstroke.
On numerous occasions, James uses a phrase along the lines of ‘without getting too technical’. He then goes on to explain a technical complexity in layman’s terms, although at times I was still quite perplexed! He does a very good job of explaining BMW’s Z-axle and cutting through BMW’s own words of ‘central point guided, spherical, double suspension arm and even at point the central pull rod axle’. James also introduced me to what could be the longest word in the German language – dreikugelwirbelwannenbrennraum. Amazingly, this was used in US advertising for the BMW Bavaria and roughly translates to three ball swirl combustion chamber. Quite.
I could go on, but you really should experience the book for yourself. A little word of warning though – this book could seriously damage your wealth. On numerous occasions I found myself putting the book down and heading for eBay in search of a car I’d either forgotten or chose to park at the back of my mind. The E30 BMW has gone up even further in my estimation and I want a Touring more than ever. I also quite fancy a Mercedes 190E 2.3-16 Evolution and a BMW M5, preferably an E34 or E28. The list goes on.
So do yourself a favour. Switch off the TV, (there’s never anything decent on), and pick up a copy of the book. Schnell!
You can purchase the book directly from James here.