My Name is Mart Jaama

I’m Mart Jaama:

The early years.

I became BMW Car Club of America member #54 in October 1969.  The club started and was based in Boston at that time. How did I become a member? I was pumping gas midweek at 1am. I was working on a new BMW 2002 and another 2002 that was driving by makes a screeching U-turn and pulls up to next me at the gas station. Both drivers exchanged their salutations and carried on about their cars for a long time. At that time BMWs were extremely rare If were an owner, and if you saw another one, you didn’t just flash lights as a high sign to the other driver.  You both would probably would get out of the cars, jumping up and down with excitement, to meet another deranged BMW owner. In the 60’s this was big event when BMW’s were rare to see on the street. That night decided, then and there, that a BMW was the car of my dreams.

My dad said he would help me buy my first car, not counting a Triumph TR3 I bought with a friend for the summer, which is another long story. I had to work hard to convince him to let me buy a new 1969 BMW 2002. He thought it would be too slow. He believed a car should be able to have power and go fast. You see, this was the Detroit “Muscle Car” era! The big V8 power-house motors were the craze. After months working to convince him, showing him articles and talking my head off, he finally decided to help me buy my first BMW. I must have done a great job convincing him because he bought one of the first 6 cylinder BMWs. It was a 2800 sedan and was a package deal with my 2002. He got a great deal on the 2800 because Hoffman Motors had a deal with the other BMW dealers at that time. Sell a 2500 or 2800 and your quota of the hot selling 2002’s would be increased. At that time, BMWs were only imported by Hoffman Motors, they had a deal with BMW in Germany. There was no BMW, NA in the United States to import cars from Germany. The result was now I was the proud owner of my first, of many, BMW’s. That’s why and when I became a member of BMWCCA.

My first BMW love was white with blue interior. The only option was a dealer installed AM radio. No power anything. No air-conditioning.  It came equipped with tiny 165 x 13 tires.  This was the first year of smog controls, which kept the car from performing as designed. With help from members of the fledging BMWCCA that was taken care of quickly by removal of the smog pump and drilling out the main jet in the carburetor. The car ran much better with that small modification. There was no smog checking at that time with total reliance on the car manufacture. Smog controls were a band-aid and were designed by companies to comply with the new government regulations.

Rallying was popular on the east coast and I got very involved. Eventually I found out that my car needed some improvements in the suspension and brakes. I did some investigation and I then found Alpina in Germany that had aftermarket parts for the BMW. I wrote them to request their catalog which contained very limited items. After looking over the catalog, I decided to purchase Bilstein rally competition shocks, larger ventilated rotor brakes and a quick ratio steering box. It took over six months to get my order from Germany.  When I went to put on the rotors, not hard, the wheels wouldn’t fit over the new parts. Now I had an added problem, find wheels that did fit. Not an easy task in those days. I finally found some that fit if I filed the calipers a little. Next, I needed bigger tires, gigantic 185 x 13. Now a new problem, they rubbed the inside of the wheel well. So, with some carefully placed 2x4s I was able the flair the fenders just enough and have it look good. The improvements helped with my rallying as the stock brakes would fade with my driving style.

I drove in some heavy semi-professional rallies for a year. There was a Northeast all night rally series that started at around eight in the evening and finished the next morning at nine. Usually we went through several states and about 30 to 40 percent of the time we would be driving on dirt roads. That also proved to be the death of my first love. On a rainy night on a dirt road going a little too fast I found a very big and stout oak tree. With the abrupt stop, the headlights looked at each other, the hood was on the roof and the engine below the firewall. The good strong car crumpled as designed. My navigator and I were very lucky and escaped with only a few bruises.

The next week I bought another BMW 2002. And for the rest of the story…

Stay tuned, to be continued next month!!

~ Mart Jaama

Editor’s note: Mart will be the next president of the Sierra Chapter and is a charter member of the BMWCCA.