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Balkanexpress BMW 523i


Why did we name it “Balkanexpress” and how it turned into my daily driver.

A few years back, me and a friend had the idea to participate in a scrap car rally. There are several such events in Europe, starting at different locations and going all sorts of routes.
The point is, to buy a car as cheaply as possible, and complete with it an apparently impossible road trip over thousands of miles and poorest road conditions and try to reach the finish line.
Much like one of the Top Gear challenges. Something we had to do sooner or later.

Now after some failures and problems, we finally got a starting number for one of these events this summer. The route led from Austria across multiple countries in eastern europe, all the way to the black sea
in Romania and Moldavia, going back at the Adria coast through Albania, Monenegro an Croatia. It was a trip of exactly 5500km from doorstep to doorstep. Within 10 days. Sounded like great fun to me!

So we set out to find us a suitable car.
The task was simple, as it seems…
Maximum budget: 500€
Minimum Age: 20 years.

The first thing we agreed on was to cheat. Sorry, it had to be done and it was totally worth it.
Honestly, 500€ would be possible in Austria, but only if you have a lot of time, waiting for the right car.
But we only had 3 weeks to find one.
So we agreed on 1000-1500€ to spend on our car, hoping to sell it afterwards again for about the same money…
Speaking to people who did this before we knew that almost no car at the start stayed beneath the
500€ budget, maybe with the price tag but not with repairs and preparations.
So we thought it might be a good idea, since we only had very little time, to buy a car in better condition so there is not much work to be done before the start.

There were some criterea we wanted the car to have:
-Air con, since its certainly going to be freaking hot outside
-Petrolengine …we hate diesel
-enough space for all kinds of stuff to carry with us

So after looking at some old Mercs, some better some worse, we decided to go and check out a BMW 523i.

After a very interesting “test drive” and haggling, we bought the car from some nice-ish serbian guys.
Since its purpose was to take us across the Balkan and because of the guys we bought it from, it bore the name “Balkanexpress” from this day on.

A short while later, with a car in somewhat questionable condition, multiple warning lights on the dash and all sorts of worrying noises, we set off to our trip. What could possibly go wrong?

what a beautiful place Transylvania is

Top Gear viewers might recognize.

…surprisingly, nothing at all!
Our 5 series took us through some of the worst roads and conditions, eastern europe could throw at us. From torrential rainfalls and mud in Transylvania to unbearable heat and dust at the Adriatic sea,
the car did it all with ease and let us sit there in comfort to watch landscape and cities go by.
It proved to be a car capable of crawling through muddy, rural roads in the rain aswell as sitting on the motorway for 8 hours doing 180 to 200 kmph with an outside temperature of 38C.

9 Days and over 5000km later we were home again. Shortly after, my personal car died with a complete engine failure (my advice: stay away from Range Rovers…!!!), so our Balkanexpress is going to
stay with me for some more time, even if this was not planned.

So this is the story of my cheap-ish BMW and I shall see how it will continue…