This modern car thing has gotten into my bloodstream.

Since July, when our 2004 Mercedes SL 55 AMG arrived, Bradley and I have put nearly 5,000 miles on it – including two trips to Montana. I hate to put this in writing, but so far, the car has behaved perfectly. It had 43,000 miles on it when it arrived and had just been serviced.

There is an amazing selection of depreciated 15-year-old sports cars. They can be bought in the $25,000 range.

The SL has 500 horsepower. I started looking at similar cars from other manufacturers with the same spec. My group of modern-car enablers quickly pointed out the 2005-2010 BMW M6. SCMer Peter Gleeson sent me a note how much he liked his M6 convertible, and recommended I try one.

Its V10 engine (a Bavarian Viper?) puts out 500 hp. Theoretically, with the M6 next to the AMG, I could have 1,000 horsepower in the garage for $50,000. That’s cheaper than buying a Veyron.

I was in the hunt.

I brushed aside questions from friends like, “What are you going to do with this car?” and “Why do you need two similar supercars.” SCM contributor and frequent BaT seller Alex Cartio pointed me to some useful YouTube videos.

Like the SL, M6s are plentiful in the used car market. I landed on a blue 2006 in Colorado, with 24,000 one-owner miles, for just $24,995.

The red mist kicked in. “OMG what a great color.” “I’m sure it’s rare.” “How will I ever find another one like this?” (Probably the same way I found this one, by typing “BMW M6 for sale” into Google.)

I even got a quote from a car hauler.

Then another friend sent me a note, “Be sure the rod bearings have been serviced.”

What?

Rod bearings? That’s not like fixing a power-window switch.

The BMW forums are full of highly opinionated posts, from “This isn’t really a problem if you let the car warm up properly before driving off,” to “This is a rare issue, these posts make it seem worse than it is.”

“Replacing the rod bearings is not a trivial job – IF you stop driving the before you bend the rods and ruin the block.”

Now my alarm bells were going off. When you play in the world of really expensive cars that are selling for less than 25% of their MSRP, you’re playing automotive Russian roulette. Maintenance and repairs are priced for a $125,000 car, not the $25,000 that you paid for it.

This means the $25,000 bargain M6 was only one bad rod bearing away from having $50,000 “invested” in it, and then it would still be worth $25,000. That’s the kind of collector car math I’m trying to avoid.

With the SL, the primary problem areas were the ABC (Active Body Control) pump and the hydraulic cylinders for the folding top. Both these items had been serviced on the car I bought, as verified by the VMI report the seller provided. Phrases like “destroy the block” never come up when discussing the SL.

I was reassured that most of the BMW rod-bearing problems show up after 50,000 miles (the distance at which your Hyundai is going in for its second service and is just getting broken in).

As I generally drive a specialty car less than 5,000 miles a year, I figured I could drive the M6 for four years, getting it to 45,000 miles and then selling it before the engine self-destructed. In other words, I would keep pulling the trigger every time I got into the car, hoping that there wasn’t an engine rebuild waiting in the chamber.

But I didn’t stop wanting the car. I emailed the selling dealer Sunday night asking if they had any evidence that the bearings had been serviced.

The return email saved me. “I’m sorry to report that the car is sold.”

With the blue car gone, my heartrate has slowed, and my red-mist adrenaline attack is passing.

I think I’ll look for something where the odds are more in my favor.

How about a 2010 Audi S8 with a W12 engine putting out 500 hp? What could possibly go wrong…

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  1. I think you may find that the S8 skews a bit more “sporting” than GT, if you get my drift. When you set out for Montana it’s entertaining – and holy cow the throttle response – but the tire noise and suspension settings may grow tiresome after a couple hundred miles. Your AMG is the plusher ride.

  2. I drive a 2008 MB SL 65 AMG now 13 model years old . I changed the fluid and filter on the ABC pump and it has eliminated the wooring sound . The car is trouble fee and the ride is enjoyable. Not a true sports car but a sensational grand touring vehicle . Very similar to your SL 55 .

  3. I stumbled across an Indianapolis Red 6 speed manual trans. M6 convertible (same color as your M6 photo above) a coupe of years ago. All those years I spent touring around in my (past) Mercedes convertible cars have washed away. M6 is Fast, comfortable and quick. The E64 gets all the attention in public even when not trying. My wife has done tours in our Porsche and Mercedes but according to her, the M6 is just as smooth and quiet. However I know she means “when you’re not going 120mph in 3rd gear”. In reality, the rod bearing service might have to be done with high miles ownership however, Porsche and Mercedes have got some services costing the same $ in their higher miles. Bottom line is the BMW M6 is way more fun to drive. To top it off, a full size 6 speed convertible with 500hp is rare car to own with only 378 ever built. Ever. Worldwide. Ever.

  4. Dang it, it’s so tough trying to buy a supercar that gets both all the looks and delivers the driving goods. I think I’ll stick with my 1967 E-Type. It’s leaking in the gearbox rear seal, which sounds like a really big job, but compared to the crazy expensive problems with these Bimmers, I think not. I’m ok.

    And nobody at a stoplight ever made a comment on a Bimmer. But with a Jaguar E-Type, you don’t want to be caught picking your nose anytime soon, because you’ll regret it when the pretty girls in the car next to you tell you their E-Type fantasies.

    Just sayin’…

  5. Keith , it is nice to know that someone as seasoned as you are and with many cars in the stable, still looks at these purchases from the common man’s viewpoint .