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Men always go back to their first love: cars

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DAYTON, Ohio — It began innocently enough, as all flirtations do.

My husband had no intention of letting his affections stray elsewhere. It just . . . happened.

One minute Jim was cruising eBay with casual curiosity, and the next minute he was driving home a 1975 vintage BMW, similar to the model his dad owned when Jim was in high school.

Every so often he talked his dad into letting him drive that Golf yellow 1972 BMW 2002 to high school, and he'd feel like the coolest of the cool. His cruel father sold it in 1978, and he has been pining ever since.

It just goes to show, you never get over your First Love.

The wife is always the last to know. You ignore the subtle signs, the danger signals. And the next thing you know, your husband has spent your European vacation money on a car you are never ever, ever allowed to drive.

I'm one of those cretins who looks at cars purely as a means to get from one place to another. So I ignored the early warnings:

The way Jim started pointing out vintage cars to our son, Alec, when he was still in diapers: "Look, an old '57 Chevy . . . you don't see too many of those anymore."

Soon Jim had a willing young audience — make that apprentice — with whom he could sneak away to the occasional cruise-in or guys' getaway weekend at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky.

Jim never dreamed he could afford a classic car until he attended last year's British Car Day at Eastwood MetroPark, riding in style in our friend Dave Hafley's Triumph TR6. There he saw a "very cute MGB" on sale for $3,600 — before haggling. "I remember sitting in it fantasizing it was mine," Jim said. Dave found him blissed-out in the driver's seat. "You've caught the bug I see," he said.

Finally I agreed "in principle" that Jim could buy a classic BMW if he worked extra shifts to pay it off. With dizzying speed, I became the eBay Widow, as Jim looked at cars until he was glassy-eyed. He flirted with British cars — the Triumph and the MG — Alfa Romeos and Fiats, little two-door convertibles even I had to admit were cute. Such is the intoxicating madness of eBay that he even — gasp! — placed bids on a couple of cars, sight unseen.

In the end he kept coming back to his First Love. He needed that BMW 2002 like Romeo needed Juliet: "I loved cruising about in the one my dad owned — always clean, shiny and perfectly maintained. It just purred. I felt sort of denied something until I got one for myself."

He finally found the car of his dreams on the bimmers.com Web site. It was owned by a gentleman farmer in Athens, Ala., and we happened to be headed that way on vacation. A week later, the gentleman farmer delivered the Sahara tan BMW 2002 to our doorstep. Not long after that, the vanity plates arrived: BIMMR75.

When he climbs into his car, his smile wide and irrepressibly boyish, I can easily imagine he's 18 again. Except for that 12-year-old boy sitting beside him, his smile equally broad.

As midlife crises go, this one isn't so bad. Besides which, what choice did I have? No woman can ever compete with her husband's First Love.

Mary McCarty writes for the Dayton Daily News. E-mail her at mmccarty@coxohio.com

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