When my 1987 5 Series E28 was new, its first owner could have created a mixtape to keep in the car that captured the spirit of the day. This cassette player is long gone, even the supposed “original stereo” that arrived in a rotten box in its trunk is an aftermarket CD player head unit from the mid 90s. But the new head unit is featuring Bluetooth audio, so the spirit of the best 1987 mixtapes lives on in modern form: almost every time I drive my 535i, I hit a decent six-hour streaming playlist made for the car.
“Correct period” is a rather vague term. In this case, it’s a selection of music I listen to that would have been on rotation if I was the original owner of the car. That means late punk and post-punk stuff from the early 1990s through to pop that goes all the way to the early 1990s. The overall goal here is to build around the music you might find in a movie adjacent to John Hughes where Judd Nelson drives a similar car to a ski resort to spite John Cusack.
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I’ve embedded the playlist for the E28 above to give you an idea of the purpose here, but it can be applied to any car. I’m currently working on one for my new daily driver, a 2010 E63 AMG, which mostly encompasses 2008-2014 alternative and hip hop. Before it sold under me (and two weeks after the seller and I agreed on an out-of-the-box price), I had designed a Giorgio Moroder heavy e-playlist for a Fiat X1/9 from 1979.
I realize most of the appeal of this is lost if you don’t enjoy any music that represents your car or don’t like listening to music on a long drive. If so, this advice is not for you! If none of these things are true, create a playlist!
As the histories of popular recorded music and car culture align pretty well, almost every car on the road should have an option. If your car has no way to connect a modern streaming device to its speakers, or speakers, you can simply wedge a Bluetooth speaker between the driver and passenger seats. I tested this method on a 1965 Citroen ID19; he may not have been able to handle drive 150 miles straight without changing the fuel filterbut it could contain exactly one working speaker.
For me, this has proven to be a much better way to match the tone of my music to my commuting goals, rather than trying to find new tracks or albums every time I get in the car. In a time before streaming, mixtapes were a great way to show someone you cared. Doesn’t your classic car, your project car or your pile of various German alloys deserve the same treatment?
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