Like most kids in Southern California, Mike Burger grew up surrounded by an omnipresent car culture, and he was on track to be a true car guy from an early age—a very early age. As a fidgety three-year-old, he managed to slide the car keys out of his mother’s hand while she waited in line at the Irvine post office, and he not only managed to start her Chevy Caprice but to back it out of its parking space—hitting a postal truck in the process—and to get a block down the road before terror struck and he jammed the gear selector into Park. Even though he’d done little damage—early ’70s Irvine consisted mainly of strawberry fields, and the post office was a trailer on blocks—the punishment was severe.
To Burger, it still seems justified.
“I put my mom through hell!” he says.
The incident didn’t dim his enthusiasm, and in later years he pestered his mom to take him to every car show possible. While he was in college—and old enough to drive legally—he picked up a Bavaria from a nearby BMW collector, glad to get a cool vintage BMW for a very low price. On the way home, however, he noticed the unmistakable smell of fuel in the cabin. Pulling the E3 over, he saw a pool of gasoline under the car. Opening the hood revealed a stream of fuel pouring from an opening in one of the Zenith carbs, an especially alarming sight given that Burger had just finished a cigarette. He realized he’d narrowly avoided a conflagration, and after limping home on one carburetor he swore he’d never drive a BMW again.
From skeptic to convert
Fast-forwarding a few years finds Burger working in the sales department at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Newport Beach, where he saw a BMW that made him rethink that decision. The car was a Z8 traded in for a new Roller, and Burger came away amazed after taking it out for a drive.
“I couldn’t believe the workmanship and attention to detail,” Mike recalls. “It was one of the only cars I’ve driven recently that compared in fit, finish and driving experience to the Rolls-Royces that I sell. I was instantly a BMW fan again.”