100 years of BMW. 1,000 BMW classics. The BMW Festival in Munich celebrated the enjoyment of car driving and motorcycle riding under the brightest of sunshine. Clubs from every corner of the world travelled to Bavaria to sing the brand’s praises at the foot of the Olympic Stadium. Rare classics, meticulously restored historics and well-preserved models of more recent vintage put on an extraordinary spread, while famous faces and show acts ensured the smiles of the crowd grew broader still.
An average BMW 2002. There are finer examples here, some spotless ones even. But this license plate does rather grab the attention: Louisiana 2002tii. Ever since Columbus decided to hammer it home, we’ve all known that a fair amount of water separates the “new world” (Louisiana et al) from the old. So hauling man and machine all this way can’t be something one does lightly. But Louisiana 2002tii is far from the only intrepid long-distance traveller at this gathering of the stars – plates from Florida and Texas also catch the eye. Naturally enough, there are also cars and bikes here from most of Europe, even such exotic-sounding outposts as Estonia and Moldova. The light that burns in the eyes of their custodians on these brand occasions is truly international, a unifying force indeed.
A club as a second home.
Anybody who has looked after and restored an old car will have come across a brand club at some point in their journey. After all, here you will find handy assistance and advice in spades, not to mention a ready supply of new friends. What could be more satisfying than solving a problem together, then sitting down to chat the day or night away? It didn’t take BMW long to build up a cult following, and the brand’s growing community of fans helped it through the dark times. Today, those enthusiasts are spread over hundreds of clubs around the world, each a little special in its own right. In China and Australia, New Zealand and Canada, Germany and its European neighbours, the spirit of BMW lives on.
Show and shine.
The large show stage, with its multimedia wall, formed the centrepiece of the festival. Here, the sounds of Bavarian came loud and proud, backed up by a blast of modern rock here and there. Ulrich Knieps, Head of BMW Group Classic came together with Maximilian Schöberl, Head of Corporate Communications at the BMW Group, to welcome the guests. His personal dream car? The legendary 328 pre-war sportster. Away from the office, Knieps drives an M Roadster, in essence a 328 in modern drag. Schöberl winds the clock forward a little from the 328’s heyday for his particular favourite: the 507. And then there’s the Isetta, as loveable as ever, here in droves and even represented in trailer and pick-up form. You’d be hard pushed to find a smaller pick-up. And you certainly won’t set eyes on a cuter one.
Names to conjure with.
There were plenty of familiar figures at the Festival, all with a ready story or two about their own experiences with BMW. German actor and eco-worrier Hannes Jaenicke is a passionate biker and gets out on the road when he can – in his adopted USA, among other places. On his GS traffic jams present no significant obstacle, which comes in handy in L.A. But then again, the GS would also be your bike of choice if you were planning an expedition from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.
Motorcycle legend Helmut Dähne once set the lap record in the Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man, tearing around 60 kilometres of tight and perilous country roads. Dähne waxed lyrical about the BMW R90S, for him the finest of all BMW motorcycles.
Famous designer Harm Lagaay, meanwhile, mused over the challenge of predicting the tastes of the future. As the man behind the Z1, it’s clear he met that challenge in impressive style. The long line of Z1s in Munich were testament to the size of the fan club built up by the sporting roadster over the years.
Legends of the road.
So suddenly BMW had turned 100 years old. Wondrous cars of the calibre of a BMW 327 Cabriolet and 328 Roadster drew up alongside legendary icons like the 503 and 507 to mark the milestone. Diminutive Isettas, 600s and 700s – all of them left a trail of grinning admirers. Heavy motorcycles from back through the decades made quite an impression, too. 02s and CSLs, M5s and Tis, if you ever dreamt about a BMW when you were a kid, here were those heroes now, in the warm light of a late summer’s day. And here also was the chance to chat with people who had shared that dream, but also made it come true.
The radiant presence of still youthful-looking BMWs from the 1980s and 90s underlines the enduring fascination of the brand. One era merged into another at the BMW Festival, and many of the club members present own several examples of BMW’s work. Their pride as they told their stories was almost tangible. Pride in their brand.
The verdict .
It was a truly great festival and there certainly won’t be another one like it for a while. To Munich they flocked: 33,000 visitors, 2,500 active contributors to the international BMW club scene. The longest journey was covered by the members of the Vintage Car Club of America. Sometimes, Sheer Driving Pleasure is best sampled over a marathon rather than a sprint.
Over to Ulrich Knieps: “What we’ve experienced here is car and motorcycle history brought to life. No archive, no museum and no history book could ever do this; only a community without parallel worldwide, brought together by the boundless passion for sheer motoring pleasure, could pull it off.”
He summed it up perfectly.