Words and Photos by George Pritchard
Each year, the BMW Car Club of Great Britain hosts the BMW Festival at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon. This year, it took place on Sunday 19th August, a gloriously sunny day in central England. The show grows in strength each year, with thousands of BMWs in attendance. 2012 celebrated BMW Car Clubs 60th anniversary, more the reason to make the Festival the largest and best yet.
Not only celebrating the Club’s 60 years of support and enthusiasm for the Bavarian manufacturer, each year the show has a certain theme. This year coincided with the celebration of 40 years of BMW Motorsport GmbH, thus, a vast display of M Power vehicles representing four decades of the marque’s motorsport history were on display. Founded in 1972, the 35-strong workforce began fettling with 200C/CS and the ///M car was born. Soon growing to 400 employees in the late 80s and still growing today, it has become an integral part of BMW’s market presence. The three stripes; blue, purple and red, representing the Bavarian flag in pale blue, and its connection with Castrol (although some may argue Texaco) with the red, blended together with a deep violet stripe. Whilst the story may be myth, those colours still live on today with every M Power car.
With BMW UK themselves in attendance again, bringing with them a showing of new and early models from their own collection, the enthusiasts filled the rest of the show ground with concours quality cars kept locked away in their garages year round and daily drivers used for the past 20 years by their first owners. Original classics from the small hatchback 1602s, 2002s, and E21s, to the large coupés of the E9s, E24s and E31s, and the luxury saloons in the E3s and E12s finishing with the very 80s Z1 roadsters. Future classics in the 3-series, E36s, E46s and E9Xs, even larger, more luxurious saloons with the 5 and 7-series. All of the ‘E’ designated models could be spotted somewhere.
However being a tribute to the four decades of the famous three striped ‘Motorsport’ subsidiary of BMW, there were cars on display still warm from the rubber thrown up off the tracks in the 70s when BMWs first racing project, the 3.0CSL, dominated the European Touring Car Championship in every year from 1975 to 1979. With the classic racing ‘Batmobile’ taking pride of place amongst these. The 3.0CSL was homologated in July 1973, and came with an aerodynamic package that not only donned the nickname ‘Batmobile’, but also featured a rear wing illegal on German roads stashed in the boot for installation after purchase. The aerodynamic package also included a larger air dam, and a spoiler above the trailing edge of the roof. Even the very first BMW Art Car produced was on show, a 3.0CSL painted by Alexander Calder in 1975.
Classic BMWs rarely get better than the E9 to many enthusiasts, though to some the E30 M3 is not only the best BMW but is arguably the best car manufactured, ever. Being true to its heritage, the successor to the 3.0CSL and M1 once again dominated motorsport winning two European Champions and DTMs in five years. And being a BMW Festival, celebrating the M Power range, you would not be disappointed in seeing various M3s dotted around the site. Classic racers with a solitary bucket seat and race-day tank fuelling systems, to vehicles that look cleaner than when they first rolled off the production line in 1986, right up to controversy modified ones, lower, louder and faster.
Although success in recent years for BMW may not be as great, do not forget that BMW Motorsport supplied the brilliant 6.1 litre V12 engine which can be found powering the McLaren F1, staying true to its supplier’s history enjoying plenty of racing success. The future for the most powerful letter in the world is still set to not disappoint fans, whilst the only factory teams competing are found in the American Le Man Series (ALMS) and Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) after pulling out for the Formula One in 2009 and the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) in 2010. The M3 DTM, in its first season back in 2012 recorded the first DTM win for BMW for 20 years in the second race of the season by Canadian driver Bruno Spengler at the Lausitzring circuit.
BMWs motorsport heritage has not only come from their own ‘in-house’ team, but also through the success of the ALPINA cars and their cult-like following amongst fans. ALPINA, to those not in the know, is a German automotive manufacturer who has worked closely with BMW since 1965. ALPINA is not a tuner, but independently produces their own line of vehicles based on BMWs. It is still overseen by its founder Mr Burkard Bovensiepen in a small town of Buchole, Germany where they have been since 1965. Named after Bovernsiepen’s father’s type writer company, their roundel featuring a crankshaft and carburetor emblem symbolising the importance of the engine to ALPINA. Their aim was to produce automobiles they felt missing from the BMW line. The close collaboration between BMW and ALPINA leads them to be the only company to work on engine and chassis development with BMW’s official approval.
Bringing the Festival to the present, trade stands lined the walls of the Motor Centre outside. Old, new, original or aftermarket parts strewn across the grass for purchase, discounted prices and one day only deals to entice those attending into purchasing. Auto-jumblers and internet stores, forum and club stands from each end of the country attended, filling a vast piece of the 65 acre grounds in the Warwickshire countryside. The ‘Club Shop’ run by BMW CCGB themselves with a tombola featuring prize donated by BMW UK and the traders themselves and M designed cupcakes was a highlight amongst the attendees.
Being an event for all, classic BMWs were not all on show. The new BMW 6-series was brought along by BMW, along with its ///M counterpart, the M6. Forum goers and club enthusiasts alike filled stands with automobiles from all eras, 80s, 90s, and 00s through to today’s cars. The entrance road lined with E46 M3s, each slightly different from the next, and the south side grass bank bursting with the E36 3-series of all shapes and sizes. Shark nosed 6-series accompanying the odd Z1, bizarrely styled with drop down doors typical of the 80s. Luxury saloons travelling from Europe for display, surrounding a solitary BMW Isetta, a single cylinder small car from the 50s when cheap motoring was needed after the war.
The Centre is built on the ground of Jaguar Land Rover Facilities, and the show was given permission to use their 3.7 mile emissions test track for owners to take their cars where they really belong, back to the track. 3 laps of the track were permissible under a paced procession, and, as the cars left the show ground the low grumble of the legendary straight-six engine could be heard echoing behind the Centre.
BMW Festival will return to Gaydon in 2013, and having been there for numerous years, will remain on the calendars of fans for years to come. BMW Car Club GB has created an event for the whole family. Regardless of differences, BMW enthusiasts, purists or those feeling more individual, join together at the Festival to show the one key love of theirs, side-by-side; the circular roundel featuring the blue and white colours of the flag of Bavaria.
BMW Car Club GB
Telephone: 01225 709009