ICON: 50 Years Of The 2002 Opens In South Carolina

Last weekend played host to The Vintage in Asheville, North Carolina, and while we (or Rob Siegel) will get to that once the BMW community has recovered, there was another event worthy of mention tied into the weekend.

Just 90 minutes south of Asheville, in Greer, South Carolina, the BMW Car Club of America Foundation opened its latest exhibit, ICON: 50 Years of the 2002. The exhibit hosts 27 exceptional examples of the 2002 platform, the smallest of the so-called Neue Klasse sedans that put BMW on the map as the global standard of driving performance in the 1960s. 

The opening event, held on Friday at the Foundation’s permanent museum in Greer, South Carolina, was a sold-out affair, and hosted many attendees who would make their way to The Vintage the following morning. By all accounts it was a blast, with a smattering of legends from throughout the BMW 2002 world—of both the human and automotive varieties.

The exhibit spans Stock, Modified, and Race vehicles and captures the full range of the chassis, from carbureted 1.5-liter cars up to the the fuel-injected 2002tii, 2002 Turbo, and high-performance (but still carbureted) 2002ti that was raced with such acclaim in Europe. But the magic of the 2002 was a distinctly on-road affair, as Rob Siegel, our own Hack Mechanic, explained.

“This was the car that showed that you could have a two-door sedan with a back seat that handled really well, and that was acceptably fast, and just felt great to drive. And that combination was something that had not existed before.”

But while Siegel was attending to tell the story of his car, Louie, and the adventure of its acquisition, rehabilitation, and return to New England, the BMW CCA took the opportunity to bestow our Hack Mechanic with the prestigious Friend of the Club award. Given only after considerable commitment of time and passion to the BMW Car Club of America, the award is a definitely a deserved one after Rob’s longtime affiliation with BMW enthusiasts across the country, and the seemingly-infinite wisdom he has bestowed upon the community as a whole.

Throughout the exhibit’s opening, BMW CCA Foundation Executive Director Scott Dishman was on hand to greet guests, many of them visiting the Foundation for the first time, and many of them traveling just as far as the showcased vehicles.

“We’ve got cars from California, cars from the northeast, southeast, southwest. They’re coming from everywhere.”

Dishman’s perspective broadens the whole experience though. “That’s one of the great things about the club, this car, and this exhibition. [We’re talking about] not only the cars and the hardware that’s in here, but the stories that are behind each of these cars and each of these owners.”

“It’s as much about the people as it is about the hardware.”

The event hosted other exhibits, too. BMW historian and past editor of Bimmer magazine, Jackie Jouret was on hand to share her experience and learnings while crafting the written history that accompanied the exhibit. Artist Adrian Valentin Mitu was also on-hand, with a display of The Blue Hero Story, his tribute to Jochen Neerpasch and the BMW Motorsports inception of the 1970s.

The fans, too, helped make the event something special to attend. The lawns outside the Foundation’s building were filled not only with 2002s, but all varieties of vintage BMWs that followed ICON’s titular model.

Will you be passing through South Carolina in the next few months? Be sure to make the the Foundation a stop on your next trip, alongside the BMW Performance Center and the Zentrum at Plant Spartanburg. If you want to see not just the finest 2002s in the country, but also some of the most interesting, ICON: 50 Years of the 2002 is your opportunity. —David Rose

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