Every year in late May, a modest group of attendees and a small but very special collection of BMWs congregates near the shores of the San Diego Bay, in Spanish Landing Park. The word small might not be entirely accurate, as the metal on display is always impressive in terms of quality, preservation, and much more; but this gathering isn’t one of those headline events with scorching packed parking lots, or lines of vendors peddling their wares.

Instead, year after year, the Jack Cavanaugh Memorial Car Show, Clean Car Contest, & Charity Auction has remained captivating and unique, with something special for everyone to appreciate.

Although traffic in San Diego seems increasingly worse with each passing year as more people choose this West Coast city in which to stake their claim, there’s still something off-the-radar and special about car culture in the area—especially the BMW set. The San Diego Chapter has hosted numerous interesting events through the years, and at least a few local dealers have also maintained a presence in motorsports. But when it comes to overhyped cars-and-coffee events overrun with people—some of them too young to drive, chasing some supercar as it peels out of the parking lot—Los Angeles and Orange County seem to have those events dialed in. Whatever the unique combination of conditions happens to be, San Diego-based auto enthusiasts have enjoyed pleasant, focused events throughout the decades, and the local BMW CCA chapter’s yearly concours is just another example of how good we have it.

As I said before, the array of cars that rolls onto the shaggy grass of Spanish Landing Park each May is always special and unique, but every year there are a few standouts. In years prior, more than a few ultra-rare S70B56 V12-powered 850CSi’s have made an appearance, in addition to some other breathtaking builds, like Ron Perry’s Sierra Beige E12, which is motivated by a 3.9-liter M30 stroker. This year, fitting with the new 8 Series debut which is scheduled for next month, a trio of Z8s lined the walkway of the front entrance. Frequent readers of Roundel should recognize the first two; the Topaz car, yclept Nancy Drew (don’t ask) belongs to editor Satch Carlson. And his better half, known to readers as Party A, owns the Jet Black car with the créma leather interior. (She calls it Buffy. Again: Don’t ask.)

Viewing the the third Z8, in Titanium, from another angle reveals a set of Alpina V8 Roadster wheels—which should also give it away to at least a few San Diego residents, since Ted Lange has proudly displayed the silver car at many local shows.

E9 coupes, 2002s of various builds and backgrounds, and other BMWs of similar vintage always make up a decent portion of attendance. Appreciating these cars in the flesh is always a nice treat: In other parts of the country, these machines have all too often succumbed to rust, but on the West Coast, it’s not uncommon to see one wearing its original vintage license plate, top right corner stacked high with old registration tags.

This year, E9 coupes and at least one New Six sedan bolstered the vintage presence. Despite overcast skies with a thick marine layer blocking out the sun for most of the day, the preservation and quality of the vehicles on display remained evident, if not enhanced by softer light that allowed for better appreciation of the finer points.

Strolling through the lineup, San Diego Chapter member and automotive photographer Travis S. (who graced this article with some of his work) was sure to keep a keen eye for open windows which allow for interior shots. In addition to offering a closer look at the details, getting up close and personal with these cars also affords the full sensory experience: Aged leather hides, plastics, and rubber are on full visual and aromatic display before the rags are put down, while the occasional hint of Griot’s Speed Shine also wafts through the air. (Griot’s even provided a case of free handy-size bottles of their Best Of Show Detailer; they were snatched up within minutes, if not seconds.)

Fans of the newer side of the BMW spectrum are never disappointed, either. In addition to a solid showing of M2 coupes, there are also always a few M3s of the F80 platform present, including some finished in Individual color offerings. High-strung V8s and and sixes like the S65 and S54 are always accounted for, and although this year’s event lacked strong M5 representation, prior years have had robust displays of E34 and E39 participants. Highlights included at least one V10 in attendance, in the form of an E63 M6 finished in Indianapolis Red, wearing partially col0r-matched wheels and a full carbon-fiber roof.

But at the end of the day, it was a very special “garage-find” 1970 E3 2800 that stole the show. Unrestored, the sedan was recently rediscovered after it had lain forgotten for some 30 years in a Southern California garage. The original blue-and-yellow rear license plate remains in place, surrounded by a Vasek Polak frame; that’s where the car was serviced for most its useful life before storage. Its Polaris Silver Metallic paint is faded, but the cabin retains a level of preservation that is not commonly seen; dark blue leather is accented by wood trim that still looks rich after all these years. Not everything is perfect, but evidence of use appears to be worn with pride. When things drew to a close in early afternoon subsequent to the successful charity auction, it was no surprise to many attendees that the 1970 2800 won the coveted Jack Cavanaugh Award, which focuses on elements other than concours cleanliness.

Dreary weather and the occasional cold wind didn’t seem to dampen enjoyment for anyone in attendance at this year’s show. During the awards ceremony, enthusiasts from across the spectrum were recognized for their ability to present their automotive pride and joy. Although the 2800 was among the most interesting, other club members displayed their pride with much newer cars, like a Z4 M coupe in an extremely rare color combination, or an E46 M3 wearing some of the cleanest Dinan wheels left in existence.

Jack Cavanaugh Perpetual Award Winner Mike Burger beside his 1970 2800. Photo courtesy of San Diego Chapter President Lisa Goehring

  1st David McClurg 2005 325i
  2nd Tyler Johnson 2007 Z4 M Coupe
  3rd Mike Knapp 2007 Z4 M Roadster
Super Clean        
  1st Vincent Gormally 1985 M535i
  2nd Jim Lloyd 2003 M3
  3rd Paul Cain 1970 2800
    David Stillwell 2002 M3
Jack Cavanaugh Perpetual Award Mike Burger 1970 2800


[Feature photos courtesy of San Diego Chapter member Travis S. Find him on Instagram at @steven_tyler_pjs]



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