I first saw it when I was a kid: I didn’t know what it was or that there was a word for it, but I know my dad had it when it came to cars. At the magic age of sixteen, I felt it when my buddies and I earned our driver’s licenses—and even more when we actually got to drive. It grew when I bought my first car and then took it apart and put it back together again, even if there were a few—okay, many—parts left over. (No worries; it was a British sports car and didn’t need them all anyway.)
It multiplied exponentially in me when I started riding—and then driving—BMWs. Most of you reading this have it, too: it’s passion. Passion for cars, now primarily BMWs: for driving them, working on them, racing them, learning more about them, and sharing that enthusiasm with other passionate BMW enthusiasts.
But not everyone has a passion for cars.
Unlike the vast majority of car owners who care only about their vehicles as a means of transportation, we are not only interested in going places, but in how cars look, handle, and perform—and how they can be an expression of our individual and collective identity. We know many passionate Bimmerphiles who not only drive BMWs, but who can often quote chapter and verse on models, performance figures, prices, repair procedures, E, F, G, and I codes, and practically anything else about the car with a blue-and-white roundel on the hood.
Since 1969, the BMW Car Club of America has been home to passionate BMW enthusiasts. In 2002, the club chartered a charitable foundation staffed by people who are passionate about teaching teen drivers how to stay alive on the highway—Street Survival—and capturing and preserving the history and heritage of the BMW experience—the BMW CCA Foundation Museum and Archives. Two years ago, the museum’s first major exhibit, “Legends Of Bavaria: 75 Years Of BMW Motorsport,” was a huge hit and planted the BMW CCA Foundation on the map as a player in the automotive-museum world. The Foundation followed that up last year with a tribute to the car that established BMW in the United States, a car that was also responsible for the creation of the BMW Car Club of America: “The Icon: 50 Years Of The BMW 2002.”
In a few weeks, the BMW CCA Foundation will present its third major exhibit: “Passion: 50 Years Of BMW Cars And Community.” It focuses on representative BMW models of the past five decades—and their passionate owners, people who not only enjoyed the cars, but who were also instrumental in driving the rise of BMW enthusiasm in the United States in general, and in the BMW CCA in particular.
This year the BMW Car Club of America—the largest BMW club in the world—celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Passion exhibit at the Foundation museum helps bring the celebration to life, with real cars and real people—many of whom I am privileged to call friends and mentors.
The exhibit will kick off on May 17 with an opening day celebration that you will not want to miss. Several celebrity speakers will be featured; there will be prizes from exhibit sponsors (including tires), a free exhibit collectible for every guest, music, food trucks— and of course a first look at the Passion exhibit. A beautifully written and photographed companion book and other exhibit memorabilia will be available for sale.
Tickets are required (the Foundation is a nonprofit organization, after all) at $25 for adults and $10 for kids. They are available only online from https://www.eventbrite.com/e/passion-50-years-of-bmw-cars-community-tickets-59169051225, but don’t wait: This event will almost certainly sell out.
The BMW CCA Foundation Museum is in Greer, South Carolina, but it’s really easy to find: Drive along Interstate 85 outside of Greenville until you see the largest BMW factory in the world; that’s BMW Plant Spartanburg! Across Highway 101 is the BMW Performance Center, and right next door to that is the BMW CCA Foundation.
If you can’t make Opening Day, the exhibit will run from May 20, 2019, to January 17, 2020. And not so coincidentally, our BMW CCA Oktoberfest 2019 will be held in the Greenville-Greer area—in October, imagine that! The Passion exhibit is yet another great reason to attend O’Fest this year.
The cars in the Passion exhibition were selected by decade to represent the 1970s through the 2010s. Every single one of them is drivable, so this truly is living history!
As a passionate BMW fan, imagine being in the same room as an original 2002—and not just any original 2002, but Roundel columnist Mike Self’s 2002! Or how about the amazing E9 2800 CS once owned by early Roundel editor Parker Spooner, then Oktoberfest legend Michael Izor, and now BMW CCA dignitaries Lonnie and Lou Ann Shirk.
Have you ever seen the one-of-a-kind Stars-And-Stripes E53 X5 created at the BMW Performance Center as a student-technician painting project? You will in Passion! Did you know that before he won the Indy 500 and three CART championships, Bobby Rahal had a BMW 2002tii in college? Now, BMW dealer and Team RLL principal Rahal’s latest 2002tii is part of the Passion exhibit.
BMW CCA Foundation president Lance White loaned not only his beautiful M1 to Passion, but an even rarer car, if that’s possible: one of only 209 1995 M5 Tourings with a six-speed transmission.
And what gathering of important BMWs would be complete without an E30 M3? Passion has two: Ron Checca’s impeccable race car, and Oktoberfest superstar Michael Washington’s concours-winning 1988 Cinnabar Red M3.
The super-hot M4 GTS; an up-engined ’81 528i; the much-desired 1 Series M Coupe; the everybody-wants-one E46 330i ZHP; and a pair of E46 M3s: one stock and a one-of-a-kind One Lap of America class-winning supercharged E46 M3, can all be found on the Passion exhibit floor. Want more? How about a gorgeous Z3 M coupe; the highly coveted E39 M5; the very first E36 M3 delivered in the United States; an M-engined 850CSi; a quintessential 1980s sport-sedan E30 325is; a beautiful gray-market M635CSi Euro; and my personal favorite, the stunning gasoline-electric hybrid i8 coupe? Every car represents two stories, one about the car and one about the owner—and Passion tells them both.
I have to mention a special E28 5 Series like no other that you will see only in the Passion exhibit. Built by Stanceworks founder Mike Burroughs, and now owned by super-collector Rey Rivera, this 1985 535i was once destroyed by fire, but has since been resurrected into one of the most recognizable modified BMWs ever. You may have seen it at SEMA, or on Jay Leno’s Garage. It’s special enough to have its own name—Rusty Slammington—and you have to see it to believe it!
Every one of these BMWs from the past 50 years represents a dream come true for someone for whom a passion for BMWs has been ingrained in their DNA. The list of owners includes artists, business executives, BMW CCA and Foundation officers, Roundel writers, professional and amateur racers, and BMW nuts who simply love their cars. They are among the many people who have fostered the BMW community for 50 years; you will recognize many of the names: Jeff Caplan, Ron Checca, Dave Farnsworth, Michaela Hart, Cary Iida, Jeremy Kuhns, Michael Mitchell, Dwayne Mosley, Bobby Rahal, Rey Rivera, Mike Self, Lonny and Lou Ann Shirk, Mike and Shay Ura, Michael Washington, Lance White, George S. Whiteley IV, Kai Xing, and George Zinycz, as well as Active Autowerke, BMW Manufacturing, and me.
The Passion exhibit would not be possible without the generosity of presenting sponsors the Tire Rack and Yokohoma, and supporting sponsors Active Autowerke, Classic BMW, Dinan, Kelly BMW, Odometer Gears, Coco Mats/Furstil, Otto’s BMW, and TC Kline Racing.
“Passion: 50 Years of BMW Cars And Community” is not just about 22 beautiful BMWs and their owners. It’s about all of us, all of you—every past, present, and future BMW enthusiast whose passion makes the BMW experience one of the joys in our lives.—Scott Blazey
[Photos courtesy Michael Mitchell.]