It’s easy to forget the grassroots nature of events like the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix when national events like the BMW CCA’s Oktoberfest come to town. Last year, the weekend portion alone swelled to more than 700 cars, taking over three times its normal size and displacing nearby marques from the “German Hill” section of Schenley Park. In fact, O’Fest attendance broke four digits, leading one to think Pittsburgh had been more than taken over by the Bavarian marque.
But for the local Allegheny Chapter, and the faithful BMW fans who make PVGP an annual pilgrimage, this year’s event was a return to form, and a reminder why BMW CCA members from across the northeast and midwest make the gathering a staple of their annual calendar. The 2019 gathering was like the old days; a laid-back meet-up of friends new and old, discussing cars, admiring rare vehicles, and listening to the racers pass on the adjacent road course—even oppressive heat couldn’t prevent two days of fun.
As usual, the cars ran the normal range of stock and factory-original examples, up through hugely-modified, swapped, and lowered BMWs. The PVGP attendee can expect to see plenty of the usual suspects—gorgeous Neue Klasse cars like the 2002—as well as some interesting specialty BMWs, like Lance White’s European-market E34 M5 Touring, or a gorgeous red Isetta (complete with picnic basket).
There were more modern cars, too, including plenty of gorgeous E39 M5s, a six-speed E60 M5, and a pair of manual E91 Tourings parked side-by-side (one of them a legitimate M Sport 6-speed). And like most of these laid-back gatherings (The Vintage comes to mind as another), the attendees tend to be younger, either single people, new families, or couples, many of whom have broad interests in BMWs new and old, and who come together to enjoy the people and the machines that make the BMW CCA community so strong.
As always, attendees could set up lawn chairs on the hill, to watch—and hear—the vintage race cars pass through the last sanctioned vintage race run on city streets. If the cars are special, the racing setting is truly a masterpiece, bringing together the various vintage classes that might compete at Lime Rock or Watkins Glen, and placing them on hay bale-lined city streets, winding through the hills of Pittsburgh, over bridges and through cobblestone avenues. We describe the course every year, but it hardly does the event justice.
Perhaps the best way to experience a taste of that magic is to get a hot lap from the BMW Performance Center’s own Mike Renner, who was offering three seats per lap in the Performance Center F90 M5. By all accounts, it was even more spectacular than last year’s F80 M3 rides (and yes, Mike still drifts the corner in front of German Hill, every time).
Despite the heat, PVGP was once again back to its usual self, and ready to introduce new attendees to this gathering of like-minded enthusiasts. We encourage you to look through our photos and videos from the event, and plan your own pilgrimage next year. The Vintage Grand Prix is one of the greats—and it doesn’t need record-setting attendance of over 700 BMWs to be fun.—David Rose
[Photos courtesy Bryson Davis.]