Taking A Trip Back In Time With Vintage Roundel

A magazine archive is something that usually ends up in the recycling bin after too long. You probably found a few memorable articles in a handful of issues, but how often have you actually dusted them off to reread them? Unfortunately, the answer to the question is usually never, and eventually those stacks of old magazines end up on the curb in the blue can.

It’s a bit different online, where you can conjure up articles from long ago in a matter of seconds, as long as the hosting website is still around. But even with such ease, I rarely find myself going back through the articles saved in my bookmarks, unless it’s for reference to a specific point or fact, which I’m probably looking to use in an article like this one.

I’ve always been a bit different when it comes to Roundel. I have been a BMW CCA member for nearly ten years now, and I still have every issue, even the one Satch gave me a few months before I formally joined. The online Roundel archive makes it easy for me to pull up old articles, some of which I happen to be mentioned in, but I still like having the paper copies stashed away in a few bankers boxes. I’ve had a ton of magazine subscriptions over the years, some of which I’ve also held onto old copies of, but none have stood the test of time like Roundel. I just can’t throw them out.

My archive only goes back about a decade, though, and the magazine has been around for much longer than that. At a certain San Diego Chapter event earlier this year, an opportunity came up for me to temporarily house a much more expansive collection belonging to a long-term BMW CCA member. Dan Tackett, a fixture in the San Diego BMW scene for the greater part of four decades now, loaned me his archive, which dates back to January 1980. Tackett didn’t amass all of these issues; the first few years of the collection actually came from Jack Cavanaugh.

Picking up the old issues and (carefully) thumbing through the pages is a trip back to another era. From reading road tests of models we now consider modern classics (who says you shouldn’t meet your heroes?) to taking in the old advertisements, the old copies of Roundel allow me, someone who came along years later, a unique view into yesteryear. The sheer number of vendors and aftermarket parts available in the pre-Internet era was incredible, and it’s neat and entertaining to read some of the old columns. Satch’s have perhaps aged the best, and could even be reprinted with few noticing that a couple of decades have passed since they were written.

While much has changed over the years, many things have also stayed the same. Brian Morgan, who covers motorsport for BimmerLife (as well as Roundel) has been writing articles for the latter for over 30 years. Satch Carlson, editor-in-chief of Roundel since 1998, joined the masthead in June of 1990 as a columnist. Rob Siegel, The Hack Mechanic, is another facet. His column dates back decades in the pages of Roundel, and people were giving him a hard time for talking about cars other than BMWs back then as well (something that never bothered me).

The San Diego Chapter, to which I belong, has also played an important role in BMW CCA history. It goes without saying that Southern California is and has been one of the largest auto markets in the world, but it’s about more than the cars themselves. Qualcomm Stadium, then referred to as Jack Murphy Stadium, has been hosting autocross events in its parking lot for longer than I’ve been alive, and it’s wild to see the various cars that have been brought out and put through their paces on the pavement. Dan Tackett was present for a lot of this stuff, and the photographic evidence proving so lines the pages of vintage Roundel.

Chronicling the growth and transformation of BMW as a company is another important storyline that can’t be ignored. “Pass the grey coupon” read the headline for the article covering BMW’s purchase of Rolls-Royce in the late 1990s, a venture that has since proven quite fruitful. Going back a bit further, it’s also amazing how the BMW model portfolio has grown. During the 1980s, there were just four main lines; Three, Five, Six, and Seven. The 1990s brought the Z3 and then the the X5, the latter of which ushered in what has become BMW’s most popular line of vehicles.

Between the car reviews, advertisements, and columns, there’s something compelling that exists between the lines of written text. It’s the vibrance of a community that’s lasted over 50 years now, which clearly has the human energy and drive behind it to go for another half-century. Surveys have often indicated that BMW CCA members feel most connected to the Club through Roundel, and stepping back in time a few decades with old issues, it’s clear this has been true for the long term.

Next time you’re looking to clear the closet and make room for more junk you’ll just end up tossing in a few years, give those old Roundel copies another look.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy Alex Tock.]

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