The Next 50 Years

My two favorite car clubs have entered their second half-century. The BMW Car Club of America and the Kansas City BMW Club both held their first meetings in 1969, around the time I became aware of a German company that made motorcycles and cars. I gained a more intimate knowledge of the marque during my first assignment with the U.S. Army in Germany, and since then I have enjoyed more great BMW-related experiences than I can easily remember. Most of them came as a member of the BMW CCA and the KC BMW Club.

Like many members, my first BMW CCA exposure came from Roundel magazine. I spotted the March 1981 issue on a fellow officer’s coffee table in Korea, and immediately joined. Betty and I went to our first Oktoberfest because of Roundel. I saved money using Roundel advertisers. The sheer informational and entertainment value of the magazine was well worth the dues—and still is.

My first BMW CCA benefit: the April 1981 Roundel. I had no idea what I was getting into.

Not just a great writer and editor, Satch Carlson was an excellent guest speaker and instructor at the KC BMW Club’s second driving school.

The first Roundel I received as a member was April 1981. Only a couple of the advertisers in the April 1981 issue are still in business, and only one—Korman Autoworks—remains a Roundel advertiser today.

Betty and I fell in with the BMW nuts in the Kansas City BMW Club around 1994. Through the years, the chapter hosted tours, rallies, picnics, annual dinners, tech sessions, driving schools, Street Survival schools, car shows, go-karting, and events that raised money for charities. But we were hooked after the very first meeting. Shortly thereafter I began volunteering in the chapter, then at the national level, and I continue today with the BMW CCA Foundation.

Early KC BMW Club driving schools drew an eclectic mix of BMWs and other marques.

Our first Oktoberfest was in 1995. Was it fun? Well, I haven’t missed one in the 25 years since, so you can take that as a yes. With all the driving events and social activities, the best thing was meeting fellow enthusiasts—something I would not fully appreciate until the next Oktoberfest, when I met up with many of them again and realized it was as much an annual reunion as a car thing. Most of my friends today are car-club people I’ve met locally and across the country.

Without the BMW CCA, I never would have achieved my dream of racing. From my late teens, I was into sports cars and wanted to race, but that didn’t happen until the BMW CCA gave me the chance to drive on the track—first in schools and then in Club Racing. For that I’ll always be grateful to Scott and Fran Hughes for starting the program, and to all the other volunteers who have kept it going.

To recap my experience during the first half-century of the BMW CCA and KC BMW Club, I did lots of BMW-related driving, racing, social activities, travel, Oktoberfests, Gateway Techs, and along the way made many great friends. So what’s going to happen in the next 50 years? More of the same, I hope.

I’m not as young as I was when I joined, obviously, but in my last two club races, I set personal best lap times at two tracks, so I’m not slowing down—or at least my car isn’t.

My two favorite clubs are still dedicated to enhancing the BMW experience by promoting, facilitating, and organizing opportunities for members to have fun, learn, and make friends. But times have changed; as we enter the 2020s, I hope it will be another Roaring ’20s, at least for cars. BMW will sell more electric cars, so don’t expect roars from those, but the combustion-engine vehicles BMW has committed to continue making will sing a sweet exhaust note. I bet the M versions will still “roar.” Regardless of the propulsion method, there will be no shortage of fun opportunities.

However, we can expect some changes at the national level.

The best car-club magazine in the world will endure, despite rising production costs and competing for dwindling advertisers. Most print magazines are hurting as more companies shift marketing dollars to Internet-based media. But Roundel is built on excellent writing and photography and still reaches more than 70,000 readers, so even though the club may have to make up for lost ad revenue, it will be worth it.

A significant change will involve BimmerLife, the club’s online BMW community and news website. Starting this year, the club will publish two print editions of a brand-new BimmerLife magazine. These will replace two monthly issues of Roundel. BimmerLife magazine will focus on BMW lifestyle subjects that may resonate better with high-end advertisers, BMW dealers, and their clientele, and it will contain regional content that will supplant the requirement for chapters to produce newsletters.

Like many, I was not happy to hear that last year’s event in Greenville, South Carolina, would be the last Oktoberfest. But the club’s signature event needed changes to help the bottom line, and to attract a diverse demographic in the years to come. I feared the worst, but my concerns were mostly unfounded.

The grapevine tells me the new name is “O’Fest ∞ Forever”—yes, including the infinity symbol, or maybe the grapevine was pulling my leg.

Okay, technically, O’Fest is a different name than Oktoberfest, even though most members used them interchangeably. Adding “Forever” seems to imply that there will always be an O’Fest. I can live with that. I’m told that the 2020 event, to be held in September in La Quinta, California, near Palm Springs and the BMW Performance Center West in Thermal, will run for four days, starting on a Wednesday, instead of five days starting on Tuesday. This should mean that many O’festers would only give up one weekend to travel rather than two.

As for activities, I have heard that they would still include the concours/car show, rallies, and autocross. I imagine that the BMW Performance Center West will have some exciting stuff for us as well. Driving schools and club races will be absent from the new O’Fest ∞ Forever model; however, they would be run separately if chapters in the region independently organize them to take place in conjunction with O’Fest ∞ Forever.

I expect future O’Fest ∞ Forevers and even regional gatherings to be held at spectacular venues like Waterville Valley in 1997.

If we had not attended Oktoberfest 2016 in Monterey, we would never have seen Elvis’ 507 in person.

Speaking of racing, BMW CCA Club Racing roars into the 2020s with a great leadership team and will continue to offer what I consider the best opportunity for amateur racers and advanced high-performance-driving-school students and instructors to take their BMW experience to the next level. The only thing I’ve done that was as exciting as racing was flying a WWII Mustang, and that was a lot more expensive.

BMW of North America’s reward program for CCA members who have been in the club for at least a year at time of purchase, or at least six months with a new three-year membership, has been tweaked but will continue. Check the BMW CCA website for details.

One of the most important activities a chapter can undertake is hosting a Tire Rack Street Survival teen driving school. It’s about saving lives.

Local chapters including my Kansas City BMW Club will continue to be free to host exciting events like high-performance driving schools, autocrosses, club races, and the extremely worthwhile Tire Rack Street Survival teen driving courses. Chapter events and activities are limited only by the dedication and imagination of the volunteers who are the lifeblood of our club. Expect national support for more regional gatherings as well.

I continue to be so impressed with the people who make things happen in the BMW CCA and the KC BMW Club and all chapters that have similar strong and dedicated leaders. It takes a continuous infusion of enthusiasts to keep these organizations running. I jumped in more than 25 years ago and the results were some of the most memorable, fun, and satisfying experiences I’ve ever had. Like so many things in life, it is what we make it.—Scott Blazey

 [Photos courtesy Scott Blazey.]

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