Last weekend marked a special moment for the BMW CCA Foundation, the opening of “Genesis: BMW from the Beginning,” presented by the Werk Shop. Ordinarily, the launch of a new exhibit at the Foundation’s Greer, South Carolina, museum would align with the East Coast’s famously-popular season-opener, the Vintage (which you can relive with last year’s photography and coverage), but due to ongoing restrictions on gatherings, both the Vintage and the BMW CCA Foundation took to online alternatives.
For the Foundation, this meant creating a cinematic video tour befitting the new exhibit, which showcases the early history of Bayerische Motoren Werke, from the company’s first motorcycles in 1917 up through the immediate precursors to the Neue Klasse sedan that made BMW famous in the 1960s. The film was produced by automotive media agency Hitting Redline, and narrated by author and BMW historian Jackie Jouret, who also created the Genesis companion book, available at the BMW CCA Foundation store.
For many of us, it’s likely that the eras of BMW history before the Neue Klasse (the 1500, 1600, and -02 series models) are difficult to conjure in memory. There were notable legends, like the 328 and 507, and oddball experiments, like the Iso-licensed Isetta “bubble car,” but every step in the evolution and experimentation of BMW design deserves its own moment of recognition.
Today we tend to define BMW designs by their decade of origin, or for the nerdiest enthusiasts, by the reign of notable designers. But like many manufacturers, BMW experimented in every direction prior to the Neue Klasse, and every design, no matter how short or long it was produced, helped solidify the marque’s identity. The cars range from conformation to extravagance; the engines span designs from economical four-cylinders to the first of BMW’s V8 power plants to the six-cylinder racing engines that made them famous among the counts and royalty of Europe. The kidneys take shapes even broader than they do today, befitting of a company that needed to build its own identity. And we haven’t even gotten to the EMWs, the bubble cars, or the single-cylinder motorcycles—or every other niche that BMW filled during its first 50 years.
To witness BMW’s evolution is formative for enthusiasts of any passion. The BMW AG that we know today is a powerhouse of auto manufacturing, but like any establishment, it took skill, intention, and ingenuity to get here. Jackie Jouret’s narration tells this story—BMW’s story—in great detail, and it’s well worth watching the film and exploring the 164-page book for a deeper dive into the inner workings of BMW. And of course, as soon as is safely possible, we recommend you see the vehicles in person at the BMW CCA Foundation’s museum in Greer, South Carolina.
Wherever your BMW passion stems from, we think you’ll find the Genesis exhibit captivating. —David Rose
[Video courtesy the BMW CCA Foundation.]