What’s your earliest memory with the BMW brand? When you think back to your first BMW, your first group drive, your first car show, or your first parking-lot encounter with another like-minded enthusiast, what was it that brought you back, time after time?
In the years I’ve spent listening to BMW CCA members and their stories, several common threads always emerge when it comes to the origins of BMW passion. Naturally, there’s a car involved—maybe an E30, or a 2002, or a fleeting ride in a friend-of-a-friend’s M5. Other times,it’s a memory of the silver screen; BMW’s film series The Hire introduced no small number of my friends to the sounds and thrills of the E39 M5.
And as distant as it feels this year, there are always memories of BMW CCA camaraderie. Maybe you were handed the keys to someone’s M3 during a bright summer-morning autocross, or rescued on the side of a highway by some all-knowing BMW guru who took the time to get you back on the road.
Whatever your origin story may be, there’s a good chance that the cars involved had at least one detail in common: that patch of blue-and-white enamel—usually affixed to the passenger-side kidney grille—that tells you everything you need to know about the car and its driver. This is, of course, the BMW CCA grille badge.
In many ways, the grille badge—in particular the blue-and-white “map logo” design offered by the BMW Car Club of America for years—is the ultimate modification of the car. What other accessory is as appropriate on a concours-ready E9 coupe as it is on a modified F82 M4?
This is not to say that grille-badge design hasn’t evolved. There have been slight updates to the map logo since the Parker Spooner days and the founding years of the club, not least of which was the lawyer-prompted addition of a space between “BMW” and “CCA” that resulted from some observations by particularly eagle-eyed copyright professionals at BMW. And as with all archival brand designs, the “no-space” badges still show up for princely sums on the used market.
Alson, not that you’d know it when a badge is covered in bugs and road debris, but the colors have been slightly updated over the years to match the color tones of Bavarian Motor Works themselves. But the outline—and the spirit—remain the same; even 50 years later, the badge is recognizable from a good ten car lengths.
The current range of badge offerings is more substantial than ever before. Members have the option of picking from fifteen grille-badge designs—and yes, the original is still $25, and always in stock. But with Alpina, M Hurricane-inspired cloth, club milestones, and even an homage to the 2002 itself, you can now pick out a grille badge that suits your car perfectly. For an especially creative option, I’m a fan of the stick-on trunk badges, which can also adhere to the i3 and i8 front kidneys—going, quite literally, where no grille badge has gone before.
Now, I understand that this might seem like an ad for the BMW CCA’s extensive line of grille badges. But the reality is, we’ve talked a lot about grilles this week: modern grilles, electrified grilles, controversial grilles. Like it or not, the automotive landscape has changed; we’re a far cry from the longitudinal headlight surrounds on my E24 and E23, and vertical-slat kidneys mounted cleanly into the hood of an E46 or E39.
At the same time, subtle enthusiast accessories are more popular than ever. There’s an entire market of factory-offered color-code stickers, for instance, not to mention a surge of vanity plates that reflect option codes, facelifts, and drivetrains—the ultimate in “if you know, you know.” And just this week, another state was added to the list offering BMW CCA license plates—featuring, of course, a map-logo grille badge design on the plate itself.
What will the grille badges of the future look like? What new ways will we find to broadcast our passion to like-minded drivers, and build upon 50 years of BMW CCA history? Automotive design is not stagnant—but neither are we. As a community, we still love to encounter shared enthusiasm on the road, to find other like-minded nerds who know and care about chassis codes, engine designations, driving dynamics, and BMW history.
More than any card or sticker, the grille badge is a symbol of community and passion—and it’s up to us to keep that tradition going. No matter which grille, the badge will find a way.—David Rose
[Photos courtesy David Rose, BMW AG.]