BMW CCA’s Legends of the Autobahn concours is not the only attraction of Monterey Car Week, of course, but it was certainly the highlight of my week, because its latest incarnation on the grass of Pacific Grove Links in—duh!—Pacific Grove was absolutely splendid.
But first you have to get there, and for some of us, the journey is the adventure. So for reasons of nostalgia and remembrance—certainly not for efficiency or speed—I chose to drive California State Route 1. (Yes, many of us grizzled West Coasties call it the PCH, for Pacific Coast Highway, but various sections of the road are also designated as the Cabrillo Highway, the Shoreline Highway, or the Coast Highway. Click here for more information on this scenic attraction.)
This is the last time, I swear. But then, I have sworn that before.In the Olden Days, children, before California spent all our tax money on yellow paint in order to render just about any stretch of two-lane into no -passing zones, the run between Monterey to San Simeon was a thrilling adventure. But even when passing was allowed, the road began to lose its appeal with the Rise of the Wild Winnebago. So in recent decades, the coastal route has become an exercise in patience and internal calming routines.
But it’s hard to be patient when you’re at the wheel of an X3 M Competition.
This year we stayed overnight at Ragged Point, since I knew that we would likely be delayed by traffic, and I would rather spend shorter portions of two days being frustrated by no-drivin’ numbskulls than suffer through one long, tedious day of recurring frustration. And surely the second day would let us get a jump on the northbound traffic into Monterey, would it not?
No, it would not.Let me just say that I am astounded at the rapid decay of driving enthusiasm, let alone driving skills, in America. It is no longer just the Win-a-barge-oh crowd muttering timidly through the corners, it’s everybody. (Or maybe it’s just something about silver-gray cars, which somehow all of them seem to be.) I mean, compacts that claim Chevrolet heritage, a plethora of what I guess are called crossovers—the misbegotten progeny of a truck and a station wagon—the odd ToyotaHundaiKia mix: all of them timidly approaching the posted speed limit in the straight sections, then cowering in the corners.
I just hunkered down behind a propane truck and let that guy harangue the stragglers. The propane-truck driver had obviously been here before, and he was clearly committed to the Code of the Twistified Road: Whatever you’re driving, drive it like it’s a sports car.
Even when the two-lane segued into freeway near Carmel, I made no attempt to pass the propane truck, the driver of which had at least intimidated several members of the Anti-Destination League onto the wayside pullouts in order to let him by, followed by a BMW X3 M Competition. He had earned his laurels.While getting to Legends’ new location in Pacific Grove did involve some initial confusion, it was certainly better than the days of negotiating race-track traffic on Highway 68! And the display areas for the multitudes of BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis were beautiful expanses of green. The weather was typical Peninsula—mild in the morning with a warm, sunny afternoon occasioned by refreshing sea breezes. Many declared this to be “the best Legends ever!”—of course, we hear that every year. (My personal favorite, although a nightmare of logistics, was the year we displayed a dozen pre-war BMWs, mostly from the collection of the late Jim Smith, and I spent the day explaining the early history of the marque to fans whose knowledge of BMW history stopped at the 2002.)
This year Legends was graced with a stunning pre-war 327 cabriolet. (In fact, the BMW cabriolet preceded the BMW 327 coupe, which joined the fleet in 1938.) The luminous yellow car had undergone a meticulous restoration, retaining its 55-horsepower two-cylinder M78 engine with two “semi-sidedraft” Solex carburetors. (BMW upped the performance of the 327 by installing the M328 engine from to 328 roadster to make the 327/28 in both coupe and cabriolet variants, providing 80 horsepower from the hemispherical head design with three Solex downdrafts.)Of course, Legends is not just about old cars—and not just about BMWs. Audi reminded us that besides being a utilitarian AWD marque, the company has an awesome history in motorsport. Never mind their dominance at Le Mans with diesel power; who could ever forget Michelle Mouton’s epic victory in the Pikes Peak Hillclimb at the wheel of an Audi Quattro? As for me, I am always drawn to E9 coupes, and this year provided an outstanding example of preservation. Scruffy? You bet! And like the owner, if it were mine, I would halt the rust—but not remove it—and preserve the car exactly as it appeared on the Legends lawn. (I would spend my money in the engine compartment, probably a 3.5 S38 with triple Weber 45DCOEs. But that’s me.)
And for future Preservation Class entries, I was pleased to see a rather tatty-looking 5 Series parked next to the X3 M Comp. The expression Rode hard and put away wet doesn’t exactly apply, because if it were put away wet, this black beauty would surely be cleaner than this!
It reminded me of my long-ago marathon rally days, when we’d promise to wash the car after—something. After the next leg. After the next section. After the next day. But mostly it reminded me of the enduring legacy of BMW as a driver: day in, day out, today and tomorrow, until one of us gives up and dies.
In my case, I suspect that it won’t be the car that goes first.—Satch Carlson