This past Sunday was a cold and wonderfully gloomy day in the Mid-Atlantic region. Normally, this wouldn’t be cause for celebration, but this particular Sunday I had plans to take Project Concord on a mini road trip to a National Capital Chapter (NCC) event hosted by Hagerty at the Collectors Car Corral (CCC) in Reisterstown, Maryland. The event was advertised as an “NFL Watch Party,” and while I didn’t have much interest in the game, I very much enjoy catching up with friends and gawking at interesting and rare vehicles. With winter fast approaching, what better way to spend a cold and rainy Sunday than indoors with friends and a fleet of one-of-a-kind machinery?
If you’ve been following the chronicles of Project Concord, I picked up a 244,000 mile 1998 M3 sedan in November and have been working my way through fixing what’s broken—and occasionally breaking more things in the process. Coming off a solid week of repair progress, I hoped to keep the positive momentum going. I made short work of replacing the failed front passenger door lock actuator, resulting in a fully armed operational battle station—er, central locking system. And, while it may seem odd, I now sometimes just sit in the car pressing the lock and unlock button, basking in the glory of four little lock plungers popping up and down in harmony, in seats that recline forward and backward with the touch of a button. It’s magical. My wife will ask, “Where have you been?” My reply: “Uhhh, in the garage.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news. A few days after having the radiator replaced, the thermostat stuck open. While being stuck open is much better than being stuck closed, seeing the coolant temps drop into the “cold” zone while driving and then level off while idling altered me to the fact that the rest of the cooling system needed to be addressed. So, back to Road Race Technologies we went for a new thermostat, Stewart water pump, and additional coolant hoses.
With order in my vehicular-universe temporarily restored, the 150-mile round trip to the event almost went by too quickly. Having also installed new wiper arms and wipers the previous week, the rain wasn’t even registering on my radar. I arrived at the event a few minutes before the 12:00 p.m. start and was greeted by Steven Pera, an NCC member that was checking in registered guests and handing out raffle tickets. And we’ll forgive Steven for not driving a BMW to the event, because his Porsche Cayman GT4 is an acceptable substitute.
While the catered lunch by Mission BBQ was being set up, I headed past CCC’s open lounge and event space and headed directly to the storage facility. You know, for the good stuff. As Kelly Juergensen of Hagerty jokingly said, “I should record people’s faces as they walk in—their facial expressions are priceless.” No joke–walking into a well-lit warehouse with a variety of unique cars stored on three-level lifts makes for some comical reactions.
There was an eclectic mix of vintage cars and modern cars across a variety of makes. My personal favorites were a set of NCC member Wayne Watkins’ BMWs, which included two 2000CSes, an E9 3.0CSi, an E31 850Ci, and an Alpina B7. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Watkins earlier in the year for a story about his collection of vintage BMW “big coupes,” so it was great to see them lovingly tucked away for winter. (Read more about Watkins and his cars in the March-April issue of der Bayerische.)
Beyond BMWs, the trio of cars in “car capsules” commanded my attention. A silver Mercedes SLR, a recently restored red Lamborghini Countach, and a Ford GT40 with Gulf livery.
After lunch, I was able to chat with the braintrust behind this event: Kelly Juergensen of Hagerty, who serves as Territory Manager of Maryland, Delaware, and D.C., Collectors Car Corral General Manager Jonathan Lake, and NCC President Paul Seto. In addition to promoting Hagerty, Juergensen helps “keep the car culture alive in the DMV area.” She explains, “We have an annual sponsorship with the NCC and we want to provide more events to get people involved, so I brought Collectors Car Corral and NCC together to do something lighthearted around the holidays.”
NCC President Paul Seto notes, “This was a good opportunity when Collectors Car Corral opened their new location in Reisterstown to do something in the winter, when we have less events due to the weather.” Seto adds, “The collection of cars here is just amazing—BMW or not.” Of the cars at the facility that day, he says, “It’s always cool to see Joe Eckart’s white Lamborghini Countach that was in Wolf of Wall Street.”
On the topic of winter events, Juergensen pointed out that Hagerty and NCC have also been hosting BMW-specific virtual “Valuation” seminars that were started during the pandemic and has continued due to member interest. When I asked Juergensen if she had a favorite vehicle at the facility, she replied, “I come from a Jeep family, so I do love the CJ7 that’s here. I think it’s one-of-a-kind—it’s a show stopper.”
Collectors Car Corral General Manager Jonathan Lake was more than happy to open CCC’s doors for the event, saying, “We’ve been working with Hagerty for quite some time and we have a number of clients that are BMW CCA members. We really wanted to host a venue for people to hang out, talk about cars, and relate to one another.” Lake’s favorite vehicle there? He says, “I am a little biased,” referring to his Datsun 510 station wagon parked in the facility. Lake adds, “But outside of that, I do love the red Countach because it did go through a full nut-and-bolt restoration. I can appreciate that we’re in 2022 and we get to see a classic that pristine.”
I spent the remainder of the event catching up with friends and admiring fantastic vehicles in the superbly lit building. Fellow E36 M3 owner Fabian Manan gave me some tips for my new project while I offered some advice about E30 ownership. Believe it or not, there were even non-automotive conversations when I spoke with Billy Dixon and Jeff Ramage about photography and equipment. Scratch that—we were talking about automotive photography. We tried, but it’s hard not to geek out in this “car-friendly safe space,” as Lake calls it.
Prior to departures, the group gathered together to send another NCC member currently in the hospital a get-well-soon video message. As everyone was together at that point, the raffle followed where yours truly took home a new black hoodie. Score!
The drive home consisted of consistent coolant temps, unimpeded traffic flow, and what I’m now calling Active Autowerke therapy. The sound the exhaust makes expelling gasses from that sweet S52 engine—it just melts my worries away and puts a smile on my face. The S52 3.2-liter inline six is a completely different animal than the M42 1.8-liter four cylinder in my ‘91 318iS or the N20 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder in my ‘15 328i wagon.
At the tail end of my 90-minute trip home, the drizzle stopped and the sun peeked through the clouds making for a lovely sunset, which was just after 4:30 p.m. It finally hit me that with the winter solstice being less than two weeks away, daylight hours are less every day. Long gone were the extended summer days with pre-6:00 a.m. sunrises post-8:00 p.m. sunsets. This short road trip also made me realize something else: I’m OK with driving my new E36 M3 project car in the rain. But I won’t drive it in the snow or on treated roads! I want to keep that undercarriage and hardware fresh. I’m not a monster. —Mike Bevels