If their New Year’s resolution had been to go to fewer car meets in 2023, an estimated 300 men, women, kids, and pets failed within a few hours of the ball dropping. One of SoCal’s—and maybe the West Coast’s favorite—monthly meets, Sunday Steel, kicked off the year properly as January 1st fell on a Sunday. Even in atypical Southern California rain and drizzle, a typically large crowd strolled among 125 vehicles of all makes, eras, and conditions for two of the earliest hours of the new year.

E36s always come out in force, including Adam Martin‘s and Gavin Gomez‘ examples here.

BMWs always have strong attendance at Sunday Steel, so let’s hear from some of the BMW CCA members present about what automotive fun they might be anticipating in 2023. Since the event is the brainchild of E36 M3 owner Dan Millwood, let’s start with his insight.

“It was great to see so many people so early in 2023,” Milwood says. “I might be a BMW fan foremost, but part of the allure here for so many is that there is such a great representation of cars—old, new, in-process, unique, more-common; anything goes.  It’s also neat to see so many folks patronize the local businesses around here. People always seem to leave here with a smile on their faces.

Event host Dan Milwood often humbly parks his M3 in the corner, or maybe the photo lighting is better there.

“For the new year, I’m looking forward to getting out to more [events] and growing this one. I’m also looking forward to spending time with my car friends at events and just out and about.  I’m extremely excited to be attending Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy this year. I’m really fortunate I was able to get an invite from BMW for what is definitely going to be an incredible experience.”

Nick Bozarth secured an early front row spot early in the new year.

Milwood’s silver E36 M3 was certainly not the only example there. Nick Bozarth must have been an early arrival with his 1995 Avus Blue example sitting in a front parking spot. “I like Sunday Steel because of all the different types of cars here,” Bozarth says. “Everyone is always really nice and there’s generally no revving and showing off. For 2023, I’m looking forward to getting more out of my car. I’ve never tracked it, but I’ve already signed up for an autocross event at Angel Stadium for later this month.”

Jonathan Tran and Clement Kwong with two distinctive models of their eras.

They weren’t all E36 M3s there, but they have always been well-represented at Sunday Steel.  Maybe that’s why Jonathan Tran left his Techno Violet example at home and drove his 2003 ZHP. “I actually enjoy driving the M3 more, but they’re both great cars,” Tran said. “I’ve owned that for almost four years and the ZHP for two-and-a-half years. The E36 M3 is the car I always wanted. I actually had one, sold it, and regretted that, so I’m glad I found this one. I love the raw feeling, the motorsport history, and that they’re pretty easy to perform maintenance on.

“This past year allowed me to work on the cars and fix some things,” he adds. “This year, it’s time to get to more events and meet new people.”

Keeping things in the same rad era, just down the parking aisle from Bozarth sat Olin Johnston’s clean silver 1994 840Ci. “I had never been to Sunday Steel, but with the rain and everything last night, I decided to stay in for New Years Eve. That allowed me to be up early enough to attend Sunday Steel for the first time,” Johnston explains. “I thought it was a great way to start off the year with an unexpectedly large group of enthusiasts. There were some awesome cars there, and it’s always nice to show off “the 8” to people who appreciate its unique design and relative rarity. This car has been tastefully upgraded with M Technic aero, custom Eibach/Bilstein suspension, an engine tune, a Dinan exhaust, 3.15 limited-slip differential, and a factory-quality six-speed conversion with the correct factory 840Ci manual-version driveshaft.

There was an 840Ci sighting at Sunday Steel thanks to Olin Johnston.

“For the rest of the year, I’m looking forward to the continued expansion of classic car culture here in Orange County. There are more gatherings than ever, and a lot more venues create more opportunities to share these cars with more people.”

Clement Kwong attends Sunday Steel whenever he can and certainly appreciates the variety of cars, too. He has cars spanning many eras, some imported from Japan and some unique models for our favorite German marque. To kick off the new year, Kwong brought his M4 GTS to the meet but his other options would also have been fun to see. “I recently sold my E92 M3 Lime Rock Park Edition after ten years of ownership,” Kwong says. “I still have an AC Schnitzer S3 2.5 E30 M3 that’s a really fun car.”

Clement Kwong holds a record at Auto Club Speedway but has logged plenty of time at other tracks, too. [Photo courtesy of Clement Kwong.]

Kwong’s BMWs are usually M cars. “The M cars continue to exude the pure motorsport heritage of the M brand dating all the way back to the 3.0 CSL. That car was able to fight against the major world manufacturers on the global motorsport scene. That’s one reason why I like M cars from old to new.”

Clement Kwong, seen here with Kayla Delehant, is already looking forward to another BMW Takes Flight at Lyon Air Museum for 2023.

He must really enjoy his newest one; he holds the track record at Auto Club Speedway for the fastest lap for a non-modified BMW with stock tires at 1:47.50. He’ll certainly be back at the track again in 2023, but he is also looking forward to more events and watching BMW continue to evolve.  “I’m definitely looking forward to BMW Takes Flight again,” he adds. That event at Lyon Air Museum continues to set the bar—being able to bring your car out onto an active runway essentially, parking beneath vintage war planes. I’m also intrigued to see the Concept Vision M Next and the further hybridization of M. That is very welcomed, but I’m hoping we’ll be able to retain some degree of engine noise for future generations to experience.”

Halit Gamgam and Bailey Roberts brought out some old school BMW fun.

On the other end of the BMW spectrum might be two vintage BMW fans, Halit Gamgam and Bailey Roberts. Gamgam runs Cars and Keychains and Roberts runs Vintage Bimmers and both can be found at many SoCal events.

Halit Gamgam with Cars and Keychains has his keychains…literally on cars.

Gamgam owns four BMWs: a 1972 race built Bavaria, a 1983 imported 524td, a 1986 535i, and a 1988 535iS. “I suppose you could say I have been in the car scene since 2018 and started the keychains in 2019,” Gamgam says. “That little gig helped me meet a lot of amazing people who share the same passion as me. For me, cars are not just pieces of metal and plastic. This is a connection, a way of expressing yourself. It’s meditation. It’s happiness. It’s been a long journey and I’m super happy to be in this community! I’m looking forward to another great year, hoping to create a lot of good memories together. I wish everyone to buy their dream car in or enjoy the ones that they already have in 2023. Happy New Year!”

Bailey Roberts with Vintage Bimmers shows Dan Milwood the hoodie the author almost bought four seconds later.

Roberts arrived Sunday in his 1982 320iS but has been seen in his E24 and E28 and other models. “I’m looking forward to attending and hosting more car events and to the hunt for more vintage Bimmers,” Roberts says. “Looking back at 2022, I’d say my favorite event was our Vintage Bimmer Floral Art exhibit back in March.  It was great starting this year out with this event here. It’s always great connecting with the BMW community, talking with everyone about their cars, what mods they’ve done, and even tips on maintenance—always important with these cars!”

With the hard top on Adam Martin’s 1998 Ac Schnitzer 328i, it was still convertible weather!

Maintenance has been a theme for Adam Martin this past year, too. “I’ve owned the car for three years, but this is one of my first meets with it after letting the car sit for a year,” Martin says. “I’ve been to one Sunday Steel prior to this, last March 6th for the ‘3/6 Meet.’ I’ve been working on it non-stop the past two-to-three months to get it back on the road.

“2022’s car highlight was probably going up to Big Bear, California for the Renntober event. It’s a European car specific meet that basically goes on for an entire weekend. It was super fun road tripping up there with friends. We all got an Airbnb together and it was a blast!  For 2023, I’m looking forward to road tripping the car as much as I can this year! I did a ton of driving last year in my e36 Compact all over California and I’m looking forward to making those same kinds of memories with this car as this car means a lot to me sentimentally! I’ve owned this E36 for three years and counting and don’t plan to ever sell it!”

Tai Kash arrives in his F80M3 CS

Tai Kash has owned other BMWs but his current San Marino Blue F80M3 CS made quite a statement rolling in with some of his friends. He hits some other events in Southern California, but this first day of the year also marked his first day at Sunday Steel. As impressive as his car looked, he knows it’s never really done. “This year, God willing, I’m looking to finish off my build, even though it’s a never-ending process of constant improvements and tinkering.  In terms of the car community, I’m also eager to find opportunities to put more miles on her than last year, including hopefully getting to more car events this year. It’s great to meet more cool fellow car enthusiasts and build lasting relationships.”

The post-event hours provide attendees like Tai Kush and friends opportunities for make-shift photo shoots.

His lengthy list of mods to his sedan include Nitron Racing coil overs, HRE 20-inch wheels, a Vorsteiner carbon diffuser, a Remus exhaust, a Wagner Tuning intercooler, BMW M Performance parts, and much more.

As the morning was still getting underway, eyes turned to see Brian Shin roll in with his 2000 E39 M5. What’s interesting about Shin’s car is that just a bit ago, the car was in Washington, D.C., and here he was rolling into a Southern California meet to start the new year. Shin, a Fullerton, California resident but Georgetown University student, might have been one of the only National Capital Chapter members at this Orange County, CA meet.

Brian Shin was driving this car in Washington, D.C. just weeks ago.

“I’ve had the car since March last year and in August, my dad and I drove it to D.C. so I could have it for school,” Shin explains. “That drive was an amazing experience even though with the pre-facelift headlights then, we could really only drive during the day. But we just trailered it back because I leave Thursday for a six-month study-abroad program in Australia.”

Shin was an intern with BMW NA from January to August 2022 but has always been a BMW fan. “My first car was a five-speed E34 525i,” he adds. “When I was fifteen, I told my dad I wanted to learn how to drive manual, so that’s what I learned on. We then got an E92 328i six-speed and now the M5. I found it in Northern California and it needed a lot of work. I’ve spent a lot of time and money on it in these nine months, but I love it.”

Paul Kramer kept the Z3 M coupe and the 1600 at home and rolled out in this other German beauty.

Not all the cars BMW CCA members drove Sunday were M cars. In fact, not all of them were BMWs.  Long-time member Paul Kramer showed up in a 1986 Porsche 928S but knows his BMWs, too. “I’ve had my 1999 M Coupe since new,” Kramer says. “It was apparently the second one built for the US, a former press car, and therefore driven hard for certain. I kept that up, autocrossing it the first weekend I owned it and in two years, I was a full BMW Club Racer. For five years before my trailer, I’d drive it to the track, race it, then drive it back with the spare tires on the roof rack. I still have the car but it has not moved in a few years. I still love it; I have had no relationships—human, cat, anything, longer than this M Coupe.”

Kramer also owns a 1600, the first one to the US that Max Hoffman used to sell BMW Dealerships in the west. He acquired the car in 2014 after including it in his automotive consignment inventory for two years. “It wasn’t selling so we thought, ‘Let’s just keep it,’” Kramer adds. “Randy Inglis helped us put it together and then in 2016, we drove it to the 100th year Celebration in Monterey. It still only has 41,000 original miles.

“For 2023, I can’t really say I want to do more driving because of how much I did in 2022. But  I need to do something with the M Coupe, either let someone else enjoy it, or since I’m not club racing any more, make it something I could use, like on rallies. That’s a big mountain to climb and financially probably stupid, but it’s emotional. And if I do keep it, my goal would be to restore it and do a Bavarian take on the Harlequin VW and paint all the panels the cool E36 generation colors.  That’s a lofty goal, but I hate having cars I don’t use.”

Anoush Nadiri has learned why i3 owners love their cars so much.

Anoush Nadiri drove a car he definitely uses; he bought his i3 specifically to help with his commute. “I was looking for an EV because my daily commute to the [music] studio sessions was about 60 miles each way,” Nadiri says. “The more I learned about the i3, the more it interested me. With the Rex setup, it ended up being the perfect fit.  The i3’s combination of low weight, skinny tires, and fast steering rack in rear drive configuration is a recipe that reminded me strongly of the old school pre-E90 BMW feeling that is getting impossible to find anywhere. I purchased the i3 at the beginning of 2019.  My friend Daanesh Wadia convinced me to drive one and was extremely persistent about it. I’m glad he was because I would have totally overlooked it!”

He’s eager to see what the future holds for similar cars. “I’m excited for the GR Corolla and the hopeful introduction of more engaging EVs in 2023.  It feels like everything is evolving so quickly,” Nadiri adds. “I’d love to see a second go at the i3 formula with the latest developments. Similarly, I’m eager to see the hybridization of M with that entire line. I’ve also heard that Toyota is working on a simulated manual transmission for their EV lineup. I can’t help but hope and wonder if that tech will find its way over to BMW EVs in the future.”

Jarrod Coleman moved into an M2 after an Estoril Blue F31 Touring.

From one (music) artist to another, automotive visual storyteller Jarrod Coleman brings out his 2018 F87 M2 whenever his schedule allows. “I wanted to start my year off at Sunday Steel as it’s a place where moments become stories, stories become life-long memories to be shared as we as enthusiasts network and rejoice in the passion we call the automobile,” Coleman describes. “This year, I want to continue to expand my passion for the automotive world not just by staying driven but by creating opportunities to capture more moments that form life stories highlighting more people and more brands.  I’m looking forward to taking my craft of story-telling through the art of visuals to the next level.”

Ray Yuson leads out Yasin Nahian and Gavin Gomez out of Sunday Steel, after a stop for an impromptu photo shoot.

This early into 2023, there are sure to be many stories to be told.  Here’s to you all enjoying a year full of them! —Kyle van Hoften




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