South Atlantic Regional Vice President Simone Harrison writes about her road trip to this past weekend’s Bimmer Invasion event in Orlando, Florida. Not everything went to plan, but fortunately the extended BMW CCA friends and family were able to lend a helping hand.
This is a tale of broken cars, great friends, and an epic car show.
I’m sure you know the song “That’s What Friends Are For.” It goes something like this:
“Keep smilin’, keep shinin’
Knowing you can always count on me for sure
That’s what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for”
Those lyrics rang in my head when our friend John Hewitt of the Peachtree Chapter called us. David and I had left Atlanta, Georgia earlier in the day and we were 435 miles into our 520-mile trip to Bimmer Invasion, a massive BMW event in Orlando, Florida that draws some of the most epic BMWs from across the U.S. On the phone, John urged us to “act now” with the words of “Pull over. You’re smoking. Smells like oil.”
These are not the words we wanted to hear when, having only 85 miles left in our journey. Up until this point, we were making good time. Our mighty S62-swapped E38 740i was enjoying what she does best: Cruising down the highway, eating up miles, and leading a caravan of CCA cars, which were all headed to meetup with the Florida SunCoast and M Chapters at the big show.
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey was the audiobook of choice for this trip, and as we were enjoying stories of how Matthew landed on his famous catchphrase “Alright, alright, alright,” the call from John switched us from “good times to bad times.”
There would be no more Matthew. Everything was not alright.
It was time to fix a car. And, of course it was in the worst possible place—parked along the right shoulder of a major highway in Ocala, Floria with eighteen-wheelers whizzing by us.
John pulled immediately behind us in his E39 540i Touring; That’s what friends are for. We popped the hood of our M-powered E38, which we call an “M7,” and roadside triage commenced.
Luckily, in the trunk we had some tools—an 8-mm open-end wrench and 10-mm socket—to get the air box cover off. A little pressure testing and flashlight work determined the VANOS oil line had sprung a pinhole leak, spewing oil vapor out at 1500 psi throughout the engine bay. Sadly, a quick roadside repair wasn’t going to happen, nor could we limp the car towards an exit. So, this meant it was time to start calling local shops and the nearest BMW center for a new (or used) VANOS oil line.
It was no surprise when our search came up empty. The chances of having a VANOS oil line lying around for a twenty-two-year-old Bimmer were slim to none. So, now the big question was: “Where should we tow the car?” You know, who would be able to properly take care of our modified BMW? It had to be the right place.
After a few calls that left us cold, we hit the jackpot with Daniel, owner of Bavarian Imports in Ocala. It was late and he was getting ready to close up for the weekend, but he took the time, he listened, he asked all the right questions, and he moved cars around in his shop to fit us in. It would take a couple of days to get the replacement part and fix the car, but at least it was in good hands.
This brings us to our next challenge: Finding a flat-bed tow truck.
As we sat waiting for the tow truck—which ended up being a two hour wait—the BMW CCA network activated through social media. Our M7 was spotted by other club members and Bimmer fans on the road to Orlando for Invasion. We received calls, Facebook pings, and text messages with offers to help. Club friends are good friends—That’s what friends are for.
With the M7 safely at Bavarian Imports, we still needed to find a way to Orlando for the show. Not only were we planning to show the car at the event, we also had a trunk full of BMW CCA giveaways and merch for the Florida SunCoast and M Chapter booths. We called our friend Al Mancuso, of the Peachtree and X Chapters. Al came to the rescue along with Forrest Bennett, an X Chapter member and NextGen Committee Co-chair. You can count on me for sure.
Al’s E36 323i Touring was our rescue chariot, and with the trunk loaded with CCA boxes, we were finally on our way. A very long day ended with us, our gear, and the BMW CCA give-aways reaching their intended destination, with many thanks to Al and Forrest.
With an early start for Club setup at Invasion, hosted at the Dezerland Auto Museum, we told our tales of mechanical mishap to M Chapter President Esteban Valentin. The song of friendship started again as Esteban called a friend, who called another friend. As the sun was starting to shine and crowds were growing at Invasion, a local Bimmer guy, Mikhail, showed up with the oil line we needed. Alright, alright, alright. Good times activated.
Bimmer Invasion started as a fun BMW rally up north in 2020. In 2021, it evolved into a car meetup and has grown every year since. Now, in its third year, it draws over 2,000 BMWs and over 4,000 spectators for a day-long event. Bimmer fans come from as far away as California.
Event sponsor display booths line both the indoor and outdoor car display areas. The BMW CCA flag was flying high at the Florida SunCoast and M Chapter sponsor booths. BMW CCA cars were on display at the Chapter booths and many a Club grill badge or club sticker was found as we navigated the venue.
What a great show it was! There were classic cars, modern cars, loud cars, and cool cars. Every build, tune, wrap, and vehicle modification imaginable and unimaginable could be seen at Invasion. There was even an exhaust and burnout competition. Checkout the hashtag #bimmerinvasion on social channels to see the action, or BimmerLife’s Live Blog by Esteban Valentin and National Capital Chapter President Paul Seto.
Awards were announced at the end of the day and BMW CCA friends were recognized with trophies. John and Iris Hewitt won “Best Wagon” with their E39 540i Touring, and Chris and Margaret Schroeder won “Best Classic” with their E9 3.0 Csi. Keep smilin’, keep shinin’.
A weekend planned for Orlando extended to Monday as we waited for the shop in Ocala to open for business. With the replacement oil line in hand, and with very kind access to Daniel’s tools at Bavarian Imports, our M7 was soon back up and running. We’re now homeward bound for Atlanta at last, with John in his touring behind us. That’s what friends are for. —Simone Harrison, South Atlantic RVP