Sunday, May 7th marked the 39th Deutsche Marque Concours d’Elegance (DMC), an annual automotive event bringing out the cleanest vintage and modern examples from three German automotive clubs in the greater Washington, D.C. area. Which three? The Mercedes-Benz Club of America’s (MBCA) Greater Washington Section returned, being one of the show’s original marques. Long-time participant Porsche Club of America’s Potomac Region was unable to attend, but their absence paved the way for Audi Club’s Potomac-Chesapeake Chapter to bring some jaw-dropping German hardware. And last, but certainly not least, BMW CCA’s National Capital Chapter (NCC) represented BMW with a strong showing of members and cars. What—did you expect Volkswagen as the third marque? This is BimmerLife after all!
There’s a lot of history with this 39-year-old event, and thankfully DMC veteran and NCC Concours Chairman John McWilliams could transport us back in time to share some of that history. McWilliams joined BMW CCA in 1982, just two years after buying his first BMW, a 1970 2002. Two years after that, he attended his first and the first DMC. McWilliams recalls, “The local BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche clubs jointly hosted the first concours on Sunday, July 1, 1984 at Cheltenham U.S. Naval Radio Station, in Clinton, Maryland. In all, 32 cars were entered: seventeen BMWs, ten Porsches, and five Mercedes. A college friend, Pat Doyle, was stationed in the area with the U.S. Army and had recently acquired a Hennarot 325e (E30). We spent the week detailing the car and he took Best of Class.”
A year later, the “Tri-marque Concours” moved to the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. for its second event. There, McWilliams helped another friend, Carl Unterkofler, take first place in his class with his 1972 2002. McWilliams began entering his own vehicles in 1991, and over the next eighteen years took home a number of awards, including Best of Marque, with his Polaris 1976 2002 and Chamonix 1974 2002tii. In 2009, he became the Concours Chairman, a role he still fills as of the 39th DMC.
Over the years, the DMC has graced the parking lots and fields of a number of venues, from its first eight years at the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. to seventeen (nonconsecutive) years at Nottoway Park in Vienna, Virginia. This year, it returned for its third running at Occoquan Regional Park in Lorton, Virginia, which has quickly become a favorite location for both participants and spectators.
In addition to the outstanding work of the volunteers and organizers like McWilliams who plan and execute this clean-car competition, another thing that makes it so special is that these aren’t the same cars you regularly see on the local Cars & Coffee circuit. Some only come out for a few events each year, making sure to attend the DMC, which fosters a more relaxed, casual atmosphere of automotive camaraderie.
I didn’t think I’d have the time necessary to properly prepare my car for the event this year, but what started as some light “Vintage prep” on my Alpine White 1991 318iS for my upcoming trip to the Vintage in Asheville, North Carolina, soon became a full weekend of detailing. As you may be aware, car cleaning can be a bit of a slippery slope: “I should probably put a coat of wax on before the 500-mile road trip to Asheville. Oh, but I should probably clay the car before I do that. Since I have the detailing supplies out, it would be good to hand polish the wheel lips. When was the last time I cleaned the engine bay?” At that point, I was only a light vacuuming and door-jamb cleaning away from having my E30 DMC-ready, so registering as an entrant instead of attending as a spectator was a no-brainer.
My borderline obsession of keeping a clean car year-round (and some iffy forecasts keeping the heavy hitters at bay) has afforded me some luck in placing in the “Second Generation (1980s)” category in previous years, so with a larger field and a nice forecast I was anxious to see how my E30 would fair this year.
Each of the three clubs handles the classing, judging, and scoring of their fellow member’s entries based on three factors: condition, appearance, and cleanliness. NCC had three classes this year: Street (judged and divided into era-based categories), Meister class (judged–first-place category winners from the previous year’s event), and Display class (not judged–decided by people’s choice balloting). The Street and Meister classes are scored by the exterior, interior, engine bay, storage compartments, and chrome, but not areas underneath like the chassis.
Participants arrived as early as 8 a.m. to begin final cleaning, with a “rags down” time of 10 a.m. before the judging began. After a final wipe down, I enjoyed checking out the other marques on the field. Just because I’m a BMW nut doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy other brands. I know, I already said “this is BimmerLife,” but these Mercs are just too tasty not to share.
My photography-buff nine-year-old daughter Avery had a schedule conflict—anyone else have a child with an adult-sized calendar of activities?—so my five-and-eleven-twelfths son Carter (I’m told that every twelfth counts) continued our DMC tradition throughout the beautiful May morning and early afternoon. It’s a family friendly event and Carter quickly made some new friends to play with. I took Carter’s lead and started chatting up fellow BMW enthusiasts.
While walking the field, Carter and I spoke with a number of attendees. Paul Vessels, a former long-time Deutsche Marque Concours Chairman of fourteen years and BMW CCA member, came out for this year’s event to spend an afternoon with friends. Vessels has been to all 39 runnings of this event, including the first in 1984 where he showed his Arctic Blue 530i. He points out that it’s not just local, but a regional event. “We’ve had cars come from as far north as New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And then we’ve had cars come from as far south as North Carolina, so it brings them in. Whichever marque, we get a lot of out-of-state cars that participate in this event.”
Jared Reed, traveling from Hershey, Pennsylvania, is no stranger to this event and brought his stunning Dakar Yellow 1995 M3 (E36). This year marks Reed’s sixth trip to Virginia for the DMC. It’s certainly the cleanest E36 I’ve ever seen, which explains why Reed always wins the “Third Generation (1990s)” category (when he’s not automatically entered into the Meisters class for a previous year’s first-place finish). Reed modestly says, “When it’s in my class, yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to to pull off first, which is fun.”
Reed is a fan of the concours format, saying “We have fun. We go to shows throughout Pennsylvania, down here in Virginia, and take it up to New York—anywhere that there’s a platform to show cars like this, we want to go. It’s a great excuse to get the family out.” In addition to the great cars on display, Reed says, “It’s great people…winning a trophy is fun, but it’s the stories I enjoy. When people are coming to say, ‘oh my gosh, you have this? How did you find this or tell me how to take this apart?’ So those are the fun things that I enjoy—to get to connect with someone that has a question, you can share a story.” Reed did well, taking second place in the Meister class as well as the Judge’s Choice Award.
Eugene Tkach also added vibrance to the field with his Daytona Violet 1993 M5 (E34) which boasts 219,000 miles on the odometer. Though you’d never guess the mileage as this M5 recently underwent a full restoration. Aside from the bodywork, Tkach performed most of the work himself as he owns and operates CJ Foreign Car Service in Silver Spring, Maryland. As a first-timer at the DMC, Tkach gives his first impressions, saying, “It’s a pretty cool event. There’s a lot of people that I’ve never met before—great people.” It was certainly a great turnout of rare cars—this is the first factory Daytona Violet E34 M5 that I’ve seen. Tkach took home second place in the “Third Generation (1990s)” category.
James Chism is not only a newcomer to the DMC, but he’s also a new member of BMW CCA. Over the last few months, he has been enjoying a number of local NCC events and brought his new-to-him Euro-spec 1987 M3 (E30) to be judged in the concurs. Chism says, “I just recently joined BMW CCA and I’ve been on a few outings with them, but this is my first event like this. I just enjoy different types of cars learning the history and the stories behind the cars.” Chism placed fifth in the “Second Generation (1980s)” category.
Like Chism, Tkach, and Reed say, the people and the sharing of stories are what makes this event so special. So, a special thanks is due to those who facilitate making those introductions and interactions possible—the organizers and volunteers. From NCC BMW CCA for the 2023 Deutsche Marque Concours, Doug Dolan, Alaina Mohanco, Donald Noveau, Anita Patton, Paul Seto, Brad Will, and John McWilliams, have contributed their time and energy to making this a fun and successful event.
How’d my 318iS fair this year? I took home first place in the “Second Generation (1980s)” category and I’m not sure who is more excited, Carter or myself. This means I’ll be competing in the Meisters class in 2024, where I’ll be up against reigning Meister-class winner, Stephen Di Giulian. Di Giulian’s 2002 M5 (E39) took home top honors as both Meister class winner and Best of Marque this year. His E39 M5 is so clean that even the insides of the tailpipes look to have been polished, so, per usual, all of this year’s category winners have their work cutout for them. In the meantime, what better way to celebrate having a clean BMW than getting it filthy on a 1,000-mile round trip to the Vintage? In addition to sharing a good story, it’s also about the journey, right?—Mike Bevels
The final results can be seen on the Deutsche Marque Concours d’Elegance website.