Who doesn’t love a great road trip? And what could be a better destination than a large gathering of other road-trip-loving classic BMW enthusiasts and their cars? For the 450-plus Vintage-goers that traveled to Asheville and Hot Springs, North Carolina last weekend, it served as an excellent reason to prepare and drive their classic BMWs on a nearly week-long automotive extravaganza.

If you’re not familiar, the Vintage is an annual gathering of classic BMW owners and their cars, organized by none other than Scott Sturdy. It has changed locations within North Carolina a few times over its nineteen-year running, but has been based out of Asheville and Hot Springs for the past six.

Jim Gerock charges up the mountain in his round-tail Malaga 1973 2002tii, with Kevin Grim and Joshua Reger matching pace.

How can a one-day event turn into a week-long automotive extravaganza? While the Vintage show itself is only on Saturday, if you factor in the “fun run” road rally on Thursday, the “Vintage Open House” at The Ultimate Driving Museum, the Zentrum, and BMW CCA HQ on Friday, and the fact that many attendees undertake multi-day road trips both to and from Asheville, it can be more than a seven-day experience.

One person who clearly loves a great road trip is Robert Tran, who took three days and drove a whopping 2,564 miles (one way) from Hermosa Beach, California to attend his first Vintage in his 1974 2002 Touring. Tran recalls how his 2002 Touring found him: “I was actually looking for a 2002 Touring for a while—it’s actually one of my top-five dream cars. So, I was bidding on a bunch of them on Bring a Trailer, but didn’t win any. The owner of this [2002 Touring] noticed that I was bidding on so many and he sent me an email saying, ‘Hey I’m thinking about selling mine. Do you want to come take a look at it?’ So I did. And I bought the car in North Carolina and brought it back to California.”

Robert Tran stands next to his 1974 2002 Touring at BMW CCA Foundation’s Vintage Open House.

Less than a year after taking ownership, Tran had to move to Germany for work. As he’d need transportation while overseas, he had the 2002 Touring shipped there to use as his daily driver. He recalls, “It was my daily driver in Germany, but also a weekend road-trip car. I went to the Nurburgring, drove to England, Switzerland, the Alps—everywhere. I discovered a lot of issues with the car during all those hard miles. So, once I got the car back to the U.S., I started to fix those things.”

Tran rebuilt the front end, sorted out suspension issues, and fixed “little bits everywhere” on the car. He had already installed a/c prior to taking the car overseas, which made for comfortable cruising. With a number of long trips in his 2002 Touring already under his belt, Tran says, “I was very confident in this trip because I knew everything was already sorted out.” His confidence was warranted as he made the cross-country trip without issue. His Touring beamed at the BMW CCA Foundation Vintage Open House and all were impressed with the journey they had followed on the Vintage Facebook group.

While Tran had travel from the West Coast covered, BMW CCA 2002 Forever Chapter member George Phemister traveled from beyond our northern border in Ottawa, Canada. He originally intended to bring his 2000CS, which had made the trip in 2010, but says, “The steering drag link was loose—I’d missed it. In all of the work I’d done on that car, I decided that was too risky to take.”

Luckily Phemister had a backup vehicle, his Estoril 1999 Z3 M coupe, which has a fitting license plate for our northern-based friend: “MCOUP EH.” His well-maintained Clown Shoe made the trip without issue, traveling over 1,000 miles over the course of a few days. To prepare his M coupe, Phemister jokes, “I washed it. It was ready to go. I gave it a bath and off we went.” He isn’t a stranger to long road trips as he makes a yearly trip from Ottawa to Florida, so a trip to North Carolina wasn’t so bad.

One of the weekend’s attendees coming from Palm Beach, Florida was Gary York, who takes a week off every year to attend the Vintage, like he did this year in his Sahara 1972 2002. York has his road-trip schedule down pat and says, “I usually leave the Monday before the Saturday event, and I do it so I can stop at Ray Korman’s in Greensboro. After I get my car looked over [at Korman Autoworks], I go to Roanoke, Virginia and I drive the Blue Ridge Parkway for a day to get back to Asheville.”

As of Thursday, York had already added 1,580 miles to his odometer. His plans for the rest of the Vintage experience included a trip to the BMW CCA Foundation on Friday and attending the show on Saturday. He says, “I just love this event because every time I’ve come, I’ve made new friends.”

John and Melissa Holzscheiter brought their resto-modded Dupont Pepper Gray Metallic 1972 E9 named “Klaus” from their home in northwestern Vermont, just ten minutes from the Canadian border. This E9 was built at Vintage Sports and Restoration (VSR) in New Hampshire about two years ago, and packs a number of unique and very cool features, such as the S38 engine and custom interior. John Holzscheiter says, “We built the car to drive,” which is clear from their road trips to a number of CCA events like Hilton Head, Legends East, and others. 

Klaus didn’t need much in the way of “Vintage prep” for this trip, just an oil change and a fresh set of tires. The odometer hit a milestone just before entering Asheville, rolling over 10,000 miles since the VSR restoration and build. If you’d like to learn more about the Holzscheiter’s stunning E9, you’re in luck! Read the full story in an upcoming issue of Roundel.

Jose Rosario stayed cool in Asheville thanks to some awesome shades and Rob Siegel’s handiwork.

Some, like Jose Rosario, used the trip to properly shake down a relatively new purchase. Rosario recently replaced his former 2002 with a new-to-him Pastel Blue 1976 2002. Rosario caravanned with Matthew Thomson and the pair took two days to drive 891 miles from Massachusetts, arriving in Asheville on Thursday. He jokes about his vehicle prep, “I changed the oil. Basically, that’s about it.” Of course, more was done than an oil change as you’ve already read about Rob Siegel installing an a/c system into Rosario’s 2002. Rosario adds, “It’s the first long trip [in this 2002]. I was a little worried because I didn’t know the history of the car. So, I don’t know how well it was maintained. Thankfully, it didn’t miss a beat.”

Roundies everywhere!

Hearing about so many long-distance Vintage-bound road trips from across the U.S. and beyond (eh?) made my 500-mile jaunt from Northern Virginia seem unsubstantial. But it isn’t a distance competition (because Tran would clearly win), it’s a shared experience further building camaraderie amongst this tight-knit and welcoming group of enthusiasts. To be a part of that shared experience, I joined a caravan of four round-tail 2002s, a 1600, and a pair of E30s on the Thursday before the Vintage weekend. By 8:15 a.m. our barrage of Bavarian steel had fully assembled, which comprised a mix of Vintage veterans and first timers: Jim Gerock, Kevin and Diane Grim, Alexis Moreno, Joshua Reger and Amanda Lenhart, Clay Weiland, Dudley Williams, and Jerry Valega. We’re happy to report the eight hour drive was uneventful and provided some nice photo ops on 26-East through the mountains.

That afternoon our group arrived at the Clarion Inn, a central hub of Vintage activities in Asheville. Having sat in my 1991 318iS for nearly eight hours, I enjoyed being on my feet, walking through a seemingly endless collection of classic BMWs, and catching up with friends. That is, until my rumbling stomach notified my brain that it was dinner time. As I began to consider nearby food options, one of our caravan cohorts, Clay Weiland, motioned me over to a table set up in front of the Odometer Gears party-on-wheels E24, which had a full speaker system playing classic tunes for all to enjoy. Surprise! Weiland had brought a portable pizza oven, fifteen home-made dough balls, and a variety of toppings in the trunk of his M42-powered 1600.

I gladly accepted Weiland’s offer for a pizza and he got right to work, tossing the dough in the air and then loading it up with sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and fresh green pepper. Within a few minutes I had the BEST pizza I can remember eating in years. Crispy in all the right places, a crust that’s not too thick and not too thin—it was the Goldilocks of pizzas, being just right. At that moment, this pizza was the light at the end of my tunnel. It was the prize at the end of a long, but enjoyable day of travel. After all, who doesn’t love a great road trip shared with friends and the machines that give us so much enjoyment? And pizza—who doesn’t love a great pizza!? —Mike Bevels

See a full gallery of photos from the Vintage 2023 weekend here




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