The Ultimate Driving Museum has hit yet another grand slam with their latest exhibit, BMW Motorcycles: A Century of Innovation. For this year, they’ve curated a cool collection of classic and modern motorcycles (and vehicles powered by motorcycle engines) to celebrate BMW Motorrad’s 100th anniversary. 100 years!? As Ron Burgundy would not-so-modestly say, it’s “kind of a big deal.”
The opening of the two-wheel-themed exhibit coincided with the Vintage, a multi-day gathering where hundreds of classic-loving BMW enthusiasts travel to Asheville, North Carolina to share and enjoy each other’s vintage BMWs. On the Friday before the Vintage show in Hot Springs, The Ultimate Driving Museum welcomed everyone with a Vintage Open House in Greer, South Carolina. So, not only did those in attendance get to see the special vehicles under the museum’s roof, but there’s also an exceptional showcase of attendee-driven vehicles outside on the lawn. Throw a couple of food trucks into the mix and you’ve got yourself a day-long party!
BMW Motorcycles: A Century of Innovation is the museum’s seventh major exhibit. To select and source the wonderful vehicles on display, Creative Director of the BMW CCA Foundation Jackie Jouret led the curation team, including Michael Mitchell, Rob Mitchell, and BMW CCA Foundation trustees Peter Gleeson and Bruce Hazard. BMW CCA Foundation Preservation Chair Scott Hughes joined the team in helping source specific vehicles for the exhibit. In addition to writing books on all of the museum’s major exhibits since Heroes of Bavaria, Jouret has a history with motorcycles as she was the Editor of CityBike, a monthly motorcycle publication, and in a recent BMW Classic Podcast, Jouret recalled her experiences riding motorcycles through Europe. Jouret also created the exhibit graphics hanging throughout the museum and wrote the detailed descriptions seen on all of the information placards.
The Ultimate Driving Museum’s Curator of Collections Michael Mitchell knows a thing or two about museum as he’s been at the BMW CCA Foundation since day one. He was actually the first employee! Mitchell says, “I started at the CCA as the Club Librarian and knew I would move over to the Foundation when it was created, which was April 19, 2002. I have helped build our collection from the two bookcases the CCA donated to [what we have today,] over 80,000 BMW-related items.”
Based on the hard work of the team, the museum was proud to have 55 BMW motorcycles and five motorcycle-engine-powered vehicles on display for its first event, with motorcycle number 56 arriving a few days after the Vintage Open House. According to Mitchell, the oldest example is Peter Nettesheim’s 1926 R 32 and the newest are a fresh pair of Motorrad’s latest: the 2023 RnineT and a 2023 R 18 100th Anniversary editions. Mitchell admits, “Although we don’t span the full 100 years, the R 32 is the first [BMW] motorcycle model, so at least we span it that way.” Not that it’s a competition, but the Munich Museum’s 100th anniversary exhibit has 55 motorcycles, which by my calculations—carry the one…take the square root—is one less. Oh—it’s on now!
The Vintage Open House has proven to be an excellent way to “kick-start” new exhibits at The Ultimate Driving Museum, and Friday, May 19th was no exception. For fellow Vintage-goers staying in nearby Asheville, it was only an hour drive to Greer. Compared to some of the epic road trips undertaken by attendees, an hour is a drop in the bucket. As previously mentioned, the cars parked in the field were a special sight to behold and somewhat of a preview of the Vintage show on Saturday, but the what’s inside was something else entirely. Each piece of history on display has a detailed placard, and all of the motorcycles on the floor are surrounded with memorabilia hanging on the walls and larger themed banners hanging from the rafters.
Shortly after the doors opened at 10 a.m., the crowd received a pleasant surprise when Nettesheim started his 1926 R 32 and let it run for a few minutes. For a nearly 100-year-old bike, it fired right up and ran beautifully. The sound and smell that filled the room was quite an experience. Later, BMW CCA Foundation’s Instagram account joked, “Sir, please don’t touch the bikes.” After Nettesheim’s R 32’s 8.5-horsepower of fury was shut down, Jouret addressed the crowd via microphone and began a tour of the motorcycles on display.
For those in attendance who loaned their motorcycles to the museum, Jouret prompted them to speak about the significance of their bikes from both historical and personal perspectives. My favorite of the bunch was Lothar Schuettler, who spoke about his four contributions to the exhibit. Schuettler made the trip down from Maryland in his Z1—that’s right, zee first Z!—to attend the museum’s Gala and Vintage Open House, and the Vintage itself. Schuettler is a masterful storyteller and shared his past experiences with BMW motorcycles through the years, from riding them with friends at a young age, to restoring and enjoying them in recent years.
After hearing so many great stories from Schuettler and other owners, most jumped back and forth from the cars outside to the bikes inside for the rest of the day. It was great time to catch up with friends and hear their thoughts about the experience. Friends like Jim Gerock, who I caravanned with from Virginia to Asheville the day prior.
Gerock says, “I’ve attended four Open houses at the museum starting in 2017, all coinciding with the Vintage weekend: Heroes of Bavaria, Passion, The Power of M, and the latest motorcycle exhibit.” Like most, Gerock adds, “I enjoyed hearing Lothar talk about his motorcycles on display. Lothar can tell some great stories. I also enjoyed the wide variety of motorcycles they had in the museum, along with the fantastic memorabilia.”
Another friend and long-time BMW CCA member, John Hartge, was also in town for the Vintage weekend with his Polaris Silver 1974 2002. Hartge enjoyed his experience and shares his thoughts: “I am not a motorcycle enthusiast, but I am a BMW enthusiast, so I enjoyed visiting the museum open house during the Vintage weekend. I heard 55 motorcycles are on display—an indication of how The Ultimate Driving Museum staff has gone all out for another season-long exhibit.”Similar to Gerock, myself, and seemingly everyone else, Hartge also enjoyed hearing the stories from owners with their bikes on display. “I’ve known Lothar Schuettler for many years and always enjoy his stories. He told some about the four motorcycles he has at the museum now, including a sidecar bike. Others who lent their bikes to the exhibit also had stories,” he says. One thing’s for sure, once you’ve been to one exhibit at The Ultimate Driving Museum you’re hooked. Hartge agrees, saying, “I’ve seen all but one of The Ultimate Driving Museum exhibits—usually, but not always, when I’m in the area for another BMW event. It’s worth a trip and it’s next door to the BMW Performance Center—an opportunity for some ultimate driving.”
In addition to the motorcycles and vehicles powered by motorcycle engines on display at the museum, it was great seeing a number of them around Asheville and at the Vintage in Hot Springs. With such great driving—or should I say “riding?”—roads in the area, I’m sure many a corner was carved and peg scraped throughout the weekend.
If you haven’t made plans to visit The Ultimate Driving Museum, what are you waiting for? They’re open weekly, Monday through Saturday. Mitchell reports that there are some special events in the works as well, and says, “We are hosting a couple of groups for tours and dinners. We are [also] working with the BMW CCA for MiX in June and are attending the BMW MOA’s National Rally. In November, we are working with the BMW Performance Center on a two-day event—a dinner reception for us the night before and then a demonstration of motorcycles on the track the following day (November 3rd and 4th). More details to come!” So, get there however you can—Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (or motorcycles!)—and experience the latest exhibit at The Ultimate Driving Museum first hand. You will not be disappointed! —Mike BevelsTags: BMW CCA BMW CCA Foundation BMW Motorcycles BMW Motorrad The Ultimate Driving Museum the vintage Vintage Open House