Name that spot near you. You know, the one you show off to your out-of-town friends when they visit. It’s the one that causes you to pause and laugh, maybe with your friends, maybe quietly to yourself, and think, “Why don’t I come here more often?”
I can’t speak for everyone in Southern California, but for me, that spot is the ocean. Ok, that’s a big “spot” to pick, but it’s right here (I’m pointing six miles away as I type, slowly, with one hand). Unfortunately, I don’t visit it nearly often enough, because I go to too many car meets.
So, a big thank you to the San Diego Chapter of BMW CCA is in order as they hold their annual Bimmers By The Bay event right on the water at the San Diego Harbor at Spanish Landing. Participants drive their cars to the show field on the paved pathway, mere rocks away from the water—somewhat of a surprise to the locals who jog and ride there. The venue provides a variety of picturesque backdrops, which includes the water, boats, the downtown skyline, or sometimes a plane leaving the nearby San Diego Airport.
Formerly named the Jack Cavanaugh Memorial Car Show, Clean Car Contest, and Charity Auction, it has seen some changes over its approximately 30 years of existence. “We had more than 70 cars parked with us this year and more than 200 attendees,” says Brett Litoff, chapter Wachsmeister and emcee for the event. And that doesn’t count the many passers-by who slowed their bikes and their jogging pace to stop and admire the cars—a clear, bonus highlight to their already enjoyable morning by the bay. “One of my own highlights,” Litoff continues, “is seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they interact with fellow enthusiasts.”
Some of those fellow enthusiasts drove a good distance to get there. While he might have traveled the furthest—around 340 miles each way from Phoenix, AZ—we can’t fault Chris Kohler for escaping 115-plus degree Arizona heat for the 60 degrees harborside that morning. “I didn’t have air conditioning in my car, so I left Phoenix in the middle of the night when it was down to a balmy 105,” Kohler laughs.
While those temperatures might not be rare in Phoenix, the 1980 M535i he drove is rare anywhere. “I bought it in 2010 and finished restoring it in 2017,” he continues. “It was a basket case when I got it but it didn’t have a/c or a sunroof as delivered, so I kept it true to that, much to my discomfort. The event was great as always and such a great environment and setting. I know a lot of the San Diego Chapter people and it’s always great to see the range of cool cars.”
Kohler has been a judge at the event when it was a Clean Car Contest and won awards some years. This year, his award could have been a birthday cake for the coincidentally timed event. (Happy birthday, Chris!)
Kohler’s car proved to be somewhat of a present for others…present, too. “One of the highlights for me this year was seeing Chris Kohler’s stunning E12 M535i,” says Doug Park, who’s been attending for more than ten years. “That’s a really unique car; maybe only a couple of these exist in the country. There was another great turnout this year with a wide spectrum of BMW classics and new cars attending. I brought a 1986 E28 ALPINA B10, originally a Japanese market car with ALPINA cloth interior, too.”
While “years attending” was not a category for the new people’s choice judging format, Hermosa Beach resident Leo Farjad might have Kohler and Park beat. “I’ve been attending since 2006 and still make it down the two-hour drive for this event,” he says. “This is one of my favorite events because of the people, the cars, the location and the relaxed environment.”
Farjad knows a thing or two about events as well. He is one of the founders of the hugely popular Los Angeles-area E30-focused Dockweiler Meet held each January, which have equally great venues.
From the frequent attendees to the other end of the spectrum, this year’s Bimmers By The Bay was the first BMW CCA event for Rodrigo Cavalle. “I decided to bring my E30 Touring down [for the event] and am glad I did,” Cavalle says. “It was a really great event. The camaraderie within the BMW community was definitely on display. I am in sales at BMW of Murrieta, so I see BMWs all day, but it was great to see so many different ones at this event. It might have been my first event, but it definitely won’t be my last.”
Sam Keys also drove more than 60 miles to the event, coming down from Orange County with a small caravan of friends. “It was a great event, even before I won Best Daily Driver with my 1993 E34 M5,” Keys says. “I picked it up last year and have repainted it, given it a mostly new interior, and made some other improvements. A few friends told me about the event and the venue looked cool, so a bunch of us came down for it. I like the quality of CCA events and this one didn’t disappoint.”
San Diego resident Jon Griggs had a much shorter commute to the event. “My wife and I both drove E30s to the event,” Griggs says. “This event was a perfect way to end the month. Seeing so many like-minded car enthusiasts in one spot sharing their car experiences not only motivate me to attend more events like this, but it also inspires me to drive these gems more often.”
For all the E12s and E28s and Griggs’ two E30s, none was as old as the 1960 BMW 700 Ed Popal drove 30 miles round trip to the event. “I was excited to showcase my 700,” Popal says. “This was my third time attending Bimmers By The Bay and thought it would be a great place to bring the 700. Had it not been for the 700 saving BMW as a company, really an event like this probably would not have ever happened. My favorite part of the day was seeing so many people’s cool cars and also their appreciation for Bimmers.”
This spot—the entire event—proved well worth the excursion for so many BMW enthusiasts and their friends and families. I can’t confirm they’ll all head to the water more often, but I will bet most will be returning for this event next year! Great work, San Diego Chapter!—Kyle van Hoften
Kyle van Hoften has included bonus photos for everyone to enjoy below!