Invasions are not generally known to provide a lot; usually hedging more toward plundering what’s already there. Though, this past weekend’s Bimmer Invasion Los Angeles (LA) did provide something. And perhaps it’s cliché to say, but it provided something for everyone. Before you get smart by saying, “Well, not for Mercedes owners,” we did see AMG brakes installed on BMWs. Toyota fans welcomed the Supra MKV (which we all know is a BMW under the covers). And for Honda fans, K-swapped BMWs were in the house, too!
The “house” for this event was the Irwindale Speedway, which is south of Pasadena, at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. This was Bimmer Invasion’s first foray this far west, having had successful events in Orlando, Florida earlier this year and last year. What makes it successful might be up for an individual’s interpretation, but outside of traffic and entry pace, again, there was something for everyone.
This event saw more than 5,000 people enter and more than 1,200 BMWs. The lines started early, as did the caravans to the event. By 9:00 a.m.—two full hours before the scheduled “start”—most vendors were already balancing multiple conversations with folks from the VIP section, other vendors, or the participants present for the Show & Shine. For those of you reading this still frustrated by (or maybe still stuck in) the traffic, those numbers compute to about one BMW on site for every resident in the city of Irwindale, so the town’s infrastructure surrounding the venue might not have been as top-notch as the event inside the gates.
Inside, though, there were actually events within the event, and all programmed into the day’s agenda, managed by the Bimmer Invasion and Irwindale Speedway staff. If you’re worried that the concept of an exhaust competition or drag racing or a burn out competition sounds too “street takeover” for you, fear not. Each event was sequestered to its own location on the grounds, some completely out of ear shot to those spectators meandering through row after row of BMWs, spanning nearly every era of our favorite marque. Additionally, each event was managed by Speedway staff who were very keen on ensuring everyone’s safety and that other weekend revenue sources continued as planned.
“Bimmer Invasion is really for the people; it’s about bringing people together who love all things BMW,” explains Corey Amirault, Invasion Managing Partner. “Along with Founders Ken Fong and Miguel Torres, we were excited to bring this event to Southern California and the fans did not disappoint. But the community is more than that; BMW love is nationwide and even global. We had more than 60 vendors come from all over the country and some from aboard. And the cars people brought—some drove or brought them out from states like Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, and more. It was so great to meet so many people, all sharing that BMW passion.”
Amirault knows that passion, exemplified in his “OEM-plus” F80 M3 build, is always attracting attention in and around his hometown of Boston. “Cars have been a part of my entire life,” he adds. “When I was a child, all I did was play with Matchbox cars and every video game I bought was a racing game. To this day, I search through car listings every day. Luckily, I have a dealership to support that habit, now.”
“I was thrilled with the attendance,” he continues. “It was incredible to see so many cool cars and meet new people. It was great to see special guests like Andy Luk, Nhu Tran, Alex Choi, and many more come by the event, too. For this to be our first visit to Southern California and see this kind of energy was incredible. Even the Speedway staff said they had never sold as many electronic tickets for an event—ever. And this is just going to keep growing.”
The exhaust competition had a great range of car participants, ranging from the newest models to some classics, even including an X car. The winner turned out to be a lil’ ol’ E30 that happened to be packing a supercharged BMW M62 and custom-made exhaust system, surprising many in the audience. The winner was BMW CCA Golden Gate Chapter member Julian Thompson. Fortunately, he towed his E30 350 miles to the event, because that trophy was so large that it needed an X5 to bring it home.
“I bought this 1987 325e from the original owner actually just a few miles away from where I live,” Thompson says. “Now instead of that Eta engine, it has that M62 with a VS V3 supercharger. Riley Motorsports in Sacramento did the fabrication, including notching the intake to accommodate the strut brace, and cutting through the firewall to create an intake tube using the windshield cowling to create a unique cold air intake. Fresh air comes through the vent and gets pulled into the intake.”
The car is beautiful with Euro bumpers, a genuine M-Tech I body kit, and updated take on its original Delphin Grey Metallic paint, but since the car won the exhaust competition, that needs more investigation. “The fabrication work was done by Studio Presents in San Francisco,” Thompson continues. “It utilizes three and a half inch piping from the collectors of the headers and even oval piping to make it fit. I think the most amazing part is a set of equal length long tube headers made by AMA Exhausts. I happened to find this set and it definitely helps with the sound. It has a valved exhaust in the center finished with vibrant ultra-quiet muffler that collectively manage the volume and tone. We spent a lot of time to create a well-rounded exhaust system that’s daily drivable and clearly aggressive when I want it to be.”
One of those aggressive times was indeed this exhaust competition. Thompson had not yet had the car out at many shows, especially of this magnitude and since its completion only put about 1,000 miles on the car. This wasn’t going to add miles, but he anticipated it would add smiles! “I know my car is a different build and figured it would make for a fun entry. A lot of people were not expecting a supercharged BMW V8 in a little car. Apparently they were! With these changing times of the automotive landscape, Bimmer Invasion shows there are still large numbers of people who appreciate earlier BMWs and that there are places to share our passions and experiences. It was a great event for me; I got to win and be featured at BMW CCA booth. And just like the cars there and throughout Bimmer Invasion, this car represents both accumulation of all things old and new.”
Thompson was not the only BMW CCA member taking home a trophy, and not the only one winning with an E30. Lucas Lanphere claimed the Best Classic trophy with his bagged E30 M3, but also brought his matching alpine white E36 and M46 M3s. “The event was definitely an amazing experience to do with friends, especially close friends,” Lanphere says. “It was a lot of fun having my girlfriend [Micah Kreiser] there, especially in the E46 M3. She had that at the BimmerGirls booth to also support so many women being there as well. But two of our friends (Giovanni Aponte and Samantha Algieri) from New Jersey came out for Invasion so we loaned them the E36 to drive [here]. Giovanni joked that it wasn’t too bad of a loaner car.”
“This was the first show where the E30 M3 had ever been judged,” Lanphere continues. “Bimmer Invasion put on an amazing show here, too. I’ve been to this venue before, but this was probably the most amazing show at [Irwindale Speedway]. Thanks to Corey for helping me make this happen.”
In addition to Aponte, Algieri, and Lanphere all driving white M cars to Bimmer Invasion, they’re also all BMW CCA members, so it’s still not a surprise that they stopped by the BMW CCA booth. “The BMW CCA booth had cars from every era, just like the same theme throughout the whole event,” Lanphere adds. “It’s not just the newest, fastest F and G80 cars. We saw plenty of classics like E28s and 2002s. I saw that same theme at the CCA booth—something from every era. It’s great to be involved in a group that represents that same vibe.”
The vibe at the booth involved fourteen cars, but also countless members volunteering, including representatives from the San Diego and LA Chapters as well as the M and X chapters. M Chapter VP Events Paul Seto flew out for the event. “For the M Chapter, this was our second Bimmer Invasion this year, as we kicked off the year in Orlando in February,” Seto says. The amount of enthusiasm for BMW CCA was just as incredible in Los Angeles, as we saw a lot of enthusiasts come by the booth and sign up for the CCA right there.”
“Invasion helped create more awareness of all the events and benefits we provide our members,” Seto adds. “For the hardcore M fans, CCA provides a great way to extend that lifestyle past daily driving. We also worked with the Invasion staff to help cross promote this West Coast event and are looking forward to continuing to partner with them as they visit other parts of the country, too.”
With X cars making up a good number of entrants at Invasion, many booth visitors were excited to learn about the relatively new X Chapter. Afshawn Towfighi, X Chapter Florida Governor, flew out for the event and loved it. “Bimmer Invasion LA was a huge success,” Towfighi says. “It was great to see such extensive passion for all BMWs, including a lot of X-car excitement. The incredible turnout provided a great opportunity for attendees to come by the CCA booth for either their first exposure or to learn more about the club they’ve heard so much about. The X Chapter team loved presenting a united face with the three other chapters to give a true diversified club experience to those attending, just as members feel across the country.”
The BMW CCA booth had the definitive largest breadth of model years of any Invasion vendor or exhibitor. One of the newest BMWs was a G80 M3 CS, catching lots of attention with its Signal Green exterior. On the other end of the spectrum was Colleen Sheehan’s 1930 Dixi 3/15, the oldest known BMW in the US. In between, there were cars of every era, some tuned, some stock, some past award winners, and some new-to-the-scene cars.
Rex Landero has been to a number of events large and small in Southern California but loved seeing an event of this size in the area. “After a long hiatus with no Bimmerfest for the last three years, it’s been a long time waiting for a celebration of Bimmer owners to gather and honor the marque that we all love so much,” Landero recalls. Bimmer Invasion fit the bill perfectly with a wide variety of models throughout the years on display for all to admire. Personally, I was blessed to be part of the BMW CCA booth where a collection of rare models exemplifying BMW in the best way. I am honored to be the caretaker of a 1990 E30 M3—my dream car growing up as a kid. Thank you, BMW CCA for allowing me to be one of the cool kids!”
While there was great variety throughout the event, there were not a lot of E38s, but member Rodel Cantillon parked his unique build at the booth, too. “Bimmer Invasion was a great event to attend,” Cantillon says. “I liked seeing that wide variety of BMW builds ranging from old school to new school. Overall, I was blessed to be a part of the BMW CCA booth. It was really a great experience being showcased there and meeting so many other BMW CCA members and see all the other cool booth cars, too.”
The variety of cars, activities, vendors, and people, made for a great day for thousands of BMW and automotive fans, not just in Southern California, but from all over the country. And with this Invasion providing something for everyone, it might be cliché to say it, but at the end of the day, it goes without saying, people were head over heels at Bimmer Invasion LA.—Kyle van Hoften