It was a “box-checking” weekend.  What made the May 17-19 weekend in the Carolinas even better was that it checked boxes that I didn’t even know needed checking. When you think cars or car-themed weekends, or any weekends, what are some things you’d like to do to punctuate a good weekend? Visiting with friends? Seeing cool cars? Driving cool cars? An annual event that literally draws people from all across the country and, in fact, the world? An open house for a one-of-a-kind new exhibit?

I had been looking forward to seeing the FCP Euro MINI Cupper while out there. This little one has a cool story with it!

As I was moving through what might be considered an aggressively and perhaps foolishly-impacted long weekend mid-May, I was realizing the weekend Carolina trip was checking a lot of boxes on my own informal and unwritten list of fun car things to do. There were some obvious boxes that were checked, but even more less obvious ones got checked along the way.

Many of the guests at the Foundation’s Open House visit the Vintage the following day.

It’s a sojourn I hope to take every year and it has not disappointed yet. The highlights that draw me to the Carolinas each May are the Vintage and the BMW CCA Foundation’s annual exhibit launch / open house at The Ultimate Driving Museum. For me, it starts on a Thursday, leaving work and heading to the airport for a red eye cross-country flight, eventually arriving in Greenville, South Carolina, as the Foundation’s open house festivities are getting under way. (Bonus thank you to Christine Chabot with the Foundation for picking me up and arranging a loaner X2 for me from BMW!)

I’d love a loaner vintage car for the weekend, but the new X2 M35i from BMW worked quite well.

This year, The Ultimate Driving Museum’s exhibit is MINIs to the Max: 65 Years of Spirited Adventures. The Foundation’s lawn and museum have become almost a requisite stop for many of the Vintage faithful this weekend each year. I was looking forward to seeing the new exhibit with 30 examples of MINIs ranging from 1962 to the latest models. I’ve always been a fan of the classic Minis and was excited when BMW brought forth its iteration of the iconic car in 2001. It’s extremely cool to see how the Foundation team has arranged The Ultimate Driving Museum to showcase the variety of cars from the six and a half decades of Mini-ness.

Inside The Ultimate Driving Museum, you’ll find 30 Minis covering 65 years of Mini.

As much as I appreciated what was inside, there’s a literal party outside. Every year, we see anywhere from 100 to 200 cars roll in and park on the Foundation lawn for a good portion of the day. For some, it’s just accessible parking for the open house. For others, that’s the destination and they immediately set up the picnic-plus. Some have already arrived north in Asheville, North Carolina, and made the approximately three-hour drive to Greenville/Greer for this event. Others stop at the Foundation on their way to Asheville where so many Vintage attendees gather the nights before and after the annual Hot Springs, NC event.

Minis proved popular inside and outside of the exhibit.

It’s a relaxing vibe on the lawn but it’s also doubles as a bonus car show.  There are always unique cars there, many coming with their own fantastic stories either of restoration or how precarious or smooth the trip to the Carolinas was for them. I’m there to take pictures and capture the day for the Foundation, but I always try to take time to hang out with east coast friends I usually only see this weekend (Mike Bevels, Nick Wood, I’m talking to you!).

Nick Wood and his father, Dan, talk with Drew Leslie around the EAG E28M5.

I also eagerly anticipate seeing the EAG entourage of cars each year. Drew Leslie with EAG gave the Instagram audience an intro to the cars they brought. It was definitely a 5-series M-caravan for them. They had a great E28M5 parked next to a unique E34 M5 Touring. On the other side of the E28M5 was a car sort of on the other side of the 5-series fans’ preferences, the E60 M5. All three were impressive and it was fun to hear some of the latest developments and cars at EAG.

EAG arrived with three fantastic 5-series examples this year.

The Foundation’s Open House seems to have become as much a staple of the weekend as the Vintage for many. It usually coincides with the Grand Opening of the latest exhibit at The Ultimate Driving Museum. This year, the exhibit officially opened two weeks earlier, but this open house served as a great opportunity for many fans to check it out.

Brandon Wong’s F31 Touring looked awesome on the Foundation lawn during the open house.

As Friday winds down, most of the guests head to Asheville for what is always a fun night at the Vintage host-hotel, the Clarion.  That sells out quickly almost a year in advance and since I’m rarely sure I can make the trip at all, I haven’t experienced that party yet. Instead, my Saturday starts early to allow for the two-hour drive to Hot Springs for the Vintage. This drive is one of my favorites of all time. If you live in that area, it might not stand out the way it does for me. In SoCal, we just don’t generally have those roads winding through lush landscape and rolling hills like that. I’ve done the drive enough to not need navigation anymore, but not enough to ever get bored of it.

The drive in is great, but the soiree at the Clarion host hotel is a highlight for many Vintage attendees.

I suppose one box left to check on this trip is to stay in Asheville for the pre-game (and post-game?) fun. I enjoy that solo drive through the hills, descending into Hot Springs and onto the field ahead of 500 hundred vintage BMWs. When they start arriving, it’s absolutely amazing to see hundreds of consecutive BMWs emerge and roll into the event.  Once they have finally tapered off to a trickle and the field is now full of cars and small canopies, it’s almost overwhelming to see all the cars. Someone asked me “did you see that red E30!” I looked at him as if he had just asked me if I had seen that blue part of the sky.

Sam’s Smith’s new book is legitimately my favorite book I’ve read in years. True story.

The vendors and sponsors are as much a part of the event as anything else there. BMW CCA and the BMW CCA Foundation are front and center among the many great vendors. This year, the Foundation and its fantastic Tire Rack Street Survival program hosted Sam Smith for a book signing there for his excellent new book, Smithology: Thoughts, Travels, and Semi-plausible Car Writings. It was supposed to be a one-hour session, but Smith held court for most of the morning as fans kept coming (or they were asking for directions).

Justin Murray is as much a staple of any year’s Vintage as the afternoon’s rains.

Not to sound cliché, but even though the cars amaze me to no end there, it is just as much an event to relax and see friends and meet more friends. It might be the only time I see guys like Justin Murray and Wes Van Heest, who I met at previous Vintage events, but when I see them roll in, it feels like just the other day we were hanging out, even though it was almost one year to the day.

Brooklyn Taylor rolls out as the Vintage winds down.

Another annual tradition or opportunity is seeing Brooklyn Taylor, Tim Robinson, Adam Armour, and Andre Ledgister.  It’s funny that I think I see Yuma, AZ-based Armour a few times a year—one of them is the Vintage where we each travel more than 2,500 miles and the other might be this coming weekend at BMW Takes Flight IV in Southern California!

Wes Van Heest rolls in to the Vintage.

Walking around the Vintage is a treat in itself.  You see cars in all conditions and styles. You start conversations with people you’ve never met but will likely see again in this community. You see people walking around with “That Bumper They Just Could Not Find” until the Vintage. Sponsors weave themselves into the day as a fun part of the experience.

Tim Kalinin relaxes in front of Tim Minakov’s E34.

I’m going to hold off on more details of the event—you need to look forward to Mike Bevels’ story in an upcoming BimmerLife magazine for that.  But I will say that if you have not been the Vintage yet, it’s a box that needs checking. Scott Sturdy and the crew put together a fantastic event that remains exceptionally casual and completely fulfilling.  And similarly for the Foundation and the unique exhibits each year. You can bet the next one for 2025 is going to be incredible, too.

(more photos from both the BMW CCA Foundation’s Open House and the Vintage below)




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