The title is the translation of a quote by the French author and politician André Malraux. Yet, today’s article is not about French cars – but rather, BMW Group Classic.
As BMW passed its first 100 years of automotive production in 2016, a greater emphasis was put on their history and the cars which shaped it. The entire BMW Group Classic division moved into its own buildings only a few kilometres from the BMW Group headquarters in “The Four-Cylinder Building” and BMW Welt in Munich. These buildings were originally the home of a BMW aircraft engine factory, and today includes administration, BMW’s own collection of historic cars, workshops… and last but not least, the BMW Group Archive.
Like many other premium brands with a story to tell, BMW is keen to exhibit their heritage. Among multiple other activities, BMW Group Classic is the main sponsor and organizer behind Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, which of course also includes classic cars from many other automotive marques. But BMW Group Classic obviously takes the opportunity to put some historic cars from its collection, as well as selected concept cars, on display.
As such, their collection of historic cars is not open to the public, but as ViaRETRO’s reporter, yours truly, managed to gain access to the holy grail including a glimpse into their workshops. A big thank you to the Communication Department at BMW Group Classic is in order for making this possible. The workshop, manned by BMW’s own mechanics and technicians, refurbish and maintain the cars in BMW’s own collection, but also provide these services for private individuals who require their own classic BMW returned to as-new condition. That’s a service which naturally doesn’t come for free, but in return the result is top notch.
Starting off in the workshops, there were several E9 coupés being seen to. It’s always been my favourite BMW coupé of them all, which is furthermore celebrating its 50thanniversary this year.
I was then granted access to the collection, where Quester and Hezemans’ gorgeous E9 “Batmobile” from the 1973 season of the ETCC immediately caught my attention.
Followed by the iconic BMW 2002 Turbo – the first European turbo-charged production car.
We will skip the E21 first-generation 3-series, as there were none of those on the day… and instead move on to these two hardcore E30 M3 touring cars.
Behind them to the right is seen – on the “shelf” – a vivid green Z1 prototype coupé which never made to it to the assembly line.
There was also a rare example of the late-sixties 1600 cabriolet, built by Baur in a mere 1,682 examples. I have always considered it a beautiful car, but… as far as I remember… there were a few issues with lack of bodywork stiffness.
I also got the opportunity to revisit a rather special BMW 507. With only 252 cars produced, they’re of course all pretty special, but this particular example was purchased by none other than Elvis Presley during his time as a G.I. in the American armed forces while serving in Germany. The last time I saw the car was at the BMW Classic booth at last year’s Motorworld Classics exhibition in Berlin, where it was the main attraction. After multiple years stood in a barn in the USA, the 507 has been returned to concours condition by BMW Classic’s workshop.
The car is not for sale, but if it were, it would probably be fair to expect a price tag of around £ 3.8 million, which a similar 507 belonging to John Surtees, recently sold for at the Bonhams auction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
There were also a number of pre-war 328’s – with BMW Classic owning quite a significant number of the cars still in existence. Some were even the exquisite Touring Superleggera bodied 328’s used in period in races such as the Mille Miglia.
The same was true of the fifties “Baroque Angel”, which was present in several examples and variations: Saloon, Cabriolet, Coupé… and finally as “Staatslimousine”, which was delivered to the federal government in Bavaria as occasional transport for Franz Josef Strauss.
But besides providing the base for the stylish 507, the “Baroque Angel” also formed the base for the more subtle 503 coupé and cabriolet.
In stark contrast, another example of fifties-BMW was the Isetta, which transformed into the slightly larger 600 which in turn led to the 700 model. We should perhaps call the first decade after the World War II for the diversified period – in which BMW struggled to find its identity.
The “Baroque Angels” were too expensive, especially on the German domestic market in the 1950’s, yet on the threshold of the 1960’s, customers wanted more than a motorcycle-based microcar.
This fabulous Bavarian collection also included a selection of MINIs – one might wonder why they were in Munich… But when BMW acquired the Rover Group, the MINI – fortunately for BMW – was included in the “package”.
Financially, the acquisition was almost a disaster for BMW, as it took several years to build it into a reasonable deal – mainly with thanks to the MINI. Perhaps emotion played some role in the decision… The BMW CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder (at that time) was the nephew of the designer of the MINI: Alec Issigonis…
It is somehow a real pity that the exhibition – in these atmospheric surroundings – is not directly open to the public, but at least guided tours can be arranged. Furthermore, there are also conference rooms of various sizes within the buildings, which can be booked should a company or group require a more adventurous setting than your average hotel.
And if you’re looking for essential data on your classic BMW, it’s worth contacting the archive department, since their archives have data on even very early models.
Just as an example: I have spoken with an enthusiast who received data on his 1937 BMW 326 from the BMW Archive. BMW had them even though the Eisenach factory ended up on the opposite side when the iron curtain went down after World War II. Impressive!
The BMW Group Classic is located on Moosacherstrasse 80, 80809 Munich, which is easily reached by the U-bahn line U3, at the Oberwiesenfeld station. Oberwiesenfeld was also the name of an airport now closed. The BMW aircraft engine factory was located next door.
Also, do consider making a stop at the Olympia Center station for a visit to the BMW Museum as well as BMW Welt. Here, it’s also possible to sign up for a “Werksführung” on the so-called BMW Stammwerk, where you – on another guided tour – can get an impression of how a BMW is put together in this modern day.
When you’re all BMW’ed-outand ready to call it a day, take the U3-line back to central Munich, get off at Marienplatz at the Town Hall, find a beer garden, order “Ein Hefe-Weizen” and something from “Unsere Schmankerl” (our delicacies)… Then sit back and relax while the many impressions of the day are digested over Bavarian delicacies and weissbier…