The BMW Group has pooled all its classic activities into a single historic site. The new home of BMW Group Classic is a depot for classic vehicles, a logistics center, a workshop, parts service, corporate archive and event venue, all rolled into one. Even James Bond’s official car has found a new home here.
- Thomas Dashuber
- Heiko Zwirner
Life’s little luxuries all deserve their place: Karl Lagerfeld’s BMW 750iL was equipped with a tissue dispenser in the door trim, and a fax machine in the glove compartment to ensure the world-famous fashion designer could maintain contact with the business world while on the road. This was a highly exclusive extra, given that mobile communication was very much in its infancy when the car was delivered. The sedan, which dates from 1992, was also unusual in terms of its special paintwork – black down the sides, and silver for the hood, roof and trunk, as if in imitation of its owner’s distinctive look. Today, it stands alongside 80 BMW classic vehicles in a light and airy hall in Munich’s Milbertshofen district.
Every vehicle here has a story to tell. The neighbor parked to the right of Karl Lagerfeld’s 7 Series, for example, is a dark-green BMW 501 complete with roof-mounted flashing blue light. Dubbed the “Baroque Angel,” it rose to celebrity in the early 1960s as an unlikely star in the popular German TV series Funkstreife Isar 12. To its left is the prototype BMW Turbo in 1970s pop livery, with an elongated roofline and gull-wing doors, first presented at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Even 45 years later, the car appears like a harbinger of some future world.
The gateway to the premises at Moosacher Strasse 66, itself a listed historic monument, is indicative of a long and eventful past.
The hall is also part of the evocative backdrop: the gateway to the premises at Moosacher Strasse 66, itself a listed historic monument, is indicative of a long and eventful past. This is where BMW began assembling its first engines around 100 years ago. Now, in its centennial year, the company has returned to the place of its origins to bring various Classic activities together in a fitting environment, under one roof. “At the same time, we have created a focal point for owners of all classic BMW vehicles,” says Benjamin Voss, communications spokesperson for BMW Group Classic.
The 140,000-square-foot complex not only houses a significant part of the BMW collection, comprising around 1,400 exhibits in total, but is also home to the corporate archive. Within this group of buildings is a collection of documents that, together, runs almost four miles in length; alongside it is a classic workshop and a customer center, complete with parts service for owners of historic cars and motorcycles. Part of the old factory building has also been converted to an event hall for conferences and company events.
The hall housing the collection is like an automotive treasure trove, featuring many landmarks in BMW history. Included are a BMW 3/15 PS, the first series model to come off the production lines in 1929; a BMW 303, the first car to feature the distinctive double kidney grille; and a freshly restored BMW 507, the only one of its kind with bright yellow paintwork. The collection also includes many spectacular one-offs and curiosities.
Tucked away against the rear wall is a somewhat battered BMW 7 Series with a rocket launcher concealed beneath the sliding roof. In the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, lead actor Pierce Brosnan appears to operate the car by remote control. But all is revealed when you get closer to the stunt vehicle, of which four were built in total: the driver was, in fact, crouched in a recess cut out of the rear seat. Visibility was anything but ideal from this position, so the stuntman was forced to rely on camera images, which resulted in a minor collision during filming.
The pioneering BMW Futuro motorcycle concept, the BMW E1, was the first purpose-built electric car of recent times, while a hydrogen-powered racer set a new speed record of over 187 mph in 2004. BMW Technik GmbH was dissolved to become part of the development department today, but its impressive design studies are displayed here like trophies around one of the mezzanine floors. The collection also includes motorcycles, racecars and rare items from the BMW Group’s MINI and Rolls-Royce brands. “In order to illustrate the evolution of the automobile at BMW and give the collection a linear structure, we have displayed the vehicles in a basic chronological order,” explains Florian Moser, responsible for cars at the corporate archive.
Guided tours through the hall are available by prior arrangement, although the classic depot is less an offshoot of the BMW Museum and more a kind of historical carpool, with vehicles that are there to be driven. Many cars are road-registered, ready to be fired up and shipped from here to classic events all over the world. Since moving to its new premises at Moosacher Strasse 66, BMW Classic has coordinated major appearances at the Mille Miglia, the Goodwood Festival of Speed in southern England, and the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California.
On the other side of the classic workshop’s glass facade, which was erected between the reception area and the depot, the BMW mechanics have just finished servicing a flame-red BMW 328 following its return from the Mille Miglia. After 1,000 miles of racing, the event has left no visible scars: the vehicle looks immaculate.
The mechanics at the BMW Group Classic workshop are engaged not just in restoring and servicing their own portfolio of classic vehicles, however. They also repair customer-owned vehicles, and have access to an original parts inventory that runs to over 55,000 individual items.
“Customer requests range from a simple oil change to a complete restoration, which may set owners back a six-figure sum,” says Kai Jacobsen, service advisor at the BMW Classic workshop. Vintage models and recent classics are more popular than ever in 2016 and, unlike the old classic workshop at the Garching depot, there is sufficient capacity here to manage customer vehicles instead of turning people away. “The average waiting time is now around four weeks,” notes Jacobsen, “and we can sometimes even squeeze in an extra car if an emergency arises.”
His customers are not just from Munich and the surrounding area, but from all over Germany and the rest of Europe. “We’ve had cars from England, France and Portugal,” he says. “People come to us because no one else can help them – or because they don’t want to be helped anywhere else.”
On the lift behind Jacobsen is a BMW 325i convertible from 1993. It is no great rarity, but the owner wanted to be sure his car was in good hands for its repair. He had it shipped here from Hong Kong.