In today’s high-speed, low-attention-span world, it’s remarkable to see just about anything last for 100 years.
When that milestone is reached by an automaker – and a celebrated one at that – it’s time to pull out all the stops.
BMW Group is blowing out a century’s worth of candles this year and will mark the occasion with a calendar of events spanning many months, including the release of ground-breaking concept cars for each of its four major brands and a massive festival for enthusiasts to be held in Munich this September.
But all this future-gazing also comes with a long look back at the company’s roots. A special exhibit titled 100 Years, 100 Masterpieces will be on display at the BMW Museum in Munich for the next 18 months, and the exact date of the 100-year anniversary – March 7th of this year – marked the grand opening of a facility dedicated to preserving BMW Group’s history for another hundred years and beyond.
The BMW Group Classic department was established in 1994 purely with an eye to vehicle preservation. It has since evolved to include management of the company’s fleet of classics – some of which remain at the museum while others tour events worldwide – as well as maintenance of a massive archive that includes vehicle manuals, technical specifications, books, films, and photographs that chronicle the company’s entire first century of existence.
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From early days, the department coped with having its people and resources scattered across BMW Group facilities throughout Germany and elsewhere. With the inauguration of Classic’s new home in north Munich, just down the street from the BMW Museum and world headquarters, the majority of it will finally be housed under one roof.
The facility itself, though, is far from being new. In fact, it reaches so far back in the company’s history that neither a car nor a motorcycle was ever built there. In its earliest days BMW produced airplane engines, and the original entry gate and a portion of the very first production plant form the block of buildings where BMW Classic stands today.
The structures needed to be bought back from commercial brake manufacturer Knorr-Bremse, which had owned them since 1920, and have been restored to Munich’s exacting historical standards.
Today, the grounds include a welcome café, the full company archives with partial access by the public, the restoration workshop and a vintage parts department, and an event space expected to host gatherings of enthusiasts from all over the world.
Why invest in all of this? Because BMW Group, like many luxury automakers, understands the power of cultivating passion and making high-powered dreams come true.
Take, for example, the owner of the mid-1970s 3.0 CSi who wanted to install an automatic transmission (which in some circles would be considered a travesty, but to each his own). No automatic 3.0 CSis were ever released, which made the request seem impossible. But when the owner approached BMW Classic, the staff there discovered information in the archives about a CSi that had been fitted with an automatic for a pilot project in 1972 that never made it to production. The restorers were then able to have parts purpose-built to the original spec and give this owner the car of his dreams.
Those kinds of dreams are what the love of the automobile is made from. And BMW’s willingness to play an active role in making them happen propels the company solidly into a new century that gives its storied first one the respect it deserves.
BMW Group marks its 100th anniversary with a long look back at the passion that’s at the heart of the company’s success.