A fervent fan of all things BMW, Ben Miller decided to make a business out of his passion. Over the years, he bought up three firms and merged them into a single company, becoming one of the leading classic BMW specialists in the US in the process. Away from the office, Ben remains a proud collector and avid driver – as we found out.
Acquisition no. 1.
When Ben Miller was working in Tokyo back in the 1980s, the idea of owning his own car wasn’t even on the radar. But returning to the USA to find his friends driving around in BMWs made him hungry for a slice of the action. He liked the idea of an E24 6 Series Coupe (1976 to 1989) – even if its running costs were higher than those of other options – and cast around for someone who could hook him up with a decent example. The search led him to CSI in Santa Monica, California, and he quickly struck up a friendship with the firm’s boss. When his new chum announced his plan to sell the business in 1990, Ben made him an offer – and was soon the proud proprietor of a specialist BMW outlet.
One thing leads to another.
CSI kept Ben busy for several years, in particular with exports to Japan, where he still had some good contacts. In 1993 he bought his first BMW 2002 and a 1600 Cabriolet (model year 1968), which left him needing a new source of spare parts. A company called 2002 AD provided the answer, specialising as it did in the BMW 2002. Ben soon became a good customer – and indeed friend – of the firm. Eventually, in 2005, he bought 2002 AD as well, the “02” having long since wheedled its way into his heart.
Good things come in threes.
In due course, Ben took the decision to bring CSI and 2002 AD together under the same roof in Pomona, California, not far away from southern California’s oldest BMW dealer, Schneider Motors. Founded back in 1965, over the years it became a popular port of call for BMWs old and new. In 2006 Schneider Motors was put up for sale – and there were no prizes for guessing who the new owner would be: step forward Ben Miller.
From customer to market leader.
Fast forward a few years and Ben is now the largest supplier of 02 and CS cars in the US. The 02, in particular, is riding an impressive popularity curve, its fan community stateside expanding all the time. Ben sells cars on a commission basis, supplies spare parts, and carries out repairs and restorations. The workshop in Pomona is always a busy place and the order books are full to bursting.
A labour of love.
Away from his work life, Ben remains a fan and passionate collector. He now owns a total of 25 BMW models built between 1957 and 1984, including every variant of the 2002 (amounting to eight cars). He uses a few of them for daily runs, his 2002 Turbo competes in classic car races, and another member of his fleet has a trailer coupling so it can indulge Ben and his wife by towing their 1965 Detlefs Beduin caravan on holiday. It may be somewhat on the small side by US standards, but this car/trailer combination sure turns heads wherever it goes.
Every car has a special story to tell.
Ben has been a very active BMW club member since 1987, and his company is a signed-up trophy sponsor at the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach. Ben himself won first prize at Pebble Beach in 2013 with his 1972 Alpina CSL, while his 1972 BMW 2002 tii Alpina claimed second place in 2016. He only takes these cars to selected events and otherwise keeps them safely stored away.
Ben points out that the 02 has become an ever rarer sight on US roads and is increasingly viewed as a collector’s car. But that doesn’t stop him grabbing the keys to his own 02 every day to stretch its legs, be it for short errands in the city or on longer journeys with the caravan. His keenness is perhaps not so surprising, as should anything go pop Ben knows a very obliging specialist who will quickly sort it out: himself.