Rich heritage breeds proud innovation.

It was with a spring in its step that BMW Group Classic took to the stage at Techno Classica 2017 in Essen, Germany.

Motifs of the original BMW factory at Moosacher Strasse 66 in Munich lined the BMW hall, giving it a distinctive presence and leaving the more than 200,000 visitors to the show from over 40 countries in no doubt whose company they were keeping. The main themes for this year’s stand – BMW innovations from the period 1936-1995, 40 years of the BMW 7 Series, 30 years of BMW 12-cylinder engines and 40 years of successful young driver development at BMW Motorsport – were complemented by the Club Stories section and the MINI brand (in Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique trim). A total of 22 BMW classic and type clubs were represented and 38 vehicles went on display.

The Techno Classica in Essen – the world’s largest classic vehicle show – hosted the latest get-together for the international classic car and motorcycle scene on 5 – 9 April 2017. Attractive snapshots of Moosacher Strasse 66 in Munich (the new home of BMW Group Classic) were skilfully arranged  inside the hall, while information, illustrations and shading on the walls enhance the impression of spatial depth. Created very clearly with the heart, the BMW Group Classic stand was a big hit with clubs and show visitors in equal measure and attracted unanimous praise. 

Throughout BMW’s history, the power of innovation, the pursuit of new developments and the desire for perfection have been key elements in the DNA of the company’s models and engineering. Over the decades, landmark creations have taken to the roads featuring techniques and solutions we take for granted today. 12 of these iconic vehicles graced the spotlight in Essen. The BMW engineering timeline at the show began with a BMW 328 from 1936, the most successful of all pre-war sports cars combining the virtues of lightweight design and aerodynamic excellence. Next to 1954 stood the BMW 502, powered by Germany’s first post-war alloy eight-cylinder engine. And 1974 was represented by the BMW 2002 turbo, the first series-produced passenger car with a turbocharged engine. The wave of innovations continued all the way to the youngest model in this mini-retrospective, an E39 BMW 528i from 1995 – the first BMW to feature an alloy chassis.

To mark the 40th birthday of the BMW 7 Series, seven exceptional examples were wheeled out for public perusal. One such car was the two-tone E32 750iL given a makeover by Paris fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld in 1992. And it was joined by the 750i launched 30 years ago with Germany’s first 12-cylinder engine of the post-war era under its bonnet. This was the car that announced, all guns blazing, the BMW brand’s assault on the sharp end of the luxury segment. However, not even these stars of the show could be ordered with extras such as extending wire-cutters under the BMW badge, a gadget dispensing nails out of the rear end, rocket launchers in the sunroof and remote control via mobile phone; they were the preserve of the E38 BMW 750iL handed over to 007 in the 1997 Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies.

Elsewhere, the BMW 735iL “Goldfish” provided a treat for the techies. The 430 hp 16-cylinder engine shoe-horned into the E32 “7er” for testing purposes in mid-1987 left little spare room under the bonnet, so the cooling system had to be relocated to the boot.

A rather delightful Group 5 E21 BMW 320 run by the then newly formed BMW Junior Team also made an appearance to mark 40 years of successful racing-driver development at BMW, while the MINI brand celebrated a golden moment of its own: 50 years ago, Finland’s Rauno Aaltonen hustled his Mini Cooper S across the finish line ahead of his rivals in a tumultuous climax to the Monte Carlo Rally in Monaco. It was Mini’s third overall victory in the legendary event. The Mini Cooper S driven by Aaltonen in this year’s Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique was delivered to Essen by its Swedish owner in person and attracted many an admiring visitor to the MINI Classic area.

As well as the models decorating anniversaries this year, BMW Group Classic also brought a wealth of other unusual vehicles to Essen that cast the mind back to every era in BMW, MINI, Rolls-Royce and BMW Motorrad history.

The colourful, diverse and extremely active club scene was represented by 22 international BMW classic and type clubs. Each and every club vehicle was preened and polished to resplendent effect. The club community is a tight-knit affair and its members committed ambassadors for the BMW brand. For information and tips, spare parts or road trips with like-minded enthusiasts, you need look no further.

An apparently rather crudely assembled silver BMW M1 likewise stood out as a popular draw. Those first impressions were not deceptive, either; taking its place alongside a standard M1, this was the sole surviving member of the original pre-production test quintet. The prototype’s owner was on hand to explain – in detail – every departure and deviation from the finished car.

Gathered under the Club Stories banner at Techno Classica 2017 were vehicles – among them a BMW Isetta, Z3, 1800 TISA and Z8 – which had forged a special connection with their masters. The owners’ passion for their cars was reflected in fascinating accounts of discovery and restoration, not to mention tales of charmed lives on the road. The models and owners behind the Club Stories painted a suitably vibrant picture of the pleasure bound up in historic vehicles.

That’s something the custodian of the BMW 328 on show in Essen will know all about. As the BMW stand took shape, he cut a remarkably relaxed figure as his priceless classic machine was forklifted onto a slightly shaky platform. Come the end of the show, he wasted little time in disappearing out of a fleetingly open side exit to reacquaint himself with the joy of driving the pre-war BMW roadster.

A stylish American food truck rocked up outside the BMW hall for the traditional BMW evening at this year’s show. With juicy, freshly-made burgers, cool drinks and lively conversation in ample supply, the spirit of friendship between BMW Classic and the BMW clubs was celebrated in suitable style late into the night.

Stefan Bordt