The BMW Museum is one of life’s treasure troves. The cars and motorcycles are often one-off examples of their kind – the value of prototypes and design studies, in particular, beyond figures alone. All of which makes it even more incredible that the BMW Museum opened its doors for a group of handpicked guests to go where nobody had gone before and spend a night within its halls. This was an evening with all the trimmings: a tour, a photography seminar, a dinner and a bed among the precious exhibits. A night when the BMW Museum was transformed into a second home – and a dream became reality for 25 BMW club members from Germany, Italy and Switzerland. BMW Club & Community Management made it possible.
There is a grand total of some 700 BMW clubs around the world, with 300,000 members on their books, and not many vehicle manufacturers can claim similar levels of enthusiasm or dedication to the cause. The variety of fans within their ranks is impressive indeed, some restoring rare old classics, others lapping up the performance of rather younger models. Whether motorcycle rider or car driver, a shared love for a single brand brings all of these BMW aficionados together. This committed and vibrant scene provided the inspiration for a night the likes of which the BMW Museum had never seen.
The premiere of BMW’s own “Night at the Museum”.
The sign outside the BMW Museum says it closes for business at 6 p.m. At this time on any normal day, the building falls quiet. But on this Saturday evening in July, a new group of guests are just pulling up outside the door. Many have travelled a long way – from Italy, Switzerland and Hamburg, among others. And the cars that have got them here include a rare lightweight (and bright yellow) CSL, a tuned M5 and a classy 3 Series Touring from the Alpina works. All of the guests are members of BMW clubs. Like their cars, no two are the same, but a single purpose unites them.
And so those closed doors are opened again for the 25 club members, and they won’t be leaving again until the morning. The atmosphere as the first welcome drinks are consumed (alongside A.R. Penck’s Z1 Art Car) is as you would expect for a sleepover of such a unique kind. Smiles are everywhere and you can sense the excitement in the air. What an event this is – and what a place to do it!
The group duly sets off for a tour of the otherwise visitor-free halls to get them in the mood. BMW Museum expert Matthias Schlichter is unhurried and has the answer to every question that comes his way. Rather handily, Schlichter also has the keys for some of the cars and can open doors, bonnets and lids that must usually remain firmly closed. And so a red M1 is able to reveal both its mid-engined majesty and the astonishingly large luggage compartment with which nobody would have credited it. Everybody is invited to run their fingers over carbon prototypes and to get up close with the Mille Miglia-winning coupé from 1940, just back from a rumble around Goodwood. Don’t be shy, it’s only an irreplaceable one-off! Matthias’ white gloves are the sole reminder of the huge worth attached to these exhibits.
A photography seminar with a pair of pros.
Post-tour, the guests head for the M1 Café to enjoy a suitably decorated dinner. This is their chance to take on the sustenance required for a long night that is only just beginning. Indeed, next up is a photographic seminar with two professional snappers. When it comes to shooting cars so they look even more fantastic than usual, Tina Weber and Max Kratzer are masters. They show the group examples radiating dynamism and light reflexes, and explain how these could be re-applied beautifully to every vehicle on display in the Museum.
Suitably inspired, the club members fan back out into the Museum halls – which have taken on a somewhat enchanted feel – in search of subjects for their lenses. Many are keen amateur photographers and have brought professional cameras with them to make the most of this opportunity. Others are having a whole lot of fun just with their smartphones. Some kneel on the floor, others stretch out flat, tripods are reached for and everyone remarks on the trust (bestowed upon them by the BMW Museum) that has made this unique event happen. It’s late, past midnight now, but nobody has considered calling it a day.
Dreaming next to dream cars.
At some point, eyelids will start to droop, of course. But that only diverts attention to the next highlight of the night: proper beds set up among the exhibits. The only other people who have had the chance to lie down and relax next to a Le Mans racing car were the mechanics at trackside – and they certainly didn’t get to lie there for the whole night. Imagine drifting off at arm’s length from a 507 (which is still there when you wake in the morning), casting a slumberous eye over your toes to be greeted by a fascinating design study in all its glory, or sending yourself slowly to sleep by counting the exotic horsepower gathered around you rather than imaginary livestock. It brings a whole new dimension to the idea of a “dream car”.
Seemingly the only luxury not on offer is a lie-in; the Museum will open, as every Sunday, at 9 a.m. sharp and it would be a little odd for visitors to find people lying in bed next to the cars. Instead, a group breakfast back in the M1 Café brings this extraordinary night to a close. It is one that will remain long in the memories of all those present. And a re-run has not been ruled out.