Owners and lovers of classic BMWs have what to be thankful for. The Bavarian automaker estimates that roughly one in ten units it produced through the 1980s are still on the road, accounting for some 600,000 classic cars and another 70,000 motorbikes... that it knows of. In order to service and repair all those vintage vehicles, BMW has expanded its Classic Center and opened it up to the public.
Previously known as the Historic Workshop, the classics department has until now been responsible for maintaining the factory's own collection of classics. Now the enlarged division is opening up its doors for privately-owned vehicles, with services extending from re-manufacturing discontinued parts to factory certification and even sales.
In addition to the reborn BMW Classic Center, the company has launched a dedicated motorsport division for vintage Bimmers and Minis, offering race support services and even complete restoration of racing models for such events as the Oldtimer Grand Prix, Goodwood Festival of Speed, Mille Miglia and Le Mans Classic.
With the worldwide count of classic BMWs expanding each year, the Classic Center and Motorsport divisions promise to keep vintage models on the road and track for years to come. Full details are available in the pair of press releases after the jump, and photos in the twin galleries below.
Munich. From now on, BMW Classic's specialist workshop will not only be repairing and restoring its own classic vehicles, but also those belonging to customers. The BMW Classic Center thus closes the final gap in the complete range of services offered to the owners of classic models from every era of the blue-and-white badge. Just like owners of new vehicles, these customers can place their car in the hands of specialists, who can draw on the most profound expertise anywhere in the world – that of the manufacturer.
The worldwide interest in classic cars and motorcycles of the BMW brand is growing apace. The 200 or so brand clubs alone account for some 200,000 members. It figures that each of them owns a BMW from earlier decades – the number of historic cars with the blue-and-white badge is estimated at around 600,000 – and those are just the ones we know about. Added to those are some 70,000 motorbikes with classic status, which means that roughly one in ten BMWs built up until the 1980s is still on the road today. And with every year that passes, the number of classic BMWs increases significantly. Thus the early generations of the high-volume BMW 3, 5 and 7 Series already belong to the ranks of modern classics.
With interest growing, BMW Classic has responded to the wish of many enthusiasts to own a vehicle that is as faithful as possible to the original and is in the best possible condition. It is for them that BMW Classic has expanded the Historic Workshop, hitherto responsible for the company's own vehicles, into the BMW Classic Center, which now accepts outside commissions as well. "The workshop is an essential component of the reorientation of BMW Classic and of our customer focus on the classic market," says Karl Baumer, Director of BMW Group Classic. Parallel with this, the supply and remanufacturing of parts is being further expanded. To this are added further areas of business such as the purchase and sale of vehicles, authentication of vehicles, advice to buyers, and a worldwide collection and delivery service.
All-round expertise: a full range of services under one roof.
"The great advantage for customers who bring their vehicle back to the original manufacturer is the complete range of services available under one roof. We have the theoretical knowledge of the vehicles, the technical know-how, the original BMW parts and the necessary infrastructure to connect everything up systematically," says Ralf Vierlein, Head of Sales and Aftersales for BMW Group Classic. It is a concept that was convincing from the start, since a number of classics had already been entrusted to the team at the Classic Center before the actual launch of the new service. Nowadays, going into the Classic Center worskshop feels like being transported back to the 1960s and late 1970s: next to two BMW M1s – a roadgoing sports car and a Procar race car – stand a BMW 3.0 CSi and BMW R 69 S.
The challenges vary as widely as the vehicles themselves. And they are seldom straightforward: for example, the owner of the 3.0 CSi wants to have an automatic gearbox installed in his 1970s coupé, to replace the original manual gearbox. Because this combination was never on sale, independent workshops had to admit defeat. Not so the BMW Classic Center: on a trial basis in February 1972, BMW had fitted two of the high-performance coupés with automatic gearboxes. However, this variant never got beyond the prototype stage. Thanks to rapid and unrestricted access for BMW restorers to the documentation in the company archive, they are able to build a replica of this variant – completely faithful to the original. But this will take time, as quite a number of components have to be specially fabricated for it.
Complete restoration: the M1 from the jungle.
The Series M1 is a very different story. It is to be resurrected exactly as it was built, all those years ago. The legendary super-sportscar from the 1970s belongs to a customer in Malaysia, who sent the car in a container by sea to Munich. The order: a complete restoration. The car had been sitting for many years in what was practically jungle, where it was exposed to extreme climatic conditions. On arrival, the classic was a wreck on wheels. The floor of the car was riddled with termite nests. Not a single rubber component was still intact. First of all, the car was cleaned from top to bottom and rid of all its 'residents'. The vehicle is now being completely dismantled and rebuilt from scratch. The experts extimate it will take about a year and a half to achieve this rebirth.
As with new vehicles, each of the various jobs is taken on by the relevant specialised division. At BMW Group Classic the work is chiefly done within the BMW Group's own network of facilities. Mechanical and electrical components are taken care of by experts in Munich. All the bodywork jobs, right through to painting, are handled by the BMW plant in Dingolfing. Motor sports models go direct to BMW Motorsport GmbH, while for M cars the specialists of M GmbH come on board.
The attraction of the BMW Classic Center is not solely derived from its expertise and authenticity. Even when it comes to pricing, the Munich car restorers are thoroughly competitive: "As regards the price-performance relationship, we are continually getting positive feedback. The fact that we're competitive in the global marketplace can be seen in our disproportionately large order book," Ralf Vierlein confirms.
The Customer Workshop project: a network for BMW classics.
Faced with projects like these, it is easy to see that the capacity of the Classic Center is limited. In order to cope with the rising demand, BMW Group Classic launched the "Customer Workshop" project: "We've had enquiries from Romania, Spain and even from a collector in Brazil, who is interested in a restoration. We are now looking for partners abroad with whom we can work in future," says Dr Thomas Tischler, Service Team Manager at BMW Classic and responsible for the project. The first of these are already on board: in 2009 the BMW Classic Center opened its first branch in Switzerland. For quite some time the BMW branch in Zurich's Dielsdorf district had noticed a growing number of BMW classics in its catchment area and consequently an increased demand for professional servicing for the vehicles. That was followed by the BMW branch in Düsseldorf, which goes by the name of BMW Classic Center NRW [North Rhine-Westphalia] and looks after a large stock of BMW classics in the region.
The "Customer Workshop" project is now being gradually expanded to other regions of Germany as well as to other countries with large classic and modern-classic potential. The BMW Car Club of America alone has more than 70,000 members, and the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association of America some 50,000, each of whom, according to reliable estimates, is the proud owner of between three and four vehicles. BMW Classic intends to target the interests of these large customer groups. Ralf Vierlein: "We are planning to set up a Classic Center in the USA with its own spare parts supply for professional and private customers."
Parts supply: focus on postwar classics.
For decades BMW Classic has been steadily expanding the range of original BMW parts for classic vehicles. The catalogue currently comprises some 30,000 components. The vast majority are parts for the classics that took to the road after 1948. Today, anyone who wants to realise a youthful dream of owning a BMW 2002 or a BMW R 75/5 has no need to worry about maintenance and repairs: "Every BMW classic with two, three or four wheels is to get its TÜV* seal of approval". That is the declared aim of Georg Blumoser, Team Manager Parts Sales. (*Technischer Überwachungs-Verein: Technical Inspection Association)
Beginning with the R 24, the parts list becomes more complete the more recent the model. The R 24 single-cylinder motorcycle was the first BMW vehicle to go into series production again after the end of the war. The youngest offspring of BMW's series output which the experts of BMW Group Classic have taken under their wing is the second-generation 7 Series, which was produced until 1994. The decision on which components should be given priority for remanufacture lies with the customers. From intensive contacts with brand clubs and drivers of BMW classics, and by observing the market, the experts know where the greatest demand lies.
As a rule, the responsibility for parts supply for motorcycles devolves to BMW Group Classic 20 years after production ceases, while in the case of cars it depends on volume after a model series has been discontinued. The simplest bit of all this is the transfer of components still in stock: they remain physically in the central BMW parts supply centre at the Dingolfing plant and are only transferred organisationally to BMW Group Classic. However, also linked with this is the responsibility for the tools and production machinery used to manufacture the parts. And the decision on their future requires careful consideration: once production resources have been scrapped, the possibility of straightforward remanufacturing of the relevant parts in their original condition is lost for ever. Incidentally, this affects not only the tools with which the parts fabricated by BMW itself have been produced; experts from BMW Classic also have a say in the fate of important production installations of suppliers and sub-contractors.
A valuable cache: highly complex tools are kept in storage.
At the very top of the priority list of production facilities that are worth keeping are body presses and highly complex moulds for model-specific components. Every part of the tooling that is relevant for subsequent fabrication is put into storage.
Admittedly, even tools have only a limited life, which can often reach its end during regular production. Then they go off to the crusher, since BMW Group Classic hangs on to the most important thing: the design drawings. As soon as the stock of parts produced with the decomissioned tool dries up, new production tools are ordered. In doing so, the experts from BMW Classic can look at the population of the relevant vehicle and demand for the part, and calculate from these how much longer the stock will last.
Remanufacturing is teamwork.
This system has been functioning very successfully since 1994. It was in that year that the BMW Group founded BMW Mobile Tradition, the forerunner of BMW Classic, with a clear objective: only a roadworthy and visually impeccable classic vehicle can be a credible representative of its era. Admittedly, with those dating from the earlier years of manufacture, it is not always so easy to guarantee this. The older the model series, the greater the challenge to the specialists to produce a new set of parts. This is where teamwork is required: in cooperation with Sales, Parts Technology, Scheduling and Purchasing, a precise production plan is drawn up – similar to that of a new series.
100 per cent original: material, surface and quality.
The first thing to be done is to assemble all information about the part. Here, the most important basic data includes the material from which the element was originally made, how it was processed and whether the structure or surface were treated in a special way. Particularly where engine or transmission parts are concerned, the quality of material is of critical importance if the replicated component is to operate smoothly with the old, existing parts.
The first batch of remanufactured parts is sent to specialists in parts technology at BMW Classic, where they undergo precision measurements and checks. A door hinge must fit exactly, the door must open and close perfectly, and seams and gaps may not deviate from the original. In order to ensure this, the initial sample is fitted into the intended location. Depending on the complexity of the component, several rounds of tests and adjustments to the tools are necessary until BMW's quality standards are achieved. Only then is the part signed off and actual production can begin. At this stage, too, quality is continually controlled until the finished parts go into BMW's central warehouse – after all, every customer must receive flawless goods.
New life for old engines: BMW supplies replacement units for classics too.
Defective or worn vehicle components do not always need replacing by new parts. Engines and transmissions, dynamos and electronic controls lend themselves extremely well to reconditioning. In this case, a classic engine in need of an overhaul receives no less attention and expenditure than one of today's units: both are dismantled and overhauled at the Landshut plant. And every engine reconditioned by BMW always carries a two-year guarantee, irrespective of production year and car model. What applies here is the exchange principle: in return for the defective engine, the customer is given a replacement unit which, in terms of quality and functioning, is as good as a new engine. Independent tests certify not only the engine's flawless quality but also the best value: to repair serious engine damage often works out more expensive than a replacement unit from BMW. The supply of dynamos and electronic components operates in the same way. In this case, however, it is not BMW that does the reconditioning, but the original supplier.
State-of-the-art logistics for supplying classic parts.
Customers of BMW Classic receive the parts they need in the same easy way as any owner of a new BMW car: they are simply ordered by part number, since the logistics are fully integrated into BMW's worldwide service network. The customer just goes to his nearest BMW dealer – anywhere around the globe.
Catalogue of historic parts on the Classic website.
The complete catalogue of components held in stock is listed on the internet and is continuously updated. Anyone looking for a particular part can find out about it there. Access to the on-line parts catalogue is available at www.bmw-classic.com. Specific repair equipment for vehicles dating from the 1960s is available in the same way as the parts.
BMW Classic is there not only to help the classic customer in practical ways, but also to give advice. The experts suggest repair solutions, give instructions for installation and tips on alternative parts. They help out with detailed data on engine tuning as well as with information on which oil and which grade of fuel the BMW classics require.
Vehicle authentication: a certificate of authenticity "from the horse's mouth".
In addition to all this, BMW is one of the few manufacturers offering extensive and detailed authentication for classic BMW cars and motorcycles. The certificate gives information on the historical integrity and condition of the classic model. Modifications carried out over the years in the course of repairs or restoration are often difficult to recognise. BMW Classic has the skills to examine historic BMWs and verify how original they are. When drawing up a BMW vehicle authentication, the experts at the BMW Classic Center work closely with their colleagues from the BMW company archive. It is there that important data on a vehicle's history can be reconstructed. The BMW vehicle authentication is an important tool with which to assess the correct market value of a classic BMW. It gives the client certainty as to the value of his property and serves as a reliable basis for negotiation when buying or selling.
And even those interested in a possible purchase, but who are still undecided about buying a particular vehicle, can be helped by BMW Classic to make up their mind: in Munich a small number of historic vehicles are available for hire, from the Isetta to the 3.0 CSi and 1802, all the way to the Z1. At the wheel of one of these, you can literally feel the fascination of classic BMW automobiles.
BMW Group Classic sets up Motorsport division.
Munich. BMW Group Classic is expanding its mission: from the beginning of this year the newly established Motorsport division is offering assistance in everything to do with classic competition vehicles that carry the BMW and Mini badges. The activities of the motorsport specialists extend from advice on servicing and repair, through parts procurement, right up to complete restoration – drawing on the definitive skills of the manufacturer.
Oldtimer Grand Prix, Festival of Speed, Mille Miglia, Le Mans Classic – motor racing with historic cars is experiencing an unstoppable boom. More and more competitions are exerting a magnetic pull on participants and spectators alike. And almost always there are one or more BMWs on the starting grid. To ensure that these vehicles remain raceworthy, as from January 2010 BMW Classic has set up a dedicated Motorsport division whose aim is to provide the same comprehensive service for classic racing cars as BMW Classic does for road vehicles.
The experts expect to find their main customers among the owners of racers from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. "Anyone who owns a high-performance car like that will also want to drive it," says Friedrich Nohl, who heads up the Motorsport division of BMW Group Classic. And he should know: Nohl was previously head of sports and touring car technology at BMW Motorsport. Whatever the event, the drivers are scarcely less ambitious to win than those who drove the classics in their heyday. And just as in those days, the mechanical stresses of racing can sometimes cause something to drop off or blow up. "Even in historic motor sport we are pushing men and materials to their limits," Nohl adds. With these thoroughbred race cars, procuring replacement parts of a commensurate quality is not so easy. In future, the specialists at BMW Group Classic Motorsport intend to offer their help, even to the extent of replicating special components. Where damage or wear to a vehicle is more extensive, BMW Group Classic will in future also offer maintenance, repair or rebuilding.
Mini Cooper and BMW 1602 as demonstration models.
As demonstration models, the specialists are building two competition vehicles in the course of this year. One is a Mini Cooper S Mark 1 dating from 1964, which can be entered for circuit races. The other is a 1970s BMW 1602 Touring. "Both will be rebuilt from the ground up, in other words starting from the bodyshell," says Friedrich Nohl. Whereas the Mini is being converted to a competition car, the 1602 already has a racing history.
BMW Group Classic has set up the Motorsport division to meet the growing demand for skilled servicing of racing classics while remaining faithful to the originals. "We are getting more and more frequent enquiries of this kind," says Friedrich Nohl. That is no surprise, since many of the one-time circuit and rally cars have survived and are still being raced today. They originate predominantly from the period from 1960 to 1990 – three decades in which BMW and Mini were helping to make a decisive mark on motor sports.
1960-1990: the heyday of the classics.
In the summer of 1961, BMW launched the 700 Sport as the first postwar car intended for motor racing. With its 40 hp this 640 kg flyweight outstripped the competition in its sports class right from the start. In the very first year the German Circuit Championship and the Rally and Touring Car Championship went to the "Little Fury", as the public christened it. In the same era, the Mini made an indelible mark on the history of rallying: its overall victory in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally is the stuff of legend.
The 1970s were dominated by the 3.0 CSL dream coupé, which became the most successful tourer of its era. Between 1973 and 1979 it won the European Championship six times and dominated the international touring car racing scene for the best part of a decade. At the end of its career, as a turbo coupé, it had an impressive power output of up to 800 hp and, on account of its extravagant set of spoilers, went down in history as the "Batmobile".
The 1980s are symbolised by the BMW M3, born in 1986. Right from the start the racer made a clean sweep of victories, trophies and titles: in 1987 it won the World Touring Car Championship – the first and only world title ever awarded in this vehicle category. In the following five years the M3 was undisputed leader of the touring car racing scene. With several European touring car championships, a second win in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) as well as a fistful of other victories and championships at international level, it became the most successful tourer of all.
"We want to make it possible for the owners of our successful classics to get involved in events and competitions without having to sacrifice the driving fun which these cars offer to this day," Friedrich Nohl stresses.