If schadenfreude is the pedants’ drug of choice, then expect to see some crash back down to earth. Yes, the sign over BMW Group Classic’s splendid new old – or possibly old new – HQ does read Bayr. Motorenwerke, but that was how Bayrische Motorenwerke (rather than the more modern and familiar Bayerische Motorenwerke) was written in 1918. Got that?
This is where Bayerische Motoren Werke began, in the Munich district of Milbertshofen, at Moosacher Straße 66 and it therefore represents a most fitting home for the Group’s classic division, in this BMW’s 100th year.
As easy as it is to get carried away with all the work which has been undertaken on the former factory site; the sympathetic modernisation which complements original architectural detailing – even down to retaining flooring and original window frames – this is not why we’re here. We’re here to get an early peek at the new facility’s purpose. A place which, for someone who has a bugbear about Britain’s abysmal record of industrial heritage preservation, I find impressive to the point of being a tonic.
BMW Group Classic’s 13,000 sq.m site at Moosacher Straße 66 is home to BMW’s archive, 90 or so of the company’s most frequently exercised classic machines (out of a total collection of roughly 1400), a customer centre – including parts, workshop and café – and the former production hall is available as a 300-seat venue for large events. It is all impeccably presented – the darkness of polished glass set against crisp white-painted brilliance.
Through the workshop and past its catholic patients undergoing treatment – from a 328 to an E30 ragtop – we’re lead to where the really good stuff is stored. After being asked to leave bags by the door, in case they assault one of the exhibits, we’re let loose in what appears to be a secret gathering of BMW’s greatest hits.
In this white room, free from puddles of oil, grease, dust or anything distracting – but with oodles of daylight – it’s hard to know where to look first in a setting which seems to have been sired by Stanley Kubrick’s imagination. Not one but two 507s in addition to the one outside, an awe-inspiring line-up of 328s or the primary-coloured bonkers-ness of a Gp5 M1. Is that a 007 BMW 750iL from Tomorrow Never Dies? Stupid question – of course it is. A 315, a 326 and an early carburettor-model E9 CSL? A McLaren F1! In here, you’re struck by highlights from Dixie to Z8 via Glas and beyond. There is even a smattering of classic Minis and the odd Rolls-Royce Corniche, which would doubtless tweak purists’ noses.
It is a fantastic place which, when experienced first-hand, makes an indelible impression and sets your lower jaw swinging in awe – but it also sends a message to the wider motor industry. No excuses, the standard has been set for the preservation of motoring heritage, so what is your company going to do about it?