BMW Group Classic is a treasure trove of the Bavarian marque’s cars, bikes and rich heritage. We experienced a small piece of this shrine to all things Bimmer...
As I stand between three buildings in the suburb of Milbertshofen in Munich, I don’t quite know where to focus my attention. In the one – a workshop – a couple of clients’ ultra-rare M1 supercars are being worked on. In the other, which is glass-walled, there are classic BMWs, a racecar and an Isetta. The third houses no fewer than 70 road cars, motorcycles and yet more racecars.
The workshop has two areas: one for short-term jobs such as maintenance and servicing (called the "west wing”) and, in the “east wing”, big projects like restorations.
During a tour of the latter, I pore over one particular cupboard housing the special tools made for all the various cars. Not only is there a plethora of vehicles in the small collection next door, but its variety is just as impressive. From Mille Miglia cars from 60 years ago to road and race versions of the legendary McLaren F1 (for which BMW supplied engines), up to more modern, special road vehicles, I feel as if I could spend an entire day just absorbing it all.
BMW established its archive in 1966, which was the same year the firm celebrated its 50th anniversary and opened its museum. Fifty years later, the company archive, vehicle collection, workshop and customer centre – together with the parts service for classic automobiles and motorcycles – were relocated to this ensemble of buildings. Today, the combined facility is called BMW Group Classic and it also incorporates Mini, Rolls-Royce and BMW Motorrad.
The 13 000 m2 site includes one of the first production buildings from 1918, when BMW was but a fledgling company. It was preserved during the restoration programme, as was the heritage gatehouse, which today is a listed building, and represents the impressive entrance to the enshrined history of the BMW Group.
Every year, no fewer than 400 cars and motorcycles are processed by the combined workshop: some undergo minor services; some get fully restored to their former glories. Around half of that workload is done for customers.
Benjamin Voss, spokesman for corporate and government affairs at BMW Group Classic, elaborates on the background of the facility’s employees: “Our technicians have varied backgrounds. One of our mechanics, who works in our motorsports section, has been employed by several F1 teams (such as Benetton, during the era when Michael Schumacher won his first two drivers’ titles).
“On the other hand, we also recruit young mechanics who were trained within the BMW Group. The different backgrounds of our technicians are part of our philosophy. Each one is a specialist in a certain field and shares their knowledge with other colleagues in order to guarantee successful knowledge transfer and, most importantly, to keep this valuable know-how within the company.”
When I ask Voss about the number of cars in BMW’s collection, I’m flabbergasted by his response:
“Our collection is growing steadily because we also store new cars that roll off the production line. At the moment, our collection consists of 1 200 cars and 300 bikes that were (or are) in series production; 200 concept and design studies; and 200 racecars and motorcycles.”
All considered, BMW Group Classic has a virtually complete collection of all the respective models that BMW has produced. However, the firm still actively searches for vehicles that could enrich its collection: “Here’s an appropriate example,” Voss says. “We had several examples of the E30-generation 3 Series, but were missing a 333i, the limited-edition two-door model that was produced and sold exclusively in South Africa in the mid-Eighties. Four years ago, we finally tracked down a good example of a 333i and did not hesitate to buy it.
“We are constantly increasing the number of classic Minis and Rolls-Royces as well,” he adds. “Our aim is not to have a comprehensive collection of every Mini and Rolls-Royce model we’ve ever produced; we are looking for particular cars that tell a special story or played a significant part in the brands’ histories.”
The company’s parts catalogue for classic cars is growing, Voss notes. “As the BMW Group Classic parts supply becomes integrated with the Original BMW Group spare parts network, certified dealerships will have access to all available parts (as they do with parts for current BMW models). At the moment, there are around 60 000 different parts available for classic BMWs.
“We also produce components in-house. For example, we are making the cylinder head of the 328 Roadster in collaboration with our engine plant in Landshut. Two years ago, we began making parts through 3D printing. At the moment, around 10 parts are produced using this technology, be it the elegant door handle of the 507 or a clip for an E36 3 Series Cabriolet.”
I am filled by a sense of relief after my enjoyable visit to BMW Group Classic. In these unromantic times, it’s great to know a mass vehicle producer such as BMW can be as passionate about its heritage as it is focused on rolling out new models.
But, that’s not all, BMW Classic also houses...
- 3 500 artefacts (helmets and trophies, for example)
- 2 500 metres of files (minutes of board meetings, vehicle records, etc.)
- 41 000 print products such as brochures
- 200 000 images
- 15 000 hours of AV files
- 6 400 books
Many of the above documents have already been digitised into 40 TB of data.