[note: this post, like an air-cooled 911, is back-dated to when these events occurred]
[also note: I have condensed multiple forum posts into this entry, please forgive awkward transitions]
A couple of weeks ago I flew home to Atlanta to see my parents and attend the BMW CCA foundation fest event in South Carolina. We'd been planning to attend the Vintage - my second time, having flown out for that event in 2017 - but it was canceled, only after I'd booked my flight. Thankfully the BMW CCA stepped in and put together an event called the "Foundation Fest" at their headquarters, adjacent to the BMW Spartanburg factory and performance driving center, for the same weekend. Dad and I signed up online and decided to take both of his BMWs.This was my first time flying since the pandemic started, and I wasn't sure what to expect. In fact I think this is the longest I've gone without flying in my adult life. The round-trip ticket with Southwest from San Jose to Atlanta was an unbelievable $258, a price I don't expect to ever see again. Southwest is keeping their middle seats open through the end of November and I found the whole experience to be about as good as it can be. Everyone had their masks on and kept their distance, and it was all uneventful. I felt safe.
Greenville is a brief rip up I-85 from Atlanta, but what's the fun in that? We took the long way up through the mountains, passing through Highlands and Cashiers in North Carolina before diving back down into South Carolina.
Dad's 2002 is fresh off of a body refurb and full paint, looking better than ever. He and my mom tucked into the old timer while I drove the E46, top down the whole way. The weather was fantastic and we were able to enjoy the fall colors.
It's been a very long time since I've been up in the Cashiers area. Looking at the map, I thought that at 3pm on a Thursday we'd have sweeping mountain roads all to ourselves. Unfortunately, the reality turned out to be mostly new SUVs on Florida plates lumbering around under the speed limit. Bummer. I pulled off to give myself a bit of a buffer and used the opportunity to snap some photos of the M3. To me, the phoenix yellow MAKES this car. If it were silver it would have a totally different feel to it, but there is something about the bright color that gives it personality.
My stopping also gave mom and dad a chance to catch up.
Things improved when we turned south from Brevard on 276 and went through the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. We were mercifully unimpeded for most of the run.
We rolled into the Hyatt Regency in Greenville just before dark on Thursday night. I don't think I've ever been to Greenville before, it's a nice little downtown.
The keen-eyed among you may recognize the red M3 as Michael Washington’s. I introduced myself and it was a pleasure to meet him after seeing his name on the SIG, FB, and on the forums through the years.
This turned out to be a bit more serious an event than I'd anticipated. There was a big crowd interested in trying their luck behind the wheel. Every red-blooded driving enthusiast, no matter how much we posture or joke about driving skill, gets competitive when a stopwatch is introduced. The course was arranged so that everyone waiting their turn watched everyone as they drove, and front and center was a timer to provide immediate judgment on your driving prowess. Trial by fire!
The cars were pretty new M240is with automatic transmissions. Rules dictated that the cars had to remain in Sport mode with traction systems in place. I spent my first few passes learning the course and found that the biggest hinderance to a fast time was the traction control system - upset it, and the motor bogs down and your quick run is toast. I ended up pretty satisfied with my time, I think something like a 23.5 against the best time (at least while I was there) of around 22.9. Ironically the prize for best time of the day is a day of performance driving school... in theory awarded to the person who needs it the least! Ha.
With that out of the system, we returned to the Foundation building for our scheduled viewing time for the Genesis exhibit. They had time slots set up to keep capacity at healthy levels. I have to admit that I am pretty ignorant when it comes to pre-war cars, and also under-informed when it comes to BMWs made before the 2002. But it was enjoyable to step back into the coach build era, where every car was a one-off in its own way. It was also a real pleasure to finally meet Dirk de Groen, president of the BMW Classic Car Club of America (CCCA, different from CCA). I've corresponded with him and provided photos to his magazine over the years but this was my first time actually meeting him in person. Super nice guy. He had two cars in the exhibit, the white 328 and the blue/yellow 315 as well.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see Steve Walker's 700 on display.
I also peeked behind the curtain at some of their museum items in the storage area.
I was impressed by the foundation's assembly of these unique vehicles from all over the country. I think they've produced an online version of the tour to make it more accessible to everyone in 2020. Worth seeing it in person if you're able to make it!
I guess the Zentrum is a museum of sorts? They had the first car built on a pilot line at this factory (the E36) and some other vehicles that were built here as well.
This very tidy white M3 was there, not quite stock though - 16" wheels, some racy stripes, exhaust.
If I remember the placard correctly this was the last M Coupe built. I quite like it in white with the M flag decals. It's pointless to make the claim now, but I promise, I always thought the wide-hipped M coupe was amazing even when everyone else thought it was awkward. Unfortunately now everyone agrees with me and they're $$$.
This was the rather uninspiring "made here at the factory" portion of the exhibit... though to be fair, I would like to try one of the new M SUVs.
We made our way back to Greenville with the Friday evening traffic. On Saturday morning we returned to the BMW hub, this time for the Cars and Coffee put on at the BMW CCA headquarters.
I warned my dad but he didn't listen: "If you don't want to talk about your car all morning, you better step away from the car." Something I practice with the Skyline. But he didn't, and so he was there chatting with people for a couple hours. To be fair though, he was enjoying himself and meeting nice new people. His 02 received some really nice compliments and that's always fulfilling.
The other car, also red, was set up on these beefy HRE wheels.
Here's an original owner 1602 to finish off the photos from the C&C event.
For the drive home, we decided to try a different route. I was nosing around on Google maps when a name caught my eye. Pumpkintown. And just down the road from that - Salem. What better destinations for the week before Halloween? So we set the GPS and it wound up being a really nice route through farmland and smaller roads. I think both the M3 convertible and the 2002 were in their element on these sweeping, quiet lanes.
Pumpkintown, as it turns out, is the intersection of two small roads. There's a Dollar Tree on one side and the Pumpkintown General Store on the other. Best food in town! In my head I was planning a really nice photo of both cars posed in front of the building, instead it was busy with a Saturday lunch rush.
Salem had a bit more going on, but... not much on this particular day.
We laced our way around and across Lake Keowee before rejoining the larger roads on the final stretch home. At this point driving fatigue was starting to set in from a busy weekend and I stopped snapping photos. About 30 minutes from home the heavens opened up and were doused with rain. I was lucky to be able to pull over beneath a conveniently-placed overpass and put the roof up before I got soaked.
Here's roundie rolling down the driveway, having safely completed the 500-mile trip without one hiccup. Both cars performed flawlessly, in fact. We'd talked about swapping seats for different driving legs but in the end dad wheeled the 2002 the whole way and I enjoyed the E46.
The M3 convertible is extremely well-suited for this type of travel, and it was affirming to experience it myself. It's not the car I would buy for myself, right now, based on the way I like to drive - aggressive windy roads mainly - but as a long-distance GT it was a great place to be. The S54's induction noise comes to you from all directions with the roof down, it has heated seats, cruise control, and modern conveniences, the ride is comfortable (at least compared to my own cars). The seats didn't tire me at all. I did subject it to "my style" of driving when we found the clear twisty roads. The run-flat tires and 300 lbs. extra of the convertible don't do it any favors, and it certainly doesn't grip like my E30, but it was still enjoyable despite the lower performance threshold, if that makes sense. Yes it rolled a bit, and the grip was lower, but it still had the excellent steering feel and dynamic experience I'm used to from my cars and my old E90. The motor is also so enjoyable to use, linear and ready to roll all the way out to 8k. No wonder so many people drop them into our E30s, I'd love to try one in a light car.
To wrap up the trip, the 2002 took me to Mellow Mushroom to pick up dinner. It's like reuniting with an old friend!
Thanks for following along if you read all this. All the car stuff is fun but at the end of the day it was all about spending time with my parents. That's what cars do for me, for my life... they open up all these awesome adventures and opportunities to spend time with loved ones, friends, and new friends. Go for a road trip!