Deep in the heart of Munich, a small building houses most of BMW's racing history, and all of it runs. It is normally off-limits to the public, but small groups of enthusiasts are occasionally allowed in. Like us.
I came across most of these shots yesterday while digging through an old laptop. They were taken on a trip to Munich in early 2006 and forgotten about soon after. The graininess and weird effects are courtesy of the ancient (1999?) Olympus digital point-and-shoot that I had at the time; it carried a relatively tiny memory card, and the images you see here are all the card would hold.
My notes from that trip were lost when I moved to California, but a few things come immediately to mind: I was in Germany for the debut of the E90 3-series coupe and the technical backgrounder for the N54 turbo six. I was part of a small group of American journalists, and while we spent most of our time in and around BMW's new-car facility, we had dinner on the ground floor of the firm's Mobile Tradition (now — ugh — BMW Classic) building. A tour of the upper floors — the storage area where most of the historic production and motorsport fleet is kept — followed.
For a dyed-in-the-wool BMW geek like yours truly, it was essentially nirvana. I haven't been back since, but at the time, the MT collection was divided up by purpose: a floor for production cars, a floor for racers, a room for motorcycles, and so on. Everything was arranged as it would be in an ordinary person's garage — a few display cases and used tires filled the corners, but by and large, it was a storage facility. Cars were parked bumper-to-bumper, and racing engines lived on stands in the corners. For the most part, the cars were so deeply stacked that you couldn't walk anywhere but down each room's center aisle. Being a sedan dork, I gravitated to the production-based racing cars, which is why the images are slanted in that direction.
The best part was the almost complete lack of signage or identification. If you weren't paying attention, you could walk right by priceless history: A 1000-plus-hp, four-cylinder Brabham F1 car. A Zakspeed-campaigned, Warsteiner-clad DTM E30 M3. The turbocharged, Jagermeister-liveried, ex-Hans Stuck Group 5 320i. A room full of art cars (Warhol, Calder, Lichtenstein, etc.), just hanging out. The Apfelbeck-engined Formula 2 car that Alex von Falkenhausen, the man behind the M10 and the Neue Klasse cars, put together. And a million other things, all of which were claimed to be exercised regularly.
Sadly, we didn't get to see it all — half of the street collection was out for one show or another, and the super-secret below-ground area, the one that supposedly contains the experimental stuff and failed projects, was off-limits. Still, not a bad way to wrap up a Tuesday. Freude am Asshaulen!