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home·​com·​ing |  \ ˈhōm-ˌkə-miŋ \

Definition of homecoming

: a return home
: the return of a group of people usually on a special occasion to a place formerly frequented or regarded as home

On January 18th and 19th I attended the Closing Celebration for THE ICON: 50 Years of the 2002, at the BMWCCA Foundation headquarters in Greer, South Carolina.  Open to 200 participants for the paltry sum of $75.00, the “Weekend with ICONS” celebrated the end of the ICONS exhibit, which opened in May of 2018 and showcased 50 Years of the 2002.

I asked Scott Dishman, the Executive Director of the Foundation, for a few “official” words regarding the Foundation and the event.  Here is what he provided:

“The BMW CCA Foundation is the philanthropic expression of tens of thousands of CCA members, and our dual mission is to Save Lives, and Save History. We work to save lives through Tire Rack Street Survival, which provides high-level car control training to about 2,500 teenage drivers every year. We work to save history by operating, on the behalf of CCA members, the world’s second-largest BMW Museum & Archive.

The BMW 2002 is the iconic little car that launched the BMW Car Club of America, and ignited a cult that lives to this day. The Foundation was proud to celebrate the 50th birthday of this four-wheeled phenomenon, and we did that with an 8-month exhibition of THE ICON: 50 Years of the 2002. Thousands of visitors from more than 20 countries saw the show, the exhibition book is a strong seller around the globe, and both the opening and closing events were sold out!”

For me it was a homecoming in both senses of the definition: I drove my 2000 Z3 to five Z-series car Homecomings at Plant Spartanburg from 2002-2006, and now we traveled back together to its birthplace in South Carolina.  It was also a homecoming in the sense that the Foundation and BMW USA made us feel at home.  In the spirit of the 2002, it was a Homecoming because enthusiasm about the car among early owners of the 1600-2/2002 led to the creation of the BMWCCA.

The Foundation set up great events that began on Friday morning for a lucky 50 participants at the BMW Performance Center Driving Experience, where they learned how capable the M5 is.  Unfortunately, I signed up too late for this opportunity.  I did, however, visit the museum where I got a chance to view all the cars on display.  I also checked out the display of “bricks”, purchased to help fund the Foundation, where I found the brick my wife and I purchased as well as the brick purchased by the St Louis Chapter acknowledging my work on the newsletter. No trip to a museum is complete without souvenirs, and I picked up an ICON t-shirt and the book “THE ICON: 50 Years of the 2002,” written by Jackie Jouret and featuring some history of the 2002 as well as photos and a description of each vehicle on display.

Later in the afternoon, I drove the ½ mile or so to the Performance Center for the Alpina-Schnitzer Race Demo where four of the race cars on display in the museum took to the track and did several laps for the grateful crowd. A highlight for me was hearing the owners of the cars describe some of their car’s history before they fired them for the laps. Andreas Bovensiepen, the CEO of Alpina and one of the featured speakers at the closing ceremony on Saturday, drove the Alpina built by his family’s company. Additionally, Mike Renner, the head of the BMW Performance Driving Center, arranged for interested participants to take rides in M3s around the track with his instructors doing the chauffeuring. Renner also introduced to the crowd the original Stig, a character on the British motoring television show Top Gear, as well as the latest Stig.

Saturday began with a tour of the factory – Plant Spartanburg, as it is called. The facilities have changed significantly since I was last there in 2006.  For one, the Zentrum has been reconfigured, with more of a focus on the X cars built at the plant. And the tour was in Hall 52, a new set of buildings north of the plant we toured back in 2006, requiring a short bus ride rather than a short walk. The tour accommodated 100 people, but there was a communication problem and they had to split the group into two. I was in the second group, that instead of leaving at 9:30 a.m. had to wait until 11:00 a.m. for the tour. Those of us who waited were surprised when someone from the Zentrum staff approached us with a goodie bag containing a BMW travel mug and a leather-bound notebook for our inconvenience.  Definitely not expected, but certainly appreciated.  The tour itself lasted an hour and took us through parts of the assembly line showing latter stages of assembly. We got to view from a distance, unlike when we toured when they were building Z3s and X5s, but still a thrill to watch the workers assemble our favorite marque.

Following the plant tour, I headed back to the Foundation Museum so that I could snap some additional photos of the 2002s and 1 Neue Klasse sedan on display.  During this time, Rob Siegel was repairing “Louie”, his 2002 he picked up in Louisville, KY, and wrote a book about repairing it there so he could drive it to his home in Massachusetts.  To fix a clutch issue he replaced the clutch slave cylinder and master cylinder.  It was good to meet Rob, he and I have corresponded back and forth for many years, including discussions about BMWs and Lotuses (I had a Lotus Elan, he is building a Europa).

The foundation closed its doors at 3:00 p.m. in order to prepare for the Closing Celebration that would begin at 6:00 p.m. There was a great selection of Hors d’Oeuvres, and beer/wine/soft drinks to enjoy in the museum lobby prior to the ceremony in the museum exhibit hall. With participants gathered in the exhibit hall, Scott Dishman welcomed everyone and introduced Jackie Jouret, researcher and author of the ICON exhibit book, who discussed the history of the 2002 and its impact on the future of BMW. Rob Siegel, the “Hack Mechanic”, then shared some excerpts from a forthcoming book about his first 2002, “Bertha”, that he recently reacquired. Tom Plucinsky of BMW North America continued the story of the 2002 started by Jackie Jouret, discussing offshoots like the Baur convertible, the Targa, and hatchback, as well as some special factory editions. Then Andy Bovensiepen shared thoughts about the Alpina racecar on display. Knudt Flor, President and CEO of BMW Manufacturing, stated how pleased he was that he was able to support the ICON exhibit. Throughout the evening, some lucky participants won door prizes, provided by Yokohama Tires, bav Auto, Griots Garage, and Coco Mats. At the end of the event Scott Dishman thanked everyone for coming and for their continued support to the Foundation.

Homecoming, indeed.

~ Ernie Peters

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