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Highlights from Saratoga Auto Museum’s 2011 BMW Vintage at Saratoga Car Show

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BMW Vintage at Saratoga, Car Show, Saratoga Auto Museum, Review

BMW Vintage, Saratoga Auto MuseumWhile not American made, the BMW has always occupied a significant niche in American culture as a staple luxury sports car. Before BMWs were noted for built in massage seats and digital rear view cameras, they were esteemed for their wood interiors and the “Hofmeister kink” design. It was precisely those things that were celebrated at the annual “Vintage at Saratoga” this past weekend on July 15 and 16, 2011, highlighted by a lawn show at the Saratoga Auto Museum. The weekend was hosted by the Patroon chapter of the BMW Car Club of America (CCA). The chapter (and national club) is independent of the BMW Corporation, and is known for hosting the annual pinewood derby at the auto museum each winter.

The lawn show started at nine a.m. on Saturday morning; I arrived there early afternoon, just as a silent auction was wrapping up. The show, and weekend, was only open to pre-1988 BMW models and their owners. Uncovered from their sleepy winter storage in garages to avoid the cold weather and salted roads, the majority of cars I saw shared the same “Hofmeister kink” model–a general layout design that is defined by the boxy cab and sharp, straight contours of the cars. Despite the general retro look, the cars varied considerably from fancy hot rods to luxury sedans: Robert Siegel’s red 1973 3.0 GSi, a coupe, looked considerably slender and sleeker, but perhaps not as classic, as Scott Sislane’s black 1976 BMW 2002, or Gary Pyle’s 1973 BMW 2002.

For reasons not clear to me, a canary yellow 1969 BMW 2002 from Vermont (my guess at the year after an internet search) seemed to be showcased on the left lawn in front of a museum, on a driveway of brick surrounded by flowers. The car was probably showcased as an exemplary model—its exterior was flawless. I found myself most enamored by the interior, a mint condition jet-black hard plastic dashboard with, by modern standards, the bare minimum of black fabric and cushioning for upholstery. Looking at the interior wood paneling, including a shiny all-wooden steering wheel, of another model, I commented to someone nearby that it must be difficult to restore the car interiors (reflecting on how messy and aged the soft plastic interiors of my own car gets). “Not really,” he said, probably the owner of the car, “Most of the interiors here have not changed in over 30 years.” It was clear that taking care of such older models is painstaking and expensive, but there was assistance to be found at the show. Several less taken care of models were on sale at the show, my impression being that the owners felt these cars were most valuable for their parts.

In an interesting contrast to the BMWs on the lawn, modern BMWs probably owned by the same vintage care owners were placed on display in the very front of the museum. These models more closely matched the multi-brand cars in the nearby parking lot than the vintage cars parked on the lawn, their smooth designs and plushy interiors representative of modern fuel economy and comfort standards. Of course even after a period of forty to fifty years the blue and white logo (the colors of Bavaria) was the same on every car, symbolic of the brand’s consistent reputation for quality throughout the years.

While it was the highlight of the weekend, the lawn show was not the only event for car enthusiasts. On the previous day, the club hosted a group drive through the region and a meet and greet among for fellow enthusiasts at the Parting Glass pub in downtown Saratoga. Only in its second year, the weekend has not yet become a significant tradition, but it certainly had strong participation. Most of the BMW enthusiasts were from the local area, but there were many from outside of upstate New York, even outside of the northeast. While waiting in line at a food stand hosted by the Greenfield Lion’s Club, a man told me how he brought his wife from northern Virginia, telling me how he went to many car shows in the northeast and took the opportunity to bring his car to the national auto museum. Families and friends from as far away as Georgia and Kentucky formed circles of lawn chairs and sat in groups around their cars, while owners took turns complimenting each other’s vehicles and trading car knowledge. Such a weekend truly epitomizes the national influence of the Saratoga Auto Museum.

–Michael Koester is an Assistant Editor of The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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