Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vintage in the Vineyard 2008

Due to some bad virus bug I was unable to attend the Vintage in the Vineyard BMW car and motorbike gathering near Winston-Salem, N.C. yesterday. I was recovering but had no strength and had no business on a bike. Ironically, as I write this on Sunday morning, I got up at 5AM full of energy.

I'll have to see how the day unfolds, but if I felt like this yesterday I would have at least jumped in the car and driven there to enjoy looking at the cars and bikes. Bummer!

I am not sure how I got involved, but Scott, the organizer and graphic artist, sent me an email before last year's event asking if I'd like to ride my 1968 R60/2 bike down there. He was trying to get more bikes involved. I like Winston-Salem and it is only two hours away, so I went. Ann came as well and visited family members while I played with BMW car owners. Great bunch of people and very accepting of people like me who only have to buy two tires at a time.

This gathering held more for me than the bike aspect. From 1966 to about 1970 I owned what I think was the first BMW 1600 2 door imported to the U.S. and owe my life to it. It was bought more-or-less from Max Hoffman (the importer) who had used this car to try and sign up dealers. It is my understanding that this car also was the one used for tests by Road and Track as well as Car and Driver magazine. I found it at Aircooled Motors, the local Porche dealer. As a high school kid I had gone to try and buy a 356c in ratty shape for $1200. Classic line for BMW bike riders is "I didn't know BMW made cars" which is just what I uttered when seeing it there. They let me take it for a ride (fools) and when I returned I told them I had to have it. They were being courted by Max to become a BMW dealer. I remember my first impressions: Stops faster than it goes (and it goes pretty fast) and that it was so neutral handling: aim it where you want to end up and wait 'til you get there. No drama. That whole episode is worthy of another entry one day.

While many kids in that area were risking their lives and consuming grat quantities of adrenalin in GTOs, Cameros and 442s with 300 plus HP and no brakes or steering, I was pushing 96 HP to the ground with very neutral handling that allowed me to outrun the aforementioned heavy iron as long as there was a left turn involved. Actually, right turns were also effective, but the psychological complexity of the right-hander gave the V8 driver reason to slow while the apparent ease of the left hand turn permitted bad judgment to prevail and loss of traction resulted. If you were around in that era or have driven an American car of that time you know what under-steer means. These guys did not drift, but got off the loud petal resulting in a tangential path to what usually was a ditch or road shoulder on the way to the woods as we were playing in rural areas of New Jersey. Do not do this at home.

Anyway, I loved my BMW 1600. It had it's deficiencies to be sure. Some were design faults, like the 6 volt electrical system. Only reason I can figure for that, in light of the fact that even VW went 12 volt years before, was that they found some 6 volt generators and starters cheap in a warehouse. Another issue on my car was that the door latches were prone to sudden failure which resulted in the interior arm rest/door closers being torn out of the door panels by scared passengers or the driver madly grabbing the door to pull it back in when they should just be bracing themselves in a high G turn. Worse yet was when the passenger seat was unoccupied and about 2/3rds the way through a left hand drift the right door (which is HUGH on this car) opens up. I never hit anything, but this happened about 3 or 4 times. I got the latches replaced under warranty several times. Eventually they replaced them with the later model latches that seemed to hold up.

Some faults were clearly my fault. Like the blown shift from third to second instead of forth that resulted in bent valves. Although it was clearly my fault Max Hoffman was nice enough to eat the repair bill and redo the engine under warranty. Other faults were lack of coeffient of friction on ice. Go figure, the laws of physics applied me and my German car just like mere mortals. My mother insisted I come home for dinner one icy night and I slowly carined into a telephone pole a few blocks from home. The police car that responded to the accident nearly ran into me rounding the same corner. The cute little grill that BMWs of all years have in one form or another is the centerpiece of a now-common-technology called a crumple zone. Thus, having a head-on collision, even at 10 MPH results in all new front metal, along, in my case, with a new tin foil like bumper. Of course, there were no parts immediately available. I did get the car back on Valentine's day, in time to take my girlfriend someplace romantic. I repeated the damage that summer in stop and go traffic on our way to the beach when my bare left foot slipped off the clutch and I impressed the front end with the profile of a Buick station wagon rear bumper. This time I was far from home. I don't remember how I got how, but I suspect that I was in convoy with Peter, Chuck or Pat. Somehow the second time doesn't stick in my mind as vividly as the first.

Anyway, it was a great car and I'd buy another in good shape for the $2500 I bought that one new for in 1966.

Visit Vintage in the Vineyard's webpage to see all the cool stuff I missed. Hey, you missed it too! You should go next year! They allow non-BMW drivers/riders to enter the premises. Here are photos of the 2008 event taken by various folks that were there.

Heck, just buy a T shirt and no one will know you are Beemer/bimmer-less!
I think everyone should learn something each day, so here is your lesson for today:

Bimmer (BMW Car)
Beemer (BMW Motorbike)