Epic BMW tour celebrates '02 anniversary

| 6 Jun 2016

More than 320 classic BMWs from across Europe and further afield converged on Oberammergau in southern Germany for the 02 Club Bavaria Tour from 25-29 May to mark 50 years of the 1600 in the famous Munich firm’s centenary year. The event featured virtually every variation of ’02, plus an assortment of Neue Klasse saloons – one a pukka TiSA – as well as more than 30 E3 saloons and E9 coupés.

Furthest travelled – in terms of distance – was the ’74 2002tii, sporting Louisiana Antique plates, that Tim and Jan Abendroth had shipped from the US to Rotterdam and driven down to Bavaria. Tim has owned the car, bought new by his sister, since it was four years old. Alvin Chua had flown over from Adelaide, Australia with his wife Anna to drive the gorgeous ’72 2002 that his friend Anders Bilidt bought as his first car 24 years ago. 

About 15 cars from the UK – mostly co-cordinated by the 02 Forum – included a couple of veterans of the inaugural Bavaria Tour 14 years ago, and James Child (whose first car was an ’02) in his recently acquired 2000, one of only three factory black cars known to Neue Klasse guru Paul Hill. They stopped en route at Alpina in Buchloe (above). Nearest the camera is the lovely Pastelblau ’75 tii that County Down dairy farmer Jay Warden has owned for 25 years. It was purchased new by his uncle.

Alpinas were out in force on the event, in fact, such as Peter Meyer’s stunning 2002 Touring, sporting boxed arches and signature ‘turbine’ alloys.

A strong Dutch contingent included Guido and Shirley de Oude. “I started with classics as soon as I got my driving licence,” explained Guido. “I was looking around at Volkswagen 411s in 2002 when a guy at work said that he was selling a 2002. It drove better than my Beetle and as well as my modern Seat, so that was it.” They now have 12 classics, including a Simca 1500 and their Nevada beige ’72 2000.

Swede Andreas Liljekvist from Karlskrona bought his immaculate turbo 14 years ago: “The engine has recently been fully overhauled, including new pistons and cylinder head. Now it’s like driving a new car!”

BMW, of course, supported the event with four cars from the Classic fleet, the highlight being the beautiful Frua-styled 2002 GT4 (above, centre). It also provided a couple of X5s full of technicians to sort any problems that people had along the way.

The tour itinerary included two breathtaking ‘tulip’ drives, each of about 150 miles. One route meandered south towards the Austrian Tirol, while the second featured a spectacular climb up the Riedbergpass to the Grasgehren Berghütte (above), at 1447m in the Alps, then back down again after lunch.

There was something for all tastes, from this sweet Caribe blue 1600 to all manner of modified cars, one of several early examples that drew lots of attention at Friday’s main static display at Oberschleißheim north of Munich.

Hotelier Nick Vyse drove up from Gréolières, near Nice in the South of France, in his subtly modified ’65 ‘1600’ (above, and see C&SC magazine, July 2012). It’s powered by an uprated 2-litre mated to the complete back end – including limited-slip diff – from an E9 coupé, and rides on period-correct Campagnolo rims.

Nearby was the ultimate sleeper: the gorgeous Malaga 2000 of BMW specialist Walter Thomas. It sits only slightly lower than normal – on 14in Alpina perforated steels – but packs a 2.5-litre E30 M3 Sport Evo bottom end. As he pointed out, though: “The head is virtually standard, with 47mm inlet valves – but it’s running twin Weber 48 carburettors and is good for 226bhp at the wheels.” 

C&SC was there, with the tii in which I also did the 2002 tour. It's pictured above, behind the oldest car taking part – the exquisite 1600 that self-confessed ’02 obsessive Anders Bilidt found in northern Sweden. “Up there,” he explained, “they don’t use salt on the roads, which is how it managed to survive in such good condition. It has been resprayed – in acrylic paint, as it would have been in period – but other than that it retains every detail that was unique to the ’66 cars.” 

Furthest travelled (by road) was a group of mates from Portugal who had driven 2600km to get to Oberammergau. Pedro Barradas was co-pilot in his friend Gonçalo Rosado’s rally-prepped ’72 2002. “Although,” as Barradas pointed out, “we did make a detour via Stuttgart.” They had another epic journey home, through Austria, Italy – “all the way up the Stelvio Pass – Monaco, France and Spain.

Event organiser and marque specialist Andy Andexer brought several 2002s, including the rarest – the superb Diana (above) that he acquired about 15 years ago and restored. It’s one of just 12 luxury models built to twin-carb ti spec that were named after legendary BMW hotshoe Hubert Hahne’s wife. He modestly summed up the fantastic meeting by saying that “the event is only possible with the help of my family and a couple of friends.” 

And here are a couple of rarities…

Karmann produced a prototype batch of E9 cabriolets – intended to take on Mercedes’ Pagoda – but we were unable to confirm if this was one. The quality of the conversion and the hood certainly looked good enough.

When BMW took over Glas, it redesigned the firm’s GT to take ’02 running gear. Several took part in the Bavaria Tour; this probably wasn’t an original colour, but it really suits the car…