1940 ‘Mille Miglia’-winning BMW 328 at Amelia Island

The streamlined BMW 328 was the resounding winner of the revised 1940 Mille Miglia | BMW archive
The streamlined BMW 328 was the resounding winner of the revised 1940 Mille Miglia | BMW archive

The 20th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will feature a BMW 328 that holds a special, if somewhat peculiar place in the history of motorsport. The fabled Mille Miglia-winning 1940 “Mille Miglia” Il Gran Premio Brescia Della aerodynamic coupe bodied by Touring of Milan will be the anchor of the BMW 328 class at the Florida concours Sunday. Continue reading

BMW ‘Art Cars’ set for display at Miami Beach show

Roy Lichtenstein painted the Art Car in his signature comic-book style | BMW
Roy Lichtenstein painted the Art Car in his signature comic-book style | BMW

Two of BMW’s legendary “Art Cars” that blend high-performance with fine art will be on display December 3-7 during Art Basel`s international gallery show at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

The one-of-a-kind, hand-painted cars – a BMW 320 race car by famed American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein (1977) and a BMW M3 by Australian aboriginal artist Michael Jagamara Nelson (1989) – will be shown in Art Basel’s Collectors Lounge at the convention center.

The Lichtenstein car is the third of 17 Art Cars created for BMW racers | BMW
The Lichtenstein car is the third of 17 BMW Art Cars | BMW

The Art Cars are two of 17 special BMW vehicles that have been painted during the past four decades by some of the world’s most renowned modern artists, such as Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, Jenny Holzer, Olafur Eliasson and Jeff Koons.

Roy Lichtenstein painted the third vehicle in the BMW Art Car Collection, a BMW 320 Group 5 race car, in 1977. The colorful pop-art landscape, which reflects his famous comic-strip style, depicts the surroundings flashing by from the driver’s point of view.

“I wanted the lines I painted to be a depiction of the road showing the car where to go,” Lichtenstein, who died in 1997, said at the time. “The design also shows the countryside through which the car has travelled. One could call it an enumeration of everything a car experiences – only that this car reflects all of these things before actually having been on a road.”

The Nelson car draws from aboriginal art works | BMW
The Nelson car draws from aboriginal art works | BMW

Australian artist Michael Jagamara Nelson said he chose the depiction of nature from an aerial view for the design of his Art Car, a BMW M3 Group A racer, which is covered in dreamlike shapes and patterns drawn from ancestral Papunya art. The geometric shapes appear to be abstract until one sees that they reveal such native creatures as kangaroos and emus.

“(The) car is a landscape as it would be seen from a plane – I have included water, the kangaroo and the opossum,” said Nelson, a leader in the Papunya-Tula art movement. His groundbreaking work includes a large mosaic that stands in front of the Australian parliament building in Canberra and an impressive wall at the Sydney Opera House.

Art Basel is a celebration of modern art in all its forms, with shows held around the world featuring a wide assortment of galleries and artists. Started in Basel, Switzerland, the art show series is headquartered in Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong.

Amelia Island Concours honors 1930s BMW 328

The BMW 328 is still acclaimed for its style and performance | Amelia Island Concours
The BMW 328 is still acclaimed for its style and performance | Amelia Island Concours

The BMW 328, the German automaker’s landmark sports roadster of the 1930s, will be showcased at the 20th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2015.

Introduced in 1936 and built through 1940, the petite 328 boasted elegant styling and agile handling, as well as inspired engineering, and it became a strong contender in international sports car racing. BMW enthusiasts today trace the brand’s sporting attributes to the 328s, which have become highly valued collector’s items.

The 328 was powered by a 2-liter inline-6 | Amelia Island Concours
The 328 was powered by a 2-liter inline-6 | Amelia Island Concours

The BMW 328 was unveiled in 1936 at the Nurburgring racetrack just before the International Eifel Race, which the new car then proceeded to win in record time.

“The 328 is the car that set BMW on its current course,” said Bill Warner, founder and chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “The poise, speed and stamina of the 328 and its descendants are the roots of BMW’s reputation and give genuine credibility to BMW’s ‘ultimate driving machine’ label.”

Among the 328 sports cars that will be shown at Amelia will be several historic competition models.

“The star of the BMW 328 class for our 20th anniversary is the unique 328 Buegelfalte (‘trouser crease,’ for the razor-edge fender styling) roadster,” Warner said. “It finished sixth in the 1940 Mille Miglia.”

The 2015 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will be held March 13-15 on the 10th and 18th fairways of the Golf Club of Amelia Island at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida.

It’s worth what? 5 classics you’d never guess are so valuable

Some classics wear their price tags on their sleeves. Look at a fuel-injected ’57 Chevy Bel Air, and it’s immediately apparent that it’s valuable merchandise. On the other hand, there are the sleepers of the classic car world, the cars that are worth a lot of money but it’s only obvious to those in-the-know. Your Accord-driving neighbor would, for example, never guess that the proceeds from a restored VW microbus could put his kid through college at a very good state school. Here are five you’d never suspect of being quite pricey:

1.Volkswagen “Samba” Microbus: There’s a simple rule of thumb with VW Microbuses: More windows equals more money. The 21- and 23-window versions of the venerable ’50s bus can bring money that would shock the hippies who ran them into the ground in the 1960s—around 70 grand for a nicely restored one. They’ve even been known to break $100,000 at the right auction.
2.Fiat Jolly: The Jolly was an open-top version of the classic Fiat 500 that was meant to be stowed onboard yachts and used as transport in places like Monaco and Positano. They have no doors, the seats are made of wicker and the tops are meant only to provide shade. Appallingly cute, the pint-sized Jolly can sell for upwards of $70,000.
3.Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser: The classic Jeep-like 1960-1984 Toyota Land Cruiser was one tough vehicle—so tough that they invited horrific abuse, which explains the dearth of clean examples. A nicely restored one sold at an auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., last January for $88,000. We’ve heard stories of $100,000-plus examples. In response to FJ40s getting so expensive, first-generation 4Runners are starting to increase in value. Don’t say we didn’t mention it.
4.Ford Bronco: The humble 1966-77 Ford Bronco was a product of the same team that brought us the classic 1964½ Mustang. Unlike the Mustang, which sat on Ford Falcon underpinnings, the first Bronco was a totally unique platform. The size and shape were just right, and collectors have latched onto them in droves. Totally stock, unrusted Broncos without cut fenders and flares are rare; it takes around $30,000 to get a nice one.
5.BMW Isetta: Prior to becoming known as the ultimate driving machine, BMW suffered from a case of bipolar disorder, selling the super-expensive V-8 507 roadster and the tiny egg-like Isetta microcar out of the same showrooms. It’s no shock that the gorgeous 507 roadster sells for a ton of money, but the fact that Isettas can pull more than $40,000 is surprising indeed.

My Classic Car: The 1958 Isetta that Rick DeBruhl just had to buy

Photos courtesy of Rick DeBruhl
Photos courtesy of Rick DeBruhl

(Rick DeBruhl managed to turn the wasted hours reading car magazines and hanging out in auto shop into a career. He works for ABC and ESPN covering IndyCars and NASCAR Nationwide. He also is part of the Fox Sports team covering the Barrett-Jackson auctions. Rick writes automotive reviews for the Arizona Republic and kidneycars.org. You can read more of his work at www.rickdebruhl.com, where this article first appeared.)

I didn’t mean to buy a BMW Isetta.

After all, I like cars for two main reasons: speed and beauty. The Isetta has neither of those two things.

It has no speed because the Isetta has a one cylinder engine that pumps out a whopping 13 horsepower. On a good day, with a tail wind, you might hit 50 mph.

It has no beauty because, well, it’s doesn’t. Oh sure, I’ll hear the word “cute” a lot. “Funny looking” will be close behind. As I climb in the single door that is the front of the bubble-shaped body, the words “odd” and “downright ugly” will be uttered after I hopefully can’t hear.Isetta at Canoga from yearbook 001

So why did I buy an Isetta? Because I had to.

It all started at Canoga Park High School back in the early 1970s. Our principal, Hugh Hodgens owned an Isetta. He’d bring it to football games on Friday nights. Every time our team would score a touchdown, he’d pop a cheerleader out the sunroof and drive around the track.

Ever since then I’ve had a fascination for the tiny cars. I remember regularly seeing one parked close to Highway 101 near Anderson’s Pea Soup in Buellton, California (just north of Santa Barbara). As I’d drive back and forth to college I’d ponder how it would be fun to own an Isetta.

Fortunately, it was not an obsession. My automotive tastes are a lot more mainstream. Mustangs and Corvettes are more my style. The smallest car I owned was a 1959 Bugeye Sprite. But while it was small, it was sporty and a lot of fun.

Over the past five years I’ve seen the Isettas become a popular fixture at the Barrett- Jackson auctions. There’s always one or two and they bring impressive money. Apparently cute sells.

Of course, not even that was enough to make me want to buy one.

Until I found it. “It” was a 1958 Isetta sitting just outside of Sacramento. It was restored about six years ago and has less than 100 miles on the odometer since the work was done. Nicely finished with red paint and a red and white interior, the frame was in great shape and the engine started right up.

But that’s not what made this Isetta special. It was special because of its owner: Hugh Hodgens. That’s right, the principal. It was the same car I’d seen him drive around the track at football games.

The path to my purchase started one day when an email was forwarded to me from a family friend who used to work at the high school. I happened to notice that Mr. Hodgen’s (I can’t call him anything else) email was included. Having plenty of happy high school memories (after all, that’s where I met my wife), I decided to send him a message, and mentioned that I had a fondness for Isettas. His return message included the nugget that he still owned the car. My next email concluded with one of those brash statements, “If you ever decide to sell the Isetta, let me know.”

Turns out that Mr. Hodgens, after owning the car for 46 years, was ready to sell. It was always a novelty, but also a part of his family. Still, it had reached the point that he wasn’t using the Isetta much. It was garaged at some property he owned near Sacramento. My offer came at just the right moment. More importantly, it wasn’t from a stranger. It was from a member of the Canoga Park High School family.

Suffice to say that one thing led to another and before long we had a deal. Mr. Hodgen’s son brought the car down to Los Angeles where I picked it up and trailered it back to Phoenix.

So now I own an Isetta.

What am I going to do with it? Well, it’s hardly transportation, at least not the way we think of it today. Back in the 50s, it was designed to be a step up from a motor scooter, if not quite a full car. It’s surprisingly comfortable and roomy, but it’s also a rolling death trap. I pity anyone who was hit in one of these back in its day. And then there’s the speed, or lack of it.

My wife and I will putter around the neighborhood. We’ll take it to church, although I’m a little worried about driving it to the grocery store. I’m not concerned about someone trying to steal it (first they’d have to figure out the backward shift pattern), rather some pranksters might try to pick it up and move it for fun (just like kids did back in its high school days). We’ll definitely hit some car shows where we stand a great chance of winning the “People’s Choice” award.

One thing we will do is make people smile. The few times I’ve driven it, people stop and point. They wave and tell their kids to come take a look. They desperately try to whip out their camera phone and take a picture.

Maybe that will be the legacy of this car. It made me smile in high school, and now I get to pass those smiles on to a new generation. How many cars can make that claim?

And that’s why I had to buy it.

First BMW ‘Batmobile’ competition Art Car coming to Amelia Island Concours

Photo courtesy of BMW

The first BMW Art Car ever created, a 3.0 CSL GT racer painted by the acclaimed artist Alexander Calder to run in the 1975 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will headline a special BMW “Batmobile” class at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March 9, 2014.

The Calder project, which melded motorsports with fine art, was inspired by French race driver and art auctioneer Herve Poulain. BMW race cars used as painting canvases by the world’s most-renowned artists – including Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol – became an annual tradition for the German automaker.

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There aren’t a lot of Silver dollars in Arizona

The sell-through rate at Mitch Silver’s inaugural Arizona in the Fall auction was only 26 percent. Seems consignors valued their vehicles more than the snowbirds looking for something to drive during the winter months.

The sale was scheduled with an eye on offering cars that could serve as classy daily drivers for Arizona’s winter visitors, cars they might turn around and consign themselves next spring when Silver does a similar auction just before the ‘birds fly home for the summer.

But in many cases — too many cases — the bids offered fell just short of the owners’ reserve prices.

The high-dollar sale of the weekend was $55,000 for a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. A 1968 Camaro RS/SS convertible brought $32,500, a 2008 BMW 550Li went for $29,600, a 1961 Pontiac Catalina convertible $29,000 and a 1957 Pontiac Star Chief hardtop traded ownership for $28,000.

Silver is back in Arizona in January for its big annual sale, and returns for its spring event in March. Silver also is working on a possible sale in the Phoenix area during the summer, though that one would be in an air-conditioned building, not outdoors in a tent.