Being There

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Monday, February 21, 1938

France! All here are apprehensive over British Prime Minister Chamberlain’s frail attitude toward Italy and Germany, a situation considerably more distressing and perilous than Americans at home might imagine.

In any case, my immediate aim is to get quickly by rail to Brescia, where BMW’s 328 works team will test for the upcoming Mille Miglia. The German roadsters will arrive early in March by road, driven from Bavaria over the Brenner Pass and crossing the Italian frontier. They’d best be wearing heavy coats, taking into account that Northern Italy is on the same chilling latitude as Maine.

Some motor-racing fans I’ve met over here are full of expectations about a Berlin-to-Rome race planned for the German Autobahn and Italy’s Autostrada. “Faster than the Mille!” they predict. “With motorbikes, too!” In all, they say, 34 BMW 328s are to compete in the 2-liter class.

Problem is, Benito Mussolini’s military move into North Africa has “for political reasons” postponed this Berlin-Rome invention. The proposed race in itself is clearly propaganda to rally Germans and their Italian allies in case there’s a war soon, but it would still be quite a spectacle.

Monday, March 14, 1938

Brescia. BMW’s Mille tests hereabouts are favorable enough, even though the 328s aren’t as fast as the Alfas, causing heated dialogues in the city’s cafes. Allies they well may be, but German and Italian pride in their automobiles is unshakable.

I’m staying at the Hotel Vittoria and have met the BMW drivers headquartered here, including Britons Albert Fane and his navigator, Bill James, who will do the Mille’s 1,000 miles from Brescia down to Rome and back in their factory-prepared 328 roadster. At Le Mans last year, this same BMW driven by Fane and Aldy Aldington DNF’d with a broken timing gear.

Also from Issue 95

  • E92 335is Coupe road test
  • F01 750i xDrive road test
  • Not for U.S. F11 5 Series Touring
  • Active Autowerke E90, E92 M3s
  • Hamann X6 Tycoon Evo M
  • Mark David’s E30 325is
  • Jack Croul’s 328 at Mille Miglia
  • BMW NA’s ex-Polak 2002ti racer
  • Bimmerfest 2010
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