We came because of the cars,” says Bill Williams, “and we keep coming back because of the people.”
For the last seven years, BMW connoisseurs like Williams have been coming to Dobson, North Carolina for Vintage at the Vineyards, and they’ve been doing so in ever-increasing numbers.
“I vividly remember standing beside [event organizer] Scott Sturdy early in the morning at the first Vintage at the Vineyards,” Williams says. “No cars had arrived yet, and he looked at me and said, ‘Do you think anyone will come?’ Well, that year 55 cars did, and this year over 300 came.”
The vintage BMWs in attendance numbered 308, to be precise, along with more than a thousand people from as far away as the state of Washington.
And that, of course, is fairly ironic, considering that Sturdy conceived Vintage at the Vineyards as a local event.
“What really possessed me to start this event was that VintageFest in Chicago and the various ’02 Fests were all so darned far away,” he says. “I wanted to create something for the vintage BMW owners in North Carolina and the surrounding states. I also felt the BMW CCA Tarheel Chapter needed something on the calendar that wasn’t a track event.”
Having chosen the picturesque Shelton Vineyard as a backdrop, and with some great driving roads and interesting towns nearby, the event couldn’t help but attract BMW enthusiasts from all over, even in its first year. 2002 owners represent the biggest contingent—116 brought their ’02s to Dobson this year, including Williams and his 1972 tii—but BMW fans of every stripe are represented. Lothar Schuettler brought a 1937 328 that won the “Pick of the Litter” award presented by Doxie Acre Dachshund Rescue. Pat Kikendal drove to the vineyard in a freshly restored 1973 2002 tii that took home the BMW CCA Foundation “Choice” award as well as the “Fan Favorite” award conferred by the crowd, which also honored Roy Wicklund’s 1988 Alpina B7 turbo, Anita Patton’s 1987 M6 and Tom Mwaniki’s 1990 325i with trophies.
In the grand scheme of things, the awards were perhaps the least important things at Vintage at the Vineyards. Even though the judging is done with professionalism, neither clipboards nor Q-tips were observed by Bimmer. As Williams noted earlier, Vintage at the Vineyards is more about camaraderie than competition.
“The cars are nice, but the sheer numbermakes it a challenge to see them all,” Williams says. “For me, the event is about being with friends. Through the cars, we’ve become friends with incredible people.”
Still, classic BMWs remain the raison d’etre for events like Vintage at the Vineyards, and we’ve chosen a few to feature on these pages. The selection is wholly arbitrary, reflecting the author’s biases and making no attempt to reflect the show as a whole, which in any case is constantly evolving.
“I’m already making plans for next year and have some big ideas in the works,” Sturdy tells us. “The basic idea of a gathering of vintage BMWs will always be the same, but there will be new and different details that will keep people coming back. We’ve all been to car shows that are the same year after year—Vintage at the Vineyards ain’t one of them.”
1976 2002, Owner: Jamey Erickson
In 2009, after a 30-year sabbatical from BMW ownership, Jamey Erickson found this 1976 2002 on eBay. It’s a real looker, and underneath its striking exterior is a host of track-oriented modifications.
In the engine bay, the M10 engine was built by David Nicholas with 10.5:1 Mahle pistons, a 292° Schrick cam and dual Weber DCOE 45 carburetors on a Cannon manifold. K&N chrome air filters keep out the bugs, while an aluminum 320i radiator keeps the water cool and an E30 oil filter housing with thermostat regulates the temperature of the oil that flows through an Earl’s cooler. The flywheel has been lightened by about 8 lbs. and mates with a 320i Sachs clutch, while a rebuilt four-speed transmission takes power to a 3.92:1 differential.
Braking is handled up front by a 530i master cylinder, 1982 Volvo Girling calipers, Metal Masters Axxis pads and 320i vented rotors. The rear brakes are stock 2002 but use 320i wheel cylinders for better bias. The suspension consists of shortened H&R springs, Bilstein Sport shocks and Racing Dynamics anti-roll bars and bushings.
The body was rebuilt in 1989/’90 with new front fenders, a new nose and rust-free doors. The OEM bumpers were relegated to the recycling bin, the openings covered and a Kamei air dam added before the bodywork was given three coats of DuPont Centurion Black and three coats of clear enamel. The interior received new carpeting, Recaro SE seats and other small upgrades.
The car was set up for the track, and its previous owner took it to track events in 15 states and Canada between 1990 and 2009. Erickson has no plans to take it to the track himself—he says the paint “is just too sweet,” and he’d rather keep it that way until he passes it down to his son, Tracey.
1975 2002, Owner: Tim Jones
The most understated car in this group of Bimmer favorites has to be Tim Jones’ 1975 2002/M2.5. Jones purchased the car as an unfinished project in California a little over two years ago, and he completed it a year later with fresh bodywork, paint and a killer Evo-spec S14 four-cylinder motor.
This lovely machine was stripped down to bare metal and fitted with an early-style nose section while its battering ram U.S.-spec bumpers were replaced by dainty Euro-spec parts. The stock hood and trunk lid gave way to carbon fiber copies with custom aluminum hinges, and the car now weighs just 2,532 lbs., of which the custom steel roll cage contributes 300. The 1.75-inch diameter cage is tied to the A-, B- and C-pillars as well as the rear shock towers, with removable bracing bars at the B-pillars and door openings.
Recaro seats provide support up front, while modified BMW 635 rear seats can hold more passengers out back. A Parker Performance center console in leather houses custom switches and VDO gauges that monitor oil and water temps plus oil pressure.
The car has been set up for autocross, and it features custom bent and boxed reinforced trailing arms for proper suspension geometry and added strength. It rides on Ireland Engineering coilovers with 250-lb. springs all around, plus Ireland’s 25mm front/22mm rear anti-roll bars, adjustable camber plates and urethane motor and transmission bushings. A one-off front strut tower brace was made by Ireland in aluminum.
The brake system is a parts bin special whose front axle setup consists of a 5 Series master cylinder and calipers clamping 3 Series vented and cross-drilled rotors. At the rear, VW Jetta front calipers and cross-drilled rotors are employed, and Ground Control stainless steel lines link the whole system together.
Jones has also fitted a set of gorgeous Alpina wheels that measure 7 × 16 inches with a 27mm offset and roll on 205/45-16 Yokohama tires. The wheels and tires just fit inside the car’s rolled fenders, with a little help from the clearance provided by 1.5˚ of negative camber.
The real highlight of this car is the 2.5-liter S14 engine built by Thomas Boyland of Cars and Concepts in Tampa, Florida. Boyland started with a new Evo 3 block and fitted 11:1 CP forged pistons and Pauter rods, then rebuilt the head with Schrick 284˚ exhaust/292˚ intake cams. The S14’s four 48mm throttle bodies are fed through an Alpha N fuel management system with an Tech Edge wide band O2 sensor and a custom GIAC chip. On the exhaust side, a Jet Hot-coated Motorsport Gruppe A header attaches to a custom 3.0-inch stainless steel TIG-welded exhaust with a Borla stainless steel midsection and a Magnaflow muffler.
The powerplant makes about 270 horsepower, which it delivers to the rear wheels via a JB Racing aluminum flywheel, a Metric Mechanic Getrag 265 five-speed and an Ireland-modified 3.91:1 Quaife torque biasing differential.
Of all the 2002s that I have driven since 1967 (including the four I’ve owned), Jones’ is the fastest and best handling. The throttle responds to the slightest movement with explosive power delivery that translates into incredible speed. Most 2002s hit a wall at around 90 mph, but that speed flies by in this M2.5. Although my unwillingness to visit the Dobson jail prevented verification, I’m sure this car will do 150 mph with ease. Even without a top-speed test, I loved its visibility, its balance, its secure handling and confidence-inspiring brakes. Not surprisingly, Jones has already taken it to five track days, with many more to come, I’m sure.
1972 Alpina 2002tii, Owner: Rob Koch
Rob Koch’s 1972 Alpina 2002tii is noteworthy not just for its gorgeous looks and obvious rarity, but also because it’s one of three such Alpina demo vehicles used by Max Hoffman, BMW’s U.S. importer when these cars were new. It isn’t known whether the cars were built by Alpina in Buchloe or modified with Alpina parts once in the U.S., but in either case, Koch’s car is special.
Koch is its fifth owner, having purchased it in 2008. Since then, he’s replaced the headliner, carpeting and door panels but has otherwise left it as-is—which is already perfect for enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs near his home in Virginia.
Behind its subtly flared fenders, the car rides on 13-inch Campagnolo magnesium wheels backed by 2002 Turbo brakes. Further inboard, Bilstein “red dot” struts are paired with Alpina’s progressive springs, but that’s hardly the end of the modifications. Just about everything underneath the car has been altered to reinforce the suspension and correct the geometry, and a larger diameter front anti-roll bar was installed along with an adjustable rear anti-roll bar and a front strut tower brace.
Koch isn’t sure whether his car has an Alpina A4 engine, and without a complete tear-down it’s impossible to tell. It does feature a very effective and now extremely rare Alpina 4-into-2-into-1 header, as well as Alpina-modified Kugelfischer fuel injection, though not the ultra-rare Alpina injection with four individual throttle bodies. So configured, it puts out around 155-165 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque, which it delivers to the rear wheels via the factory-optional dogleg five-speed transmission and a 3.64:1 40% limited slip differential.
The stock 2002 seats were replaced first with Scheels and then with the Recaros that grace the car now, but Koch is planning a switch back to Scheels at some point. Alpina really had no standard parts configuration back in the 1970s, and mixing and matching was common. Regardless, this car is the real deal, and it’s gorgeous.
1985 Alpina B7 Turbo, Owner: Roy Wicklund
Roy Wicklund brought another rare BMW Alpina to Vintage at the Vineyards: a B7 Turbo that bears number 66 of 236 made and is one of only four examples known to have been imported to the U.S. Wicklund became its third owner in November 2009, and he spent the first two months of 2010 sorting out its mechanicals and refreshing its cosmetics.
In 1985, the B7 Turbo was known as the fastest four-door sedan in the world, and only a Porsche 930 Turbo or a Ferrari Testarossa or GTO could surpass it. Zero to 60 mph could be reached in something between 4.8 and 5.9 seconds, depending on air temperature, gasoline octane and boost, and top speed was a bit over 165 mph. Those were staggering numbers for 1985.
To achieve them, Alpina started with an E28 528i, then fitted the motor with lightweight Mahle pistons, 264˚ cam, modified head, tuned exhaust and a KKK K27 turbo with a driver-controlled boost knob and an air-to-air intercooler. Power is rated conservatively at 300-330 horsepower, sent to the rear wheels via a heavy-duty clutch, Getrag 260 close-ratio five-speed gearbox and a 2.56:1 25% limited slip differential.
The suspension uses Bilstein Sport shocks with Alpina progressive-rate springs on adjustable supports, plus Alpina anti-roll bars that measure 25mm and 19mm in diameter, front and rear. Braking is provided by 300mm Alpina vented rotors with dual-piston calipers up front and stock E28 brakes at the rear, and brake fluid is routed via stainless steel lines. The staggered-size wheels are surely some of the most beautiful ever made: 16-inch Alpinas that measure 7.0 inches wide up front and 8.0 inches wide at the rear, mounted with Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Specs in 205/55 front and 225/50 rear sizes. The interior features Alpina cloth on Recaro Sport seats, plus the usual Alpina steering wheel, instruments and other minor upgrades.
Following a brief ride, I can verify that this B7 Turbo still makes big power and massive acceleration—so much of both that this historic car has nothing to fear from newer machinery. Its engine is still impressive, and so is its M-like handling paired with a more compliant ride—an Alpina trademark. Tipping the scales at just 3,090 lbs., this is an understated, elegant sedan with seating for five adults, a spacious trunk and the performance of a sports car.
1976 2002, Owner: Michael Rose
Once a track car, this 1976 2002, nicknamed Ilsa, is in the process of being reconverted to street duty by owner Michael Rose and builder/mechanic Curtis Ingel. The car‘s 2,300cc M10 motor has been modified internally with an S14 crankshaft and JE pistons, plus an E12 head whose stainless steel valves are opened by a 304˚ Schrick cam and closed by Schrick springs. Its unique fuel injection system consists of a Haltech E6X EFI with four 45mm individual throttle bodies, a TWM manifold spacer and airbox, 320/650cc injectors and a Bosch fuel pump. A Stahl header and Magnaflow exhaust remove spent gases.
A 320i five-speed transmission moves power to the rear wheels, where it has been measured at 139 hp even with a persistent misfire that further tuning should cure. The brake system combines Volvo rotors and Volkswagen calipers, and the wheels are 15-inch Superlight GTRs on Sumitomo HTR 205/50Z-15 tires. Even if it never sees track use again, it’s still a cool ’02—and so were the other 115 ’02s at the Vineyard in 2010.