The Bay Area 02 Show & Swap Meet Is A Celebration Of Community
Story and photography by Courtney Cutchen
Every year, classic BMW enthusiasts from all over the Bay Area (and sometimes farther) convene at the Brisbane Marina for the beloved Bay Area 02 Show and Swap Meet. This event is open more obviously to 02s, but they also welcome the small selection of E9s, Bavarias, and other classic models from the marque. Blue skies and sunshine made for a fantastic turnout this year, as half of the show takes place on a small, grassy hillside overlooking the water. While the scenery and the machinery were a bit prettier there, the other half, the “swap” portion in the parking lot, offered a chance for the community to interact and trade some stories alongside the parts.
The show’s entry requirements know essentially no boundaries. Your 02 can have holes rusted through the doors, or you can show up with your concours-winning Turbo. You can even trailer in a car that doesn’t run. All bets are off as far as to what will enter, which adds an element of surprise to the meet that is otherwise pretty homogenous in relative terms. The selection this year was nothing short of wonderful though, with everything from entirely original 1600s to S14-swapped garage builds.
More so than the display of 2002s and their relatives, the best thing about the Brisbane show is the powerful sense of community; whether you’re a young, first-time 02 owner, or a seasoned veteran with 12 of the things, everyone gets along and shares what they can with each other. These are true enthusiasts who’ve come together for the love of the car and its significant history and many possible styles. Nobody seems to be concerned with who has the cleanest engine bay, who wins the most awards, or who knows the most about the little cars, instead it’s more about helping bring the group up as a whole. It’s a refreshing take on an automotive scene which so often is filled with snide behavior and the selfish form of competition.
This is simply an event to come to regardless of why you’re drawn to the car, or whatever you plan to do with your own. Are you looking for a set of carburetors? Maybe you need some new mirrors, side trim, or even a Hot Wheels version with a rare livery. Whatever it is you’re searching for in the realm of 02, you’re more than likely to find it at this show.
For example, this year Kooglewerks exhibited a variety of their products. They specialize in body fabrication for older BMWs, and can make all sorts of things like custom splitters, air dams, and spoilers. Obviously you don’t have to own a business to sell at the swap meet though, and there were many enthusiasts who brought out cardboard boxes of old parts. Some simply stacked the items in front of their cars and taped signs to them. The spectrum was covered.
In addition to the variety of vendors, the show also welcomes as many spectators as possible. There’s no entry fee for non-exhibitors, and it’s a very family-friendly operation. The show ends with a raffle as well, and it was particularly tempting this year, with prizes like a new MOMO steering wheel, goodies from Alpina, a set of car dollies, and much more.
The general consensus for this event is this: if you like old BMWs, go. You won’t regret it. You can strike up a conversation with just about anyone you pass by, and they’re more than happy to tell you their stories. The bond that these people have with their cars and with their community is genuine and always well-intentioned. Getting to see a huge variety of 02s is just a perk—though the cars were bathed in sun, the real gold shone on the amazing people who came together to make it happen.