The Vintage Is A Mash of Everything Classic BMW
Story and Photography by Alex Sobran
Groupthink is the demise of reason and, sometimes, morals among a crowd. Early on in life, we are taught the seemingly infallible virtues of being an individual, of beating our own drum. So is it possible for a group to retain individual agency within, say, a crowd of classic 2002s? At The Vintage BMW show, the answer is thankfully yes.
An individual cannot remain unchanged by their society, and vice versa. How this works in the world of wheels can be seen clearly at The Vintage, one of the largest classic BMW events in the world. With 2016 marking the marque’s hundredth year in business, the weekend I spent in North Carolina presented a perfect opportunity to observe a large group gathered in full force around a shared interest.
Allow me the humbling honor of volunteering my experience as an example of the dynamic between the individual and the collective. While my 12 hours of highway trekking were not thrilling, especially heading south with no AC, it did allow for some solid time to bounce around inside my head. I am in a ’91 M5, and what I’m doing in there is thinking about what makes me want to spend so much damn time in it.
I love this car, even when it Hoovers cash and shreds my wallet for desert. We all have, had, or will have that one car, and this is mine. I enjoy it for the performance and stature and all those things we like about cars, but mostly it’s because it’s mine, belongs to me alone. I have modified it to strengthen this bond over time, making it increasingly unique, increasingly apart from the crowd. The important bit is that being different is not the intention, while it may still be the result.
The intention is to use the car to express personal taste, aesthetics, and personality. It’s just a vessel for me to impart myself on. So this is what a car is to me, an individual; something to mold and connect with however you like, for whatever reason.
The Vintage takes a few hundred people who all share that relationship with their cars, and puts them together in a field on a certain day on the calendar to talk about it amongst themselves. Everyone ostensibly likes BMWs, but the similarities end pretty quickly.
Sub-groups form: Alpina guys talk about how screwed they’ll be if their exotic and NLA fuel injection system just up and stops working one day, 2002 people split up based on the shape of their taillights, some talk about dyno results, some more talk about rust on their E9s, there is a lot going on, and then they start venturing out of these cliques.
This is when the group impacts its members, when the E30 owner checks out a Bavaria for the first time, that kind of stuff. We can always learn new things from each other. Inspiration and motivation can’t be counted on to reveal themselves to us alone in the garage or being passive-aggressive on forums. We come as we are, make some friends, and are better off for it.
The group changes too, over time, because what one individual gleans from the community, another has contributed. We can think of old BMW ownership on the whole as an evolving thing, absorbing and growing with new participants and what they bring to the communal table. Some age out, some age in, trends come in and out of vogue, all of this swirls around in the group to give it its point-in-time identity.
There is little disputing that a big enough gathering will have to in some way reflect its constituents, but at times the mixture of colors just comes out brown, like when people trample other people for hot deals on electronics. Sometimes you leave a piece of yourself at the clubhouse door, but sometimes we all get to participate and leave intact, even taking a few pieces home.
H/T to The Vintage