Whether you’re one of a sizable group who feel the last great M3 was the E46, or you’re eagerly waiting for the battery/electric tech of BMW i-badged models to make its way into today’s class-leading Ms, it’s an exciting time to be alive. With that, let’s have a look at 20 of our favorite aspects, from yesterday and today, of the 20th annual iteration of Bimmerfest West, an event that joins the two so well.
It’s hard to believe it’s been two decades since we partied like it was 1999, but it has. In the nearly quarter-century since, automotive design, technology and enthusiasm has evolved immeasurably, and yet, some things haven’t changed. We gearheads still want to go faster than the status quo—and look fresher doing it—and many of the world’s top manufacturers of 20 years ago are still leading the pack today.
Auto Club Speedway and the “Roval”
No one brings BMW enthusiasm together quite like Bimmerfest, and in Southern CA no one venue can bring all that action together and closer to L.A., OC and the Inland Empire better than Auto Club Speedway.
Following the recipe of past years, this 20th anniversary bash included a top-flight vendor/display area, owners’ corral and massive general parking area, food truck alley, autocross, open pit garages, and of course, racing on the legendary “roval” that combines Auto Club’s infield road course with a portion of its banked speedway oval.
Track access was unfortunately closed to media personnel during the event—so we’re unable to bring you juicy shots like we did from this year’s CA Festival of Speed—but the pit garages were open to the public, and once again became our favorite place to hang out.
Track driving and the Vali Motorsports BMW M6 GT3
On-track activities were managed by local track-day organizers Speed Ventures, and were technically separate from Bimmerfest festivities. Still, run groups were very heavily BMW-dominated (thanks in part to a pair of USTCC races held therein), which on Saturday claimed the top 10 fastest spots of the day. Leading the charge: Vali Motorsports’ massive, carbon-bodied, BMW M6 GT3, piloted by Charlie Persico to a 1:40.944 quickest lap. Not bad, for a $350K race machine … before any cost of support.
BMW Branded Experience
OK, so maybe it’s not what some other brands tote out to festivals like Coachella, South By Southwest, or Concours d’Elegance, but even having an official presence and your one-make enthusiast show is major.
Big ups (do people still say that?) to our local BMW Region for bringing out a fleet of their Driving Academy vehicles, an Original Parts and Accessories display, and even hiring local artist Rosalio Vargas to splatter-paint an E39 inside and out, on site.
Food Truck Alley
Most sizable car events have some food trucks, but none quite like Bimmerfest. After gaining their own enthusiasm in the recent events, Bimmerfest doubled down this year. The resultant truck turnout was so large, diverse and at times exotic that they very well might have pulled a crowd of foodies all their own, in addition to the rest of us who just took to them for an occasional break from car stuff.
Streetfighter LA Hemi-swapped E46
One name we’ve been seeing more and more of in recent years is Streetfighter LA. And that’s a good thing, considering all the crazy stuff out there that their name seems to make it onto. This time around it was their minty-fresh, supercharged 6.4-liter Hemi V8-swapped E46 that turned everyone’s heads the hardest.
Built to the hilt inside and out, it was easily the most radical conversion in attendance, which in a setting as bold and diverse as Bimmerfest, is really saying a lot.
Garagistic Honda K24-powered E30
Transversely mounted Honda K-series swaps have become common over the years, appearing under the bonnets of the Toyota MR2, Lotus Elise, Acura NSX and even the Porsche 911. We’ve even seen more than a few K24-swapped S2000s. But this is ridiculous.
As in, a ridiculously good idea. It will definitely anger the purists, but will please pragmatists with increased power, decreased weight, plentiful aftermarket support, and signature Honda reliability.
Turbo M20-powered 1972 BMW 2002
We don’t want to crowd the details of this little powerhouse with superfluous copy, so here’s why we love it: It’s a welter-weight 1972 (and thus CA smog-exempt) BMW 2002, powered by a fat 58mm Garrett-turbocharged M20 engine and drivetrain, making 430 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. And it’s CLEAN.
Euroklasse 1000hp F06 M6 Gran Coupe and ITB E46 M3
Having a 1,000-horsepower street car is one thing. Having a 1,000-horsepower BMW street car is something special. But having a 1,000-horsepower BMW M6 Gran Coupe sedan street car is something truly awesome.
Since not everyone’s a baller, for us peasants there’s the classic E46 M3, which can attract nearly as big of a crowd with a set of color-matched ITBs and Aristo Forged Wheels, along with thorough attention to detail inside and out. What’s best: both cars were driven to the event.
MFR Engineering supercharged E39 540i
We saw this one last year, but this car is just so cool that it deserves a spot again this year. All that torque—and an additional supplement of power from the supercharger—is something we all can enjoy.
The Rowdy Bunch: Bimmerfest Drift Machines
Though not as many as we might’ve liked, some of the area’s strong BMW drift cars made it out again this year, headlined by Rome Charpentier’s Magnuson-supercharged, V8-powered E36. It’s the car that helped him become the 2018 Top Drift pro-am champion and winner of 2019 Formula D’s first-round Pro 2 competition.
Nearby was Brandon Contreras’s turbocharged M-powered E36, another Top Drift top-10 season finisher who’s trying his luck in Drift League competition in 2019. While it’s great to see refinished, refined Bimmers in shop prep, it’s equally cool to see some with their hard-earned battle scars proudly on display.
412 Motorsport 1,000hp S52-swapped E30
If you need any more proof that the world of pro-am drifting is getting out-of-control competitive, look no further than 412 Motorsport’s turbocharged, S52-swapped E30, stabled in the Whiteline booth.
Flexing 1,000 horses and weighing not much more than one, this thing RIPS. Driver Sam Maghmoumi also qualified for Drift League’s most recent competition at Irwindale, but encountered issues and had to retire early. We can’t wait to see what the pair can do once all the bugs are ironed out.
While we’re near to the subject, let us also say how refreshing it is to see race brands and actual race machines continue to penetrate the show scene.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the show scene on its own, but let’s face it: art mimics life, and so it is with most lasting show/street trends owing their roots to real-world, on-track, racing performance.
Prestige Marketing / GTHaus E92 M3
Sure, full-on race machines are cool, but how better to honor a racing heritage as rich as BMW’s in your street/show car, than by building it in that image? Prestige Marketing’s E92 M3 show car in the GTHaus display caught our eye last year and continues to win our support with its ever-evolving clean, yet radical styling and WEC homage livery. And the fact that it, too, is street-driven never hurts its credibility.
Dinmann Dry Carbon Fiber
These guys have become Bimmerfest mainstays for the sprawling real-estate they command each year, and also for the consistently clean, high-qualify crop of vehicles packed therein.
If the amount of Dinmann dry carbon-fiber parts on those cars wasn’t enough to hammer home just how good these guys are with the dark side (of composites), their collection of one-off helmets certainly did the trick!
This BMW 2002tii
I don’t know anything about this car, but I really liked seeing it in person. I’m guessing it’s a 1971, with the original EFI 2.0-liter engine. Original paint and interior or restored? Can’t say for sure. But it was easily one of the cleanest vintage Bimmers of the show, and as the viral video goes, “Wouldja just look at it??”
Modbargains F80 M3 and F82 M4
In a word, these two are legit. Sal L’s factory Nardo Grey painted six-speed M3 adds just enough aftermarket support to remain tasteful and enjoyable: Mode Carbon GTS lip, RKP Composite side skirts and 2M Autowerk GTS hood; HRE P101 wheels (20×9.5 and 20×11); KW Variant 3 coilovers; AP Racing Radi-CAL brakes; and SSR Performance Dual Cone intake kit, just to name some.
One look at Modbargains general manager Alan Wei’s Alpine White M4 and you can tell he and Sal are buds. It’s also rolling hard on HREs (Classic 300s), with AP Racing Radi-CAL brakes front and rear, and some sweet carbon-fiber, courtesy of RevoZport, in his case. An Eventuri carbon-fiber intake system and CSF intercooler hint at upgraded power, and both cars sport Remus carbon/titanium exhausts.
Confession time: In the past four years that I’ve covered Bimmerfest, I’ve only ever been there on a Sunday. Saturday has long been its busiest day and even with three prior trips under my belt, I was shocked at just how much of a crowd this event can draw at its peak!
The official BMW owners’ corral overflowed its allotted area this time, and general parking filled the entire parking area of the Auto Club Speedway infield—including where the autocross is normally held.
True to form, I had so much fun hanging out with race cars and vendor displays that I didn’t make it over to those areas until a bunch of showgoers had packed up and rolled on, but there was still quite a lot of impressive machinery to see.
As for that autocross, it still happened; just a little farther down from its usual place.
In addition to taking on track duties, Speed Ventures oversaw the optional autocross for owners of BMWs and other assorted makes, allowing participants to experience the thrill of speed with lower risk to themselves, their cars, and the facility (Speedway cones notwithstanding … and sometimes left not standing).
Alfa Romeo Title Sponsorship?!
You have to hand it to the folks over at Alfa. They really do make some world-class products in the Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV—especially in Quadrifoglio trim—but face an uphill journey breaking into the American market, with miniscule budgets and a hard-to-remember Italian nomenclature, among other burdens.
But their title sponsorship of Speed Ventures’ autocross at Bimmerfest (Properly, the “Alfa Romeo Auto X at Bimmerfest 2019”) was marketing brilliance. For a mere pittance of a marketing spend, they proved their products in a performance setting against some of the market’s best competition, and made true believers out of brand-loyal BMW enthusiasts. We do, however, hope BMW’s retaliation is every bit as sweet!
ZOMG the cleanest E30 M3 evar!!
“Is that a real …” I asked myself, walking over to this gem at the end of a long day as if partly convinced it might be a mirage. “Oh my. It’s … so … CLEAN!” Picking my jaw up off the ground, I got a closer look. Perfectly restored and modified, it was the cleanest car of the show, and was nestled behind a tow rig in the pits, away from any and all attention.
Evident at a glance was its swapped-in S36 I6 engine and upgraded injectors, coil-on-plug ignition and 50mm Euro individual throttles. I soon learned that the engine had been bored and stroked to 3.8-liters, has 10.75:1 compression, and is tuned on a stand-alone EMS. The entire car had been gone over, inside and out, with some of today’s best parts and workmanship.
I can’t think of a better infusion of new and old that perfectly exemplifies Bimmerfest.
Before you go …
Have a look through our gallery below for tons of outtakes from this year’s bash. Then, remember that Bimmerfest isn’t just a show, but an entire online community with forums, archived tech, dealer reviews, and plenty of resources for just about any BMW owner or enthusiast. Get involved via the links below, and be sure to follow Front Street Media for more of everything happening this year: