Welcome back to normal. Legends, burgers, and weird BMWs – Legends in the Fall ’22…

Great, isn’t it? Life is finally back to normal after two lost years. I say ‘normal’ – I suppose if you count the appointment of a new prime minister and monarch in the same week, a savage European war in progress and the worst financial crisis for ordinary people since, well, the last one, as normal. But, as Mick Jagger once said, what can a poor boy do, except hold a BMW meet to celebrate 50 years of M? Or something like that. So, this year we were delighted, relieved, and slightly scared by the prospect of holding the first Legends in the Fall meet since 2019, back when life was even more normal. Would people remember us? Would they come back? Would the weather hold? Could we put on a show that people liked?

It all begins, for us, with the poster. Every year we cast around, looking for budding artists who can capture the essence of what its all about. Only, usually at that stage we haven’t even begun to plan the event, so they sort of have to be a bit psychic too. This year’s design came from the Polish artist Dominik Sala, and just hit the spot perfectly. Then we have to try to find cars. Not just ordinary BMWs, of course, but things people will travel the distance to see, cars we are proud of, and hopefully a collection you’ll not easily see elsewhere. We always try to find one, that for whatever reason is something that stands out as ‘won’t see it anywhere else’. This year our friend Alex Elliot came to the rescue again, with a brilliant – if left field – oddity.

Back in the late sixties when companies like BMW ran their race teams using bits of string and paper clips, the team bosses came up with a wizard plan. Why not take an E3 saloon – then running the 2800 engine – and graft an estate-car rear-end onto it, strengthen the chassis, nick a boot lid off a Ford Taunus and – hey presto! You have an all-purpose vehicle to carry parts, crew and supplies around the rally and race venues of Europe – why not call it The Kombi. The idea was duly taken up and BMW authorised and proceeded with production, output at its peak totalling….wait, I’ll look it up. Erm…3. Of course, with an idea this big, other coach builders had to jump on the bandwagon, and even in the UK the idea ‘took off’, with a massive 10 being sold through Langley Motors. Some say it may even have been as many as 12. The Team BMW cars actually had a huge BMW roundel stuck to the top on a sort of roof rack contraption, which must have made driving the thing across the continent just that little bit more annoying. Rumour has it that the large load space made for excellent sleeping quarters, with the parts taken out and safely tucked under the car. Not surprisingly, it would be another decade before BMW dared to have another go with an estate car – forever more a ‘touring’ – in E30 guise. This time, it was worth the wait.

So, in our showroom, Alex’s Kombi sat next to a stunning E3 saloon in Polaris silver, fully restored last year for one of our favourite customers (we’ve just found the perfect match for the velour, so the final part – the seats – can now be finished) and completing the upper showroom ensemble was one of two M1s on show for the evening. In our lower showroom our ‘1 of 1’ E9 Legend resto-mod took pride of place. With a late M30 3.5 Motronic engine upgrade and the late version of the E24 auto ‘box to match, sporting custom paint and leather trim, we’re understandably proud of this particular project. It looks absolutely stunning. The workshops were cleaned and thrown open, our techs happy to soak up a little glory and chat to their visitors. On one of the ramps sat another rare restoration project – an E30 Alpina C2 2.7 touring, and on another a different 3.5 litre conversion (earlier engine) on an E9. A ‘just sold’ 1M coupe in gleaming white represented the later M, while down in the restoration shop James proudly showed people round his current obsession – a nut-and-bolt restoration of an E30 M3 Europameister, sporting a newly installed and utterly gorgeous S14, converted to a 2.5 with an Alpha-N induction/engine management kit.

Over at the pub next door, things hotted up fast. The DJ was obviously having a ball, lighting up the tall trees with his pink and blue lazers, pumping out the tunes as the crowd queued up for the Red Lion’s barbeque burgers. We’d put a decent line up on show – in black there were three of our favourite M3s – E30, E90 and E46 CSL, and in white, the line-up was M1, 3.0 CSL and a track converted, fully decaled E30 M3. But, of course, the beauty of Legends in the Fall is what people bring down. Modern M was represented by a fabulous M5 CS, and the car park heaved with everything from E46 M3s to a sexy M6 Gran Coupe competition, the Rare Alpina contingent represented by a one-off RHD E34 B10 4.6 Touring. Somebody bought a mad F10 M5, which is sure to have delighted the neighbours, perhaps balancing out the eerie silence of the ballistic i4 M50 kindly lent for the evening by our friends at Vines of Gatwick, which sat on the forecourt next to Chandlers of Hailsham’s G90 M5 50 jahre celebration edition (thanks, guys). The i4 was one of the big surprises of the evening, given the huge preponderance of petrolheads. Everyone who drove that box of frogs came out impressed, if reluctant to say it aloud.

According to the team at the Red Lion this year was a record (in 2019 there were over 350 in attendance – 2022 still to be confirmed) and luckily, despite the weather forecast we took the plunge and asked our videographer friend Chris to record the event (coming to our youtube channel shortly) for posterity. Even the Police dropped by, although I’m not certain they were there for same reason as everyone else…

And as fast as it began, it ended. As if by magic, just as people were beginning to pack up and hit the road, the heavens opened and the most monumental downpour had people rushing for their cars, darting up the straight in plumes of spray, grins on every face. We rushed to clear the displays and hit the bar, tired, but happy that finally, we were back. Next year? Only 364 days to go….

Dan Norris, Straight Six Magazine by BMW Car Club GB (October 2022 issue)