Ko-Op Tour of Deutschland | Beem There, Done That

It’s the last entry for this Germany 2019 series, and on the day we were due to fly back to the UK, BMW Welt was around the corner (not literally) from the Munich Airport so we did a visit because, why not. After all, BMW has always been – in my eyes – German automotive engineering in the most definitive sense.

I remember the first Beemer that probably initiated my affinity towards the marque. It parked up outside my house in the form of a black E46 3-Series coupe belonging to my cousin. It wasn’t even an M3, nonetheless, it was and still is a highly appealing machine to me. I have always appreciated BMW always being slightly off the beaten path in their manners, whether it be slapping the infamous “kidney-grille” on every one of their models, or throwing daft engines, such as a 5.0L V10, into the E60 M5 saloon. Every write-up I read tends to vouch for the BMW’s superiority over their Audi and Benz counterparts, and I think it is because the company know balance and how to implement it well. Before you think I am fanboying, there of course were some cock-ups made in the past by the BMW design department; see E63 6-Series or those weird 3-Series Compact things…

Situated pretty much right off of the autobahn, the BMW Welt and Museum architecture was quite brave in its design. Inside the museum was a bit of a maze and it also had an upwards-spiral walkway, similar to that found in Mercedes’ Museum, but not as grand.

Krazy spindle-shaped structure partially grafted on to the BMW Welt building.

BMW, similar to other car manufacturers, started out producing aircraft engines, before venturing into the motorcycle industry, only until late-1920s/early-1930s did the company begin making four-wheeled automobiles.

A line-up of the brand’s bread-and-butter, takes you through time via generations of 3-Series, all the way up until the E9X iteration. Was this where the peak was tipped before emissions controls forced the glory of the NA “M-Car” days to retreat? I reckon so…

Pre-1990s marketing memorabilia has got to be the best form of advertising there has been, especially the German way with its straight-up, no-nonsense captions. That BMW K1 ad for the Japanese market loosely reads: “The new indicator of supersports”… If they ever do an Akira live-action movie, that bike gets the part, no contest.

Luke’s worst nightmare is FOMO, and the BMW Museum’s awkward layout with multiple floors let the win go to Mercedes in the final verdict. I didn’t mind the labyrinth of rooms, it kept you on your toes and it made you take note of what you saw in each exhibit.

Could the Z1 have been a kei-car for the roads of Bavaria? Such a quirky design with its disappearing-doors and pocket-sized kidney-grilles.

The M-Power bloodline.

I have always been drawn to the shape of the 2002, probably thanks to the Turbo model. You can definitely find hints of the 1M Coupe embedded within this early predecessor.

BMW’s racecar livery and aero-work has always been on point – Exhibit A, B, and C, above.

Of course, like the rest of ’em, BMW are keen on showcasing the people what the future could look like. The company’s efforts were evident throughout the museum, implying their methods of making humanity’s lives more “convenient” with autonomous driving, whilst simultaneously being a harbinger of alternative fuels.

I am quite interested in how manufacturers will manage to successfully implement the use of hydrogen as a form of energy to power vehicles of the future. I feel that because it is seemingly difficult to efficiently do so at the moment, if the industry can power through the challenges they face, Tesla will have to up their game. But that’s just a hunch, eh…

Upon leaving the museum, we popped into a glass building situated outside, separate from both the BMW Welt and Museum. This small space was given to a few M Performance demo-cars, tarted up with all of the options available from the pricey catalogue. You’re talking £5k for a set of those 19″ wheels; with tyres of course. I suppose its nice of BMW to offer aero parts and wheels that better represent the models’ deep-seated motorsports DNA.

That Z4 GT car was the show-stealer for me though. From its centre-lock BBS, to the silhouette of the widebody, I can imagine it looking (and probably sounding) like a maniac out on circuit. [Scurries over to YouTube]…

On another note, are BMW aware of how dramatically enlarged the front grilles are on their current models? I just saw an X7 for the first time out in a retail carpark, and the proportions between the headlights and grille are just straight weird. I guess only time will tell, for now, lets just appreciate how mean M4s look even when painted in the colours of lemon and orange TicTacs.

That journey to BMW World closes out the Germany 2019 saga. It was a kool trip and I reckon we saw a decent amount in the 5 nights we stayed there for. The highlight has got to be Nurburgring, but seeing the appreciation for Mazda was also absolutely worth the 300+ mile drive from “Burg to Burg”.

As always, thank you for stopping by at the site, and please follow the Instagram @soulfokus for more of my car/photography content. If you’re not far from the Yorkshire & Humber area, give me a shout if you would like me to shoot your motor!

Ko-Op Tour of Deutschland | The Zoom-Zoom Konnection

It was approaching the latter end of our German excursion. Since the flight back to sunny England was booked departing Munich International Airport, it only made sense to pitch up somewhere in accomodation not too far from Bavaria’s capital. Airbnb rarely fails to please; this final spot we lodged at was on the upper floor of a couple’s home in Moorenweis, a nice little villagey area.

On arrival, we were nackered, so for the night we just chilled; being antisocial and catching up on Youtube videos. I was hoping our second-to-last day would lift my spirits after a minor debacle at the hotel in Stuttgart where I left my washed T-shirts – one from Narita Dogfight, the other an RWB one I bought from Nakai-san a few months prior – to dry and forgot to pick them up on the way out. I was pinning the blame on Luke as I initially thought he hid them from me (sorry, Luke, but you are a twat, so you kinda brought it on yourself).

That morning was bound to be a start to a good day, visiting two spots I anticipated highly throughout the days leading up to it.

The first stop was in Augsburg, one of Bavaria’s largest cities after Munich and Nuremberg. Home to a kollection of cars you wouldn’t think of having such a dedicated following so far from home…

I first heard and learnt about the Mazda Classic Automobile Frey Museum on the NHK World channel on TV (does anyone even use their Sky+ set-top box anymore?), which is basically Japan’s major broadcasting network channel that airs all types of travel & tourism related programmes. It’s 507 on your Sky Freeview if you’re interested.

The ‘Frey’ in the museum’s name belongs to the founder: Walter Frey. He is the man behind the idea of this Mazda mecca, and it all stemmed from him owning and running a local Mazda dealership which was the foundation for his passion for the Japanese auto-manufacturer.

We entered via the gift shop, rather than exiting from it, largely because we completely missed the main entrance around the front. I think I was mesmerised by the Soul Red Crystal ND MX-5 so much so that it succeeded in luring us in the wrong way. In fact, it was far from wrong if I’m honest, as the first thing that nearly caused me to snap my neck when I walked into the main hall was sat there in a shadowy corner. The 323 GTR, an unsung hero, was Mazda’s attempt at rallying back in the 1980s to early 1990s using 4WD. They had some success with the FB RX7 in Group B, being an underdog competitor with no fully-financed backing from Mazda – only 7 “Evolution” models produced for homologation – the rear-wheel drive, naturally-aspirated coupe mightily fought to land a step on the podium at the Acropolis Rally in ’85. Whatever the case, I don’t care how many trophies this hatchback managed to snap up. Its boosted transversely-mounted MX-5 engine, rear tailight bar, and the aggressively “LanEvo-like” front face is such a cool combination.

The Frey family have a lot of love for the rotary, they’ve even set up a small section of the museum to resemble some kind of living space/memorial/shrine for the Cosmo Sport. Knowing that this machine started it all off, way before the RX model-code entered our cultural vocabulary, brought shivers to the spine.

There were all sorts of ikonic models from Mazda’s historical line-up, but this was definitely one of the highlights for me – the Autozam AZ-1 Mazdaspeed. A keicar with gullwing doors. Need I say more? Check out how angry its widened body looks from the front. It would be sick to stomp through the streets of Tokyo in this pocket rocket. Mazda, please atleast make a comeback with something like this if you aren’t bringing the Wankel back.

You don’t walk into a enthusiast-owned, Mazda collection hall, and not expect to see the greatest trio of alphanumerics to ever be assembled and branded into the minds of car nuts across the globe. The RX-7 would have never been if it weren’t for the German inventor, Felix Wankel, who gave the Japanese carmakers that spark to then set the world alight with all the premix-infused afterfire. I loved that ‘vert’ FC Turbo II.

And then you have to be out of your mind to think there wouldn’t be an abundance of the most successful two-seater sportscar of all time! The best on display have got to be this pair. 1 of 250 NB MX-5 Coupe that came with a fixed roof from factory, and a design concept in the shape of an NC Superlight without a roof and glass. These two must be the rarest of roadsters. Seeing that Mk3 in the metal was mindblowing, after only ever seeing it in video games and online, to have the chance to get close to one was a treat, lemme tell ya. It sits so low too, compared to the dismal OEM fitment of the red Mk2.

It was a bit of Miata-mania for the most part in the hall. Luke got a bit excited over the black NC racecar, which admittedly does look cool for the Roadster that doesn’t hit headlines in the modified scene. Maybe because a lot of examples tend to be below par or a bit OTT. The aero cover that sits atop the rear bulkhead was a nifty bit of kit, as were those wheels that look like a 5-spoke version of the 6ULs. Anyone know exactly what they are?

So this is what you would be greeted by if you came in through the front door. Its either a restored Group B rallycar, or a replica fabricated by some keen enthusiast. Whatever the case, it looked the bee’s knees, and probably buzzes all the way to its 9-grand RPM limiter.

Mazda plonked rotary engines in more of their past models than you think. I remember reading about the Rotary Parkway Bus in a book but there were no photos to back up the fact that it was an actual reality. Then I see one chilling in the corner of the museum next to an old-school pretend fuel pump! The Frey family have nailed this automotive gallery to the finest detail, even going to lengths of preserving a bench that Felix Wankel kept outside his workshop.

I would absolutely recommend visiting this place if you happen to be venturing to and around Munich. From the outside it seems like an old, refurbed tram shed (which it actually happens to be) but what lies within definitely surprised and amazed us [me – Luke probably wished he was back at the Nordschleife driving like hell].

Before leaving, I scribbled a little something down in the guestbook, but I don’t have a photo to show you what I wrote, so remember to look out for my tag if you ever do make a stop at the Classic Automobile Frey Museum!

Before returning to the house, RUF was not too far from Augsburg, located in a rural Pfaffenhausen. There’s a ton of information about the company online, plus, I don’t have much photographic material to share from our guided tour of the premises as some of the work they had on must have been pre-production, top secret. After all, RUF is a registered manufacturer, not just a Porsche “styling” firm. If you grew up on Gran Turismo, RUF will be engrained in your memory. If you’re not already familiar, this family-run business takes Porsches – sometimes, maybe even from across the roundabout where a dealership resides – and turns them into pieces of art without sacrificing any performance abilities of the original model. Add to that, pretty much all of the work is carried out in-house, with facilities such as a bodyshop & paint booths, and an engine dyno room!

I won’t do a full blog on our visit to RUF, just because I didn’t get any more photos to share with you to give you visuals to accompany my blabber.

As I took snaps of the MX-5 rental car, a couple drove past in their car and then backed up as they must have seen me dodgily crouched down behind the car. Rolling down their window and from the serious look on their faces, they asked me WTF I was doing in some German. Was a funny/awkward moment. Pretty certain they had been drinking, too, so I should have flipped it and asked them WTF they were doing.

Hope you enjoyed the read, look out for the finale in my ‘Germany 2019’ album, soon…

Ko-Op Tour of Deutschland | Going Around the Benz

As someone who is not all that into the Euro scene of car kulture, I will honestly admit that Mercedes-Benz have produced some machines that surpass other makers, even before they can put up a fight. It is fair to say Mercs have been pioneers from the get go.

The place is pretty sizeable, made obvious by the fact that upon entering the lobby you start the tour by elevating to the uppermost level of the museum’s nine planes, at some lofty height enough to make Luke a bit squeamish.

I found it amusing how the roof resembled the profile of an epitrochoid, the same shape as a rotor in a Wankel engine…

The floorplan of the Benz building is pretty cool, it flows down through the timeline of Mercedes and every significant model in their lineage can be found on each floor which signifies a decade.

Check out the gills on the side of the 300SL Gullwing! Back then, Merc’s design department were in the zone and produced some kutting edge automotive art. My favourite element has got to be the side-exit cannons coming out of the quarter-panel of that 300 SLR.

The section of the museum that was worth more than admission has got to be where I saw the 190E Evolution II. I wouldn’t change a thing on that machine.

Then we walked down a floor, and there it sat on a sloped bank stage amongst a plethora of Mercedes’ racing legends, the #3 Sonax 190E 2.6-16 Evo II DTM car of 1992. I vividly remember clocking some nuts laptime on Nurburgring (virtually) when it first appeared in Gran Turismo 4. I must have been 10 years old back then, getting giddy about my first sub-8 minute PB; that car has burnt a scar in my memory. It is the ultimate sleeper that is not sleeper at all in Evo form.

Ignore what I said about not altering the pure, elegant physique of the Merc; I would most definitely style it in the fashion of that touring car in two-tone. Maybe change the ‘BOSS HUGO BOSS’ livery to ‘BOSS COFFEE’ next to a silhouette of Tommy Lee Jones…

Once I found out Mercedes gave the rotary engine a chance, they shifted up in my rankings. The C111, although only went as so far as a design concept, is without a doubt one of the most interesting cars I saw and yeah, it’s probably because of the Wankelmotor. It was a decent attempt at defying convention, so I can’t fault Mercedes for trying back in the late 60’s when Mazda were doing the same, but disappointingly the German autogiants flipped off the possibility of a 3 or 4-rotor and developed the diesel lump that found its way into the 240D 3.0. Bit of a shame the C111 remained a development mule, since customers sent blank cheques to the company in hope that they would churn out production-models; would have been a success by the sounds of it…

Thats all for now, it was a quick one, but I feel I need to bust these posts out as I am lagging behind on the Germany content. Plus, I don’t really care for Mercedes-Benz at this point in time. I feel like the newer cars are lacking soul nowadays, and that goes for the majority of car manufacturers. I reckon Mercedes should pump out more krazy koncepts like they used to, and then find a way to go absolutely bananas on the drawing board for a flagship model…

Anyway, the real good bits are yet to come, so keep an eye or two out!

Ko-Op Tour of Deutschland | Stuttgart Stronghold of Pure Performance

Day 5 into the journey across Germany, we left the towns and villages of Nurburg behind for the city of Stuttgart. Home to two of the automotive powerhouses, the metropolis is the rightful birthplace to both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. Their museums are within 6 miles of each other so we hit them both up in a day.

This will be part one, where we started the morning off with breakfast at the local Siegel cafe. This was right around the corner from both, the Porsche complex situated on the Schwieberdinger Strasse, and our hotel from which we could see Porsche’s mega-dealer. We visited that before entering the museum, and it was the first time I saw a Porsche Carrera GT and TWO 918 Spyders.

If I am not mistaken, this 992 Cabriolet parked up outside the museum entrance was due to be kollected by its new owner.

I had good fun goofing around to Luke everytime I spotted a Mazda Familia/323, as they seemed to be so kommonplace in every part of Germany we visited. Reckon I saw more of these than any other of Mazda’s outgoing models.

I can’t say I have ever felt an affinity towards the marque, I mean, the earlier nat-asp flat sixes sound the dogs bollocks, but apart from that, I could never understand the appeal. But after spending time at the museum and taking in the history and heritage on display, I kind of get it now. Its their motorsport efforts that pave the way and make the brand what it is.

Their livery designs are some of the best of all time. Porsche definitely knew how to make fast cars look the part.

Everything about the Martini RSR was just right in all possible ways. I am a sucker for cars done in the ikonic blue & red lace striping; oddly, it looks like a kind tribal warpaint seen on the faces of mandrill monkeys. This No. 8 car did not have its rear cover plate, making it easy to view its mechanikals including the KKK turbo assembly and its fire-breathing external wastegate. I’m unsure what section those rear tyres were, but I bet they were plentiful of traction when it came to stomping all 400 ftlbs of torque down.

I struggled to find a badly designed racecar in Porsche’s inventory. The 935 “Moby Dick” blew my flippin’ mind, so many people crowded around it making it difficult to get many photos.

A group of sketch artists gathered around this special edition 911S, the millionth to be produced, and done so in Irish Green which apparently was the colour of Mr. Ferdinand Porsche’s own Carrera back in 1964.

The museum wasn’t massive when compared with Mercedes’, but the quality makes up for the quantity, there’s no doubt about that. I’m sure if you live and breath Porsche, you’ll walk out of this place with a stupidly big grin on.

I’ll leave you with a few snaps of this beast of a 997. Come back for part two, where we sped off to see some of Benz’ brilliance…

Ko-Op Tour of Deutschland | 5 REASONS WHY YOU NEED TO DO A RING TRIP

Instead of leaving you the residuals of the ‘Ring gallery without much commentary, I might just shake it up abit and do a list, 1 to 5, of valid excuses for you to use to make the journey out into the Forbidden Forest of Nurburg.

Eins! The Nurburgring is the best testing ground for those who want to improve on their driving in an environment that does nothing but demand of your complete 100% fokus. Whether it be your own personal vehicle, a ‘Ring rental, or one you’ve borrowed from SixT (naughty), the not-so-smooth ride you’ll be faced to endure for 11.9 miles of the ‘TF’ bridge-to-gantry course will put both man and machine to the ultimate test. A lot of cars that manufacturers plan on producing are tested on the circuit, and for good reason. The varying conditions that the collective orchestra of components of a car are forced through simulate the very tough and rigorously spent life of use/abuse the vehicle will most likely go through when put on sale. This process brings near enough every flaw to light. I suppose, for the everyday driver, driving the Nurburgring will be more of a challenge for the driver and less so for the car. But, if you reckon your “lowering-springs-with-wheels-and-tyres” mod recipe is enough to keep pace, the Nurburgring might just devour you and spit you out into the oblivion. It is a track that demands total respect, so you better be serious if you’re wanting to set that BTG lap record.

Zwei! What you will immediately notice when you arrive in Nurburg, is the pure dominance of the Porsche marque, the 911 GT3 and GT3 RS model in particular. It gets to a point where you are on a hunt for all the 9 colour options that they are available in. But, whilst me and Luke were patiently waiting in the Suzuki Swift for the red flag to be dismissed, this friggin’ 991 GT2 RS rolls up and I managed to snap this one clean photo before the beautiful British Racing Green stunner got horded by Snapchatters. It didn’t stay for long, since the parking spot was for Ring Taxis only, and the marshal told him to scram. Its not all just rare Porsches though. You will stumble across a handful of extraordinary pieces of automotive art, with such an eclectic assortment, there’s bound to be something to make your gob drop…

…Just like that BMW 2002 did to me.

Drei! Enough’s enough, quit playing pretend on Playstation, get off your gaming chair and into the hot seat on track for real! If taking your own pride and joy is too much risk, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to hiring a purpose-built motor to blitz around the Nordschleife in. That purple Swift Sport was what we borrowed for a few laps, costing us about £150 for the day including fuel and lap tickets. You might snigger at its meager 125bhp turbo-less output, but if you find enjoyment in driving cars to the limit, this is a sensible option when you’re concerned about damage excess if something does go wrong. Besides, the car we got was fully caged, bucket seats with harnesses hold you in, Endless brake pads literally felt neverending in terms of stopping power, and sticky (when dry) Advan AD08R tyres; a proper ‘Ring spek Swift in all aspects.

Vier! Okay, so it might be your first time or perhaps the weather turned to shit on arrival, so you don’t have it in you to risk a remortgage back home if you write-off a rented GT86 all because you wanted to become Takumi Fujiwara coming off Karussell in 2nd gear. If thats the case, jump into the passenger and ride shotgun with a taxi driver. As long as that taxi is a Mclaren or better yet, a 550bhp F80 M3 with 4 Recaro bucket seats so its fun for the whole family! I wanted to get round the ‘Ring with a view from the passenger seat (which would be the driver’s side in normal countries), so I luckily got chance to hop in a 720S piloted by Moritz Kranz, some guy who can drive cars fast and win races, basically. The Mclaren was beyond ballistic, its twin-turbo V8 powerplant is phenonmenal with its delivery, but Moritz made it look like a Sunday drive whilst simultaneously passing everything, of course.

Fünf! The final reason I can give for visiting the Nurburgring, is simply this. Whether you love driving cars, watching cars be driven to the edge, or just enjoy generally enjoy the kulture, this is the place for you to experience at least once. There is so much passion and enthusiasm, not only in and around the Nurburgring facility, but also in the villages that are dotted in that region have a strong affinity to motorsport. Germans, in fact, just like the Japanese make a tremendous effort when it comes to car life. They share a lot of similarities, which is what I tended to note frequently during my stay. The way in which they do things (cars, specifically) is probably the greatest difference. Germany brings functionality to the forefront; Japan highlights delicate form in very unique ways (which is why it can be misunderstood most of the time).

To be quite honest, I didn’t need to give much justification for my reasons. In fact, why the hell do I need to persuade anyone to visit the world’s most notorious automotive holiday destination? Its one of those things that has got to be done.

Probably gassed enough on this one, so I’m out of here.

Thanks for checking my stuff out, if you can be bothered, share it with your fam or your mate. I appreciate your time. Keep your eyes peeled for the next one in this Germany saga…