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…

Japanaholik’s Journal | The Kansai Chapter (2)

It was the next day, and that meant finally visiting the garage I was probably most looking forward to. Rotary-engined machines are an endangered species, and this place is a conservation sanctuary. Okay, maybe thats a bit over exagerrant, but when it comes to rotary-powered Mazdas, this joint will FEED you well.

If balance is your aim, then ‘Fujita Engineering Evolutional Development’ are one of the top players in the automotive tuning game. Its apparent that quality is held in much higher regard than quantity with these guys. How I found out about FEED was when I came across an FD RX-7 for sale online, equipped with one of their Aerobonnets which was that cool and unique of a design, I went and scoured the internet until I found the source, in the form of yet another Hot Version video.

The company fokuses on parts manufacture and vehicle services for all rotary-engined Mazda chassis, but also produces offerings for the NB MX-5 and Mazda 2/Demio, such as strut braces, dressup accessories, and aero-enhancing add-ons. Even though I left empty-handed, I came back with some pretty kool photos of their premises. The workspace isn’t so much of a clinical area, with a tired looking lathe in a dingy corner, which I prefer to be honest – piles of parts and empty wheel boxes just lying about – it probably creates a laid back atmosphere for the guys working there day in, day out. The founder and owner, Fujita-san, happened arrive after us, but he wasn’t fussed about us foreign visitors at all.

Its not a huge place, located on a patch of industrial estate surrounded by paddy fields. But square-footage doesn’t necessarily equal significance, you could have the biggest place and churn mass-produced garbage out.

As far as I’m aware, Fujita Engineering has always targetted the ‘grip’ circuit in aftermarket performance tuning. They lean towards the ideal of perfecting the already excellent chassis, through subtle and progressive means. This is reflected in their grey FD RX-7 demo adorned in the shop’s new GT3 widebody kit, which is stunning in photos, and even better in the metal. As soon as I entered the garage, it was perched up on the lift, towering over a whole load of stuff as you can see in the pic below. One of the technicians kindly moved some of it from underneath so he could drop the car down a little so I could peep the engine bay.

Even I’m not a fan of some the wild conversion kits that have been created by some aftermarket companies, and I tend to think of myself as open-minded and more eccentric than most! But the Afflux kit designed by FEED is actually a well-done take on that trend. It could even pass as being penned by a manufacturer’s concept design team. This customer was having the car prepared for its roadworthiness test (a.k.a. shaken in Japan, M.O.T. in the UK), hence the RX-8 wheels with awkward fitment. From a certain angle, it looked like it had no wheels bolted to it; hoverkraft-flex! Funny how in Japan you can modify a car to the brink of becoming a UFO, but the gap between wheel and arch has to be wide enough to fit a monster truck tyre…

Out in front was almost like a graveyard of decaying bygones. I doubt that they have been completely neglected, and I am hoping Fujita-san chooses to ressurect them someday. I assume most of them were previously demo cars, the one that surprised me the most was the off-white (now beige) Mazda Eunos Cosmo, Mazda’s answer to the ‘luxury-sports coupe’ segment back in the early 1990s, which was the first production car to be armed with a built-in GPS satnav. All I really care for, though, is whether or not it packed a 20B three-rotor twin-turbo unit under its bonnet.

Loads to look at, so little time. After spending a decent hour or so at the FEED shop, we said bye and headed to Glion Showroom, located on Osaka Bay. A red-brick warehouse complex is a home to some proper gems. I came across cars I had never seen before, along with classic heroes we have all seen in films and on TV. Some of them were even for sale,

This old Mustang GT had a prime spot just around the corner from the Museum entrance. It’s metallic gold skin definitely got my attention, even though I would probably keep walking if it was a bog standard model, but this California Special had a cool aura. That notchback shape is still awkward to me, the fastback is way more suited to the Ford’s body.

A BMW E9 is what came before the 6 Series, and its not hard to tell with its long nose and striking front-to-rear swage line making the coupe look longer than it actually is.

I didn’t plan this spot in the itinerary for any particular reason, it wasn’t like they had some crazy rare car that I was hoping to see. With it being out of the way, not many people travel from Osaka’s centre to visit, which made the atmosphere less “museumy” if that makes sense.

A Cosmo Sport 110S lingered in the corner next to two 2000GTs. I know which of these Japanese legends I’m having if I ever grow a money tree. Even when its stationary it looks fast (for something that was made in the late Sixties).

All sorts of flavours inside each section of the unit made for an interesting wander around. There was a whole host of pre-1950s BMWs, including that 507 Roadster which was pretty nice. Almost resembles some kind of mix-up consisting of a C1 Corvette and a Shelby Cobra.

The next room was something of a gift shop for those with a fat wallet. Some of those model engines cost as much as an ACTUAL motor. Alright, maybe you can’t buy an RB26DETT for 200 quid, but that much money would get you a used BP out of an MX-5! The incredible detail found on these models were crazy to be honest, I wonder if the turbos and pulleys spun.

The C2 Corvette is still the best thing to come out of an American car manufacturer’s design office.

After the self-guided tour of Glion, it was time to drop our rental car back off at the depot and do a lot of walking and waiting, for our overnight bus back to Tokyo.
All in all, Osaka was decent, I wish I saw more of the Kansai region, but that is always the case in hindsight.