It's officially called the EURO Auto Festival, but everybody knows at as the EURO. "EURO" as in European cars only; if it wears an American brand label, or comes from Japan, Israel or Sri Lanka, sorry, not welcome here. There was one partially inexplicable exception to that rule, as there were a couple of Chrysler Crossfires in this year's show, bending the rules a bit in deference of that's car's strong German content and connection to the days of DaimlerChrysler. In spite of its edgy bodywork, the Crossfire is essentially a first generation Mercedes-Benz SLK underneath. Another modest rulebender was the Hudson Italian prototype, built on a Hudson chassis with Hudson running gear, but with coachwork by Italy's Touring.
We asked event Co-Chairman Paul Ianuario to explain the essence of the EURO. He said, "This show is just as much about the people as it is the cars. Of course you need both to have a car show. By the time the EURO takes place in the early fall, all the big high end events are over for the year; Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, and all the rest are history, so this is the chance for European car owners and fans to come to South Carolina, enjoy some southern hospitality, see our amazing BMW Manufacturing facility here (Ianuario is curator of the BMW Zentrum museum and welcome center facility in Spartanburg) show their car, and enjoy hundreds of other great cars and like-minded people in a high quality yet casual environment." 2011 represented the 16th annual event, benefiting the American Red Cross. Ianuario continues: "our goal each year is to pay our bills, put aside a little seed money for the future, and then write a big check to the Red Cross - it's a charity that everybody knows, and in one way or another has probably touched the lives of many of our attendees."
The 2011 EURO celebrated two significant automotive marques, that being 50 years of the Jaguar E-Type, also recognizing the "Spridget" that being MG Midgets and the Austin-Healey Sprite. What? Jags and MGs and Healeys and Ferraris, Minis, Maseratis and Mercedes, strutting around the grounds of a BMW factory? Yes, in a marvelous display of automotive de tente. This year's field was comprised of around 360 cars, a few less than the anticipated 400, but a large, colorful and diverse field nonetheless. The show and parking are free, thanks to the generosity of sponsors BMW, Michelin, Hagerty classic car insurance, BASF paints, Meguiars and others.
2011's activities were spread across October 14, 15 and 16, based primarily at the BMW Manufacturing campus in Spartanburg, and HQd at a nearby Embassy Suites. As you'd expect, many of the cars on display came from around the Carolinas, but also from as far away as Canada and California. A huge aspect of the EURO's appeal comes from the BMW property. It's a stone's throw from the Greenville/Spartanburg airport, and is an impressive and amazing campus that currently covers 1039 acres of largely flat property amid the areas green rolling hills.
BMW Manufacturing officially opened in 1994 as a 1.2 million square foot facility and plant has grown to its current 4.0 million square feet, which includes the recent $750 million expansion to accommodate production of the next-generation BMW X3. Since opening, the factory has produced the 318i, Z3 roadster, Z3 coupe, Z4 roadster, M roadster, M coupe, X3 and X5 Sports Activity Vehicles, X5 M, X6 Sports Activity Coupe, X6 M and ActiveHybrid X6, and is also the sole, global producer of the X3, X5 Sports Activity Vehicle, X5 M and the X5 xDrive 35d, X6 Sports Activity Coupe, and X6 M X6 ActiveHybrid. It's a prolific property, with total production since 1994 over 1.8 million Vehicles with an average daily output of approximately 1,000 vehicles, engaging the services and products of about 170 North American Suppliers. Through 2010, 70% of the factory's production was exported to over 130 global markets at a value of more than $4 billion, with about 60% of all BMW X5's exported. About 36% of all vehicles produced in the Spartanburg plant are Diesel all markets, all models
And in case you were wondering, it's a smart, green facility too. In 2010, the plant recycled 85% of the waste generated. Currently, more than half of the plant's total energy requirements are provided by methane gas from the nearby landfill. BMW operates a fleet of about 100 pieces of material handling equipment powered by hydrogen fuel cells, making BMW Manufacturing one of the largest Hydrogen Fuel Cell fleets in the U.S.
Fun facts from the factory floor: Over 13 miles of paint lines are installed in the Paint Shop containing over 4,000 gallons of paint. Paint is applied to the vehicle in a 5 layer process that is less than the thickness of a human hair. Over 8,000 different parts are installed onto the painted body. There are 380 robots in the X5/X6 Body Shop, and over 400 robots in the X3 Body Shop. The new Assembly Hall is 1/2 mile long and uses material trains rather than forklifts to move most material and parts from the on-site logistics center to the production line quickly and efficiently.
Let's not forget the BMW Performance center test track facility, a multi purpose road course that can be configured in dozens of different shapes and sizes; a great deal of it can be wetted down so BMW can show off the tractional capabilities of its many awd models. The track was open during the EURO weekend, with test drive tickets sold to benefit the show charity. This aspect of the weekend proved so popular it sold out.
The BMW Manufacturing grounds are spectacular. The Zentrum (welcome center/museum/gift shop) architecture is dramatic, and the building is surrounded by its own lake and many acres of sprawling green area plus plenty of on site parking. The lake was ringed with E-Types, and the Zentrum was open to EURO attendees; the production cars, prototypes, motorcycles, and racecars on display are truly mouthwatering. If business or vacation travel takes you to the Carolinas or nearby Atlanta, BMW Manufacturing is worth adding to your itinerary. BMW will help you tailor your visit, plant tour, and driving experience. Enjoy behind-the-scenes access inside BMW's only North American manufacturing plant with a small group guided tour. Take the wheel and test your skills on the track with a certified BMW performance driving instructor. For more information email: email@example.com, or visit www.bmwusfactory.com/Ultimate-BMW-Experience/.
Event co-chair Barry Harms summarizes this year's event: "Our goal is to keep the EURO fresh with new events to keep folks coming back. The Friday tours will be expanded next year, the Sunday fun rally will have lunch included, the spouse program will be expanded to incorporate downtown Greenville. The Hagerty "Youth Judging Program" was a huge hit in 2011 and will return, bigger than ever. The technical sessions were a success in their second year and our sponsors love the response from the attendees. The performance center sold out of all of the slots that were provided by BMW - Thanks to our Host! Finally, the car show had some very exclusive vehicles, worth millions of dollars. Ray Korman's Watkins Glen "24 hour" winning M3, the sixth built Jaguar E-Type, the fifth built Jaguar V-12 E-Type and the tenth-built 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing as the overall "People's Choice" winner, thank you Mark & Sheila Richey" - perhaps a harbinger of things to ome, as the dedicate marque for next year's EURO will be Mercedes-Benz.
Mark your calendar for next year; the date is October 20, 2012. www.euroautofestival.com.