Just like you, my love affair with imported automobiles began when I was a kid. Growing up in SoCal in the '60s, European imports weren't exactly common - except the omnipresent VWs. However, there were enough around to fuel my obsession. The first I can remember were my uncle's '59 Porsche 356 B 1600 Super 90 and my mother's Austin-Healey 3000 Mark 3. I had another uncle who used to drive a Triumph TR4; one visit to the racetrack with him sealed my fate forever. By the time I reached high school, I knew I wanted to have a career in the auto industry. My career began at 16 as a gas attendant and light mechanic at the local Chevron station. A year later I was promoted to manager of another station and then offered the opportunity to drive my father's brand-new '78 BMW 320i to my senior prom. The image of me pulling up with my girlfriend in the Bimmer, with Van Halen's "Running With the Devil" blaring out of the Blaupunkt, is still etched in my memory. That was the day that I became a full-blown BMW enthusiast.
I continued to work at the service station through graduation from UC Santa Barbara in 1983, after which I spent the summer in Europe. When I returned I took my first job as a salesperson at Santa Barbara Nissan. I really wanted to start at the BMW retailer but was told to "get some experience." I spent a couple of years there, then a couple more at Honda. My next stop was the local Chrysler/Plymouth Jeep/Eagle store where I was offered the F&I manager position and later sales manager. With this experience under my belt, I approached Nick Cutter of Cutter Automotive Galleries about a management position and was hired as Director of Finance. At that point I became responsible for all the F&I operations for Cutter's European brands: Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche. Two years later the position of general sales manager of Audi/BMW/Land Rover opened up, and I was offered the job. My dream had finally come true...
In 1999 I began poking around the internet, specifically the fledgling BMW enthusiasts' sites. I began answering questions and providing unique insights, as well as "confidential" dealer information such as wholesale (invoice) pricing, vehicle ordering guides, finance and leasing rates, and so on. I got my wrists slapped by BMW-NA more than once for doing so, but my strategy was to develop a novel no-haggle "Internet Special" pricing policy, where BMW prospects could place custom factory orders for their cars at a preset amount over invoice. Our BMW sales virtually doubled in a year.
Birth Of Bimmer Fest
In the spring of 2000 I approached Marc Cutter with an idea to throw a party for the growing online community of BMW enthusiasts. The purpose was to show our appreciation to this group that was previously deemed as "dealer haters" (online they're referred to as "stealers") but also to recognize the potential for further promotion of our growing internet program. All the advertising was solely on BMW message boards, and word spread quickly.
The event afforded the opportunity for the members of online communities to meet face to face and hang out for the first time. By most accounts, the original Bimmerfest was a success, with over 75 cars and 125 enthusiasts in attendance. We learned much, and key elements were defined as the Battle of the Bimmers competition and the infamous Bimmerfest Road Rally.
The following spring the buzz began with enthusiasts asking, "When's Bimmerfest?" or, "Are you going to do it again?" So I approached Marc Cutter and he gave me the green light. The second year added a new element with the addition of BMW tuners - heavy hitters like CEC/Schnitzer, RD Sport/Racing Dynamics and Wheel Power/Hamann. The event was a huge success and the formula was set. We saw exponential growth year after year, with caravans of BMWs coming from all over the state, the addition of a charity raffle, and the creation of our own bimmerfest.com online community. This has brought us to where we are now - the largest BMW-exclusive car show in North America, and perhaps beyond.
This past April we had a record 950-plus BMWs show up and over 3,000 enthusiasts from all over the country in attendance. We had the support of what is now known as BMW Santa Barbara, as well as 35 of the leading BMW tuners and aftermarket vendors. Important to mention too is the support and exposure that the event has received from the media. Thanks, eurotuner!
There is no charge for admission or participation, and free lunch is provided. What's more, vendors donate products and services toward the Bimmerfest Opportunity Drawing, which resulted in the charitable donation of $6,400 to the Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara.
As the founder of Bimmerfest, I'm very proud of what we've accomplished over the past six years. I'm also proud to see the success of friends like Matt of mnitza, and Brad and Simon of Evosport, having watched them grow from fledging enterprises at Bimmerfest a few years ago to thriving leaders in the BMW tuning community.
Back in 2000 when this adventure began, I had no idea what I was in for. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect Bimmerfest to grow as it has and become what it is today. My vision for the future is a series of annual events in all the major geographic regions of the country. I'd also like to see bimmerfest.com continue to grow as a premier resource for BMW owners and prosper in its stated mission of "Bringing the BMW community together."
As for me, I retired from Cutter Motors in 2003 to finish a graduate degree in clinical psychology, and I've recently become a psychotherapist. Go figure?! Well, somebody's got to help keep these crazy BMW fanatics under control, right?
The views of our guest speaker are not necessarily shared by eurotuner magazine.