The Legends of the Autobahn is an annual judged concours event hosted during Monterey Car Week by the BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi clubs of America, and hence, although all German marques are welcome, the gathered field of 400 or so registered entrants consists primarily of those nameplates. Last year the event migrated to the lovely Nicklaus Club Monterey, and perhaps growing pains are to be blamed for this year’s laborious spectator parking procedure and woeful lack of restroom facilities. As BMW is celebrating its centennial, that brand dominated the field. We were particularly taken with a bunch of topless BMWs, so we’ll start with those.
1960 BMW RS 700
Never heard of an RS 700? That’s probably because only two were ever made based on the featherweight air-cooled rear-engine two-cylinder coupe that is at least partially credited with saving the company. When that little nipper started having some racing success in hill-climbs and such, BMW contracted a supplier (located at the Nurburgring) to build a 700-based bespoke race car.
The car features a mild-steel tube-frame chassis, aluminum bodywork that sort of harks to the 507 in the front, but reminds one more of the Porsche 550 Spider from other angles, and is powered by a mid-mounted air-cooled twin. Originally fitted with dual overhead cams and Dellorto carbs, this setup proved unreliable, so it was replaced with a pushrod model 106 flat-twin with dual Webers, dual-point twin-spark ignition, and four coils—a setup reportedly good for 80 hp. In an 830-pound car, that’s a weight-to-power ratio later M3s would achieve! The car was built in 1960, but the VIN plate appears to say 1961, so maybe that was a completion date? The second RS 700, a fiberglass bodied one, resides in BMW’s museum in Munich, but every time this one has changed hands it has done so with the stipulation that it never be sold back to BMW in the hopes that it forever remains in the hands of enthusiasts.
1962 BMW 700 Sport Cabriolet
Not long after the lowly 700 helped save BMW, long-time partner and coachbuilder Karosserie Baur of Stuttgart undertook to remove its roof and create this much more special and rare 700 Cabriolet. This was the 303rd of 2,597 E110 700 Sport Cabriolets cabs Baur converted. Besides cutting off the coupe’s roof, a second floor panel was welded on underneath for structural rigidity. The unmodified air-cooled flat twin produced just 40 hp, and it didn’t come with a traditional starter—engaging the start position on the floor-mounted (hi Saab!) ignition caused the generator to work as a motor. The 700 Cabriolet was sold in the U.S. through importer Max Hoffman, but the price was full-size Chevy money—$3,000, so it found few takers.
BMW built just 25 of these gorgeous 507 roadsters between 1956 and 1959, and a bunch of them are in Monterey this week—including the one first successfully campaigned by Hans Stuck in various hill-climb races, and then sold to a U.S. soldier named Elvis Aaron Presley. He painted his to look like this red one, but it has since been returned to its original Feather White. Power came from a 3,168cc pushrod V-8. Originally expected to sell in the thousands, it proved too expensive for all but a handful of rock-n-roller rich guys, so seeing one today is a rare treat.
BMW 1600/2 Baur “Voll” Cabriolet
Karosserie Baur began building BMW convertibles in the 1930s, having received a patent for the design of a folding top for luxury cars about the time BMW was just getting into the car-building biz. When the 3 Series’ predecessor 1600/2002 body was in its early days, Baur built these “Voll” (full) convertibles with no roll hoop. The design is elegant and classic, and affords an incredibly open panoramic view in all directions, with its low belt line.
BMW 2002 Baur Cabriolet
Later, as safety regs became more stringent, Baur adopted sort of a “Targa” style top (but Porsche owned that name), with a removable section over the front seat, a roll-hoop and rear quarter window section, and a soft-folding section in the back. It was a much less elegant look, but if you were planning on turning turtle, this one offered more protection. Sources suggest 1,682 1600/2 Cabriolets and 200 2002 Cabriolets were built.
1980 BMW M1
Guess what else Baur built? Many of the magnificent BMW M1 mid-engine supercars. Lamborghini was originally contracted to construct them but ended up unable to fulfill its contract. This stunning example was staged on the Legends lawn with its full set of M fitted luggage and even its fabulous matching Campagnolo alloy mini-spare wheel and tire on display.
BMW 1600 GT
Hans Glas ran his own company in Dingolfing, which performed final assembly on the Frua-designed, Maggiora-built bodies for the Glas 1300 GT and later the 1700 GT. Then BMW bought the company and produced this BMW 1600 GT, replacing the 1,682cc Glas engine with a 1,573cc BMW unit that was then powering the BMW 1600. Only 1,259 of these sexy little coupes were BMW-badged.
BMW E30 3 Series Wagon
This was the original 3 Series wagon, the famous origin-story of which holds that a BMW technician expecting his first child longed for the versatility of a wagon. He converted a sedan on the sly in his off hours, management saw it, loved it, and the rest is history. The E30 wagon never came here officially, but Motor Trend’s Jason Cammisa landed this German-spec car, and has restored it to such a high specification that even with some 160,000 miles on the odometer, it managed to wow the persnickety judges sufficiently to take home the trophy in the BMW Concours class. Bravo!
1967 Mercedes-Benz 200D Limousine
Check out this gorgeous dark green factory-stretch 200D limo. Intended primarily for taxicab use in Germany and other European countries, this eight-passenger three-row sedan is one of just 283 diesels (out of a total 689) built during the eight months of production for this model.