Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina is one of the most modern vehicle production plants in the world producing an average of thirty SUV’s every working hour, five days a week, fifty two weeks a year. I am of course referring to the BMW production complex in Greenville, S.C.
For the past sixteen years a unique Motor Event has taken place every October, a major car display presented on thirty acres of landscape grounds adjacent to the main BMW building. The name of this event is the EURO FESTIVAL. Which attracts cars and their owners from all over the country. This year British vehicles were the feature for 2011 with the MG and Austin Healey being the chosen Marque However, not to be outdone Jaguar owners presented a formative display inspired I think by the fact that 2011 was/is the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Jaguar E Type. This reminded me of two things, first what a wonderful expression of car design the E Type represents and, that I am certainly getting old as I remember seeing my first E Type at the Earle’s Court Motor Show back in 1961! Like the Jaguar 120 that was first exhibited in 1949 at the same Motor Display the E Type stole the show. It would not be wrong to say that this vehicle was a true legend in its life time! This year BMW restricted the number of display entries to 400 divided into twenty four groups. Obviously both MG and Austin Healey, the featured manufacturers were highlighted and the display of cars certainly lived up to all expectations. From the popular MGB to the T Types and of course the attractive MGA. If you are into Italian cars there was a broad range including Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and a special section called Italian Exotic . One car certainly caught my eye, a concept vehicle produced in Italy in 1953 for the American Hudson Motor company. It certainly was a very attractive car and way ahead of the styling for that period. Was America ready for such design in 1953? I fear I have to say; “Certainly Not” it was still chrome everywhere with shining teeth for the front grill. It has been suggested that this was the result of the Cold War, a show of strength etc!… (I leave it at that!)
What British car buff is not hooked on Morgan and there were some excellent examples including the three wheel version. Triumph also had a very good showing starting with the early TR2 through to several TR6 versions again most in Concour’s condition.
In the Mini section the display was a little disappointing. I had expected to see a number of the original Mini’s that I recall back in the early sixties and of course always associated with the original version of the movie “The Italian Job”.( A short personal story about that film, saw it on a Monday and by the weekend had purchased a Mini Cooper. Who says advertising “Don’t Work? There were a number of the BMW versions on display all quite attractive but not quite the Mini that I remember… It’s had to realize that the first Mini rolled out of the Longbridge factory in the fall of 1959. A nice display of Lotus cars caught my eye also a Mini Moke standing alone and attracting quite a lot of attention. If you are not sure what a Moke is the best way to describe the car is an open Jeep type Mini that back in the 1960’s you would see dashing up and down the sun soaked beach. Not very practical and certainly not weather friendly but a fun vehicle. Eventually they were banned from such activity throughout Europe and the UK as being dangerous.
Don’t know if they ever caught on in the US and I have to say that my only experience with this car was in England which on reflection was never subject to sub soaked beaches for more than a few days each summer.
Obviously the BMW display was by any standards impressive. Vehicles from the early 60’s through to the last decade graced the field and the display of several BMW Motor Cycles was for me, the cherry on the cake. If you were a Volkswagen fan there was more than enough to make your day. I have never been that keen on the brand but I think this goes back to my short ownership of an early Beetle. The heater its that’s the correct name, did more to kill me with engine fumes than warm any part of my lower body. Starting was easy but stopping was another matter. Also noticed was an early Austin Cambridge, and a 1947 Rover that looked like it should have been in the Rolls section had there been one! What a magnificent example of prewar car design for a medium priced car. Obviously one of the last to come out of the Rover factory before their postwar designs took over such as the Rover P4 that hit the showroom floors in 1950 and was a success. The selection of Porsche on display was also impressive but you expect that with this manufacturer no matter what is on show.
The whole experience of Euro Festival 2011 was both enjoyable and certainly educational even for an old car buff like me. There are not many events where you still have cars to see by the end of the day and wish you had come earlier. For anyone who has never been to Greenville plan to visit Euro Fest 2012 you won’t regret it.
Geoff Wheatley — October 2011