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Celebrating 100 Years of BMW Motorcycles: an exhibit at the Ultimate Driving Museum

The finest exhibit of BMWs motorcycle history ever seen in the U.S.


Marque specific car clubs are in many ways the glue that holds the entire car hobby together. No matter if they take the form of a online-only club or a full blown club such as the Porsche club of America, they are the organizations that plan events, publish newsletters and magazines, hold judged concours events that set the standard of excellence within a specific marque, and create much of the fun that makes the car hobby such an exhilarating thing to be involved with.

Of all these marque specific clubs, there is a single club that stands above the rest because, in addition to the many activities listed above, this club has a foundation that holds teen driving schools, has an amazing archive of marque specific documents, and even has its own museum. This club is the BMW Car Club of America, and that organization is the BMWCCA Foundation with its museum aptly named The Ultimate Driving Museum located just outside the BMW factory in Spartanburg, SC.

I was recently given the honor to be a BMWCCA Foundation Ambassador. This means that it is my job is to promote the activities of the BMWCCA Foundation, and let people know that it not only exists but what it does and what it is.

The BMWCCA Foundation was founded in April 2002 and the foundation’s Ultimate Driving Museum opened in 2017. Since its opening the museum holds a curated exhibit of vehicles each year. These exhibitions have included: Heroes of Bavaria: 75 Years of BMW Motorsport, The Icon: 50 Years of the 2002PASSION which celebrated the people and the cars that have kept the enthusiast scene alive, Genesis: BMW from the Beginning, The Power of M, and the latest exhibit titled BMW Motorcycles: a Century of Innovation. The links for these show will take you to the books the Foundation creates for each exhibit, and they feature amazing photography and the masterful writing of BMW expert and former editor of Bimmer magazine, Jackie Jouret. They offer a great way to see what you missed when the exhibits were up and to learn more about the history of the cars.

I attended the opening of the BMW Motorcycles exhibit and if you have any interest in motorcycles or BMW as a company, this is simply not to be missed. I will confess that I collect BMW motorcycles and have loved these bikes since I was 13 years old. They somehow get under your skin, and I was excited to be able to attend the opening.

The examples of BMW motorcycles, and a few cars powered by BMW motorcycle engines, on display in the exhibition span the entire history of BMW as a manufacturer.

The BMW R32, the first BMW Motorcycle model

The bikes begin with the bike that started it all, the company’s first ever motorcycle: the R32.

The R32 was the first production motorcycle designed by Max Fritz to introduce the BMW boxer engine that is still built in a modern form today.

The R32 Engine

Another great bike of this exhibit is the 1932 R2 single. This bike is different from every other bike BMW built in that it is the only BMW motorcycle to have an exposed valvetrain assembly.

My personal favorite is strangely the R65LS. When I was 13 years old the LS was my all-time favorite motorcycle, and I now own one personally and loved seeing it on display at the museum.

One of my favorite BMW bikes the Hans Muth designed R65LS

The star of the show for many is the Daytona-winning Butler and Smith R90S that was ridden at Daytona by legendary motorcycle racer Reg Pridmore. This was the bike that saved BMW in the early 1970s and the bike that changed the brand from being one focused on well-built, reliable, but still a bit sedated motorcycles to building a sporting motorcycle. The R90S is considered to be the first superbike built by any manufacturer. This specific R90S is also important as this exhibit is the first time it has been displayed in public since 1977.

The Butler&Smith R90S race bike

The exhibit of 56 different BMW motorcycles goes all the way through the history of BMW motorcycles and even includes their newest S1000 sport models and the R18 cruiser. If you want to see the progression of BMW as a builder of motorcycles and how the company has progressed, simply spend a few hours, or a day if you read all the placards which I would advise doing, and learn about the many two wheel masterpieces the company has produced. 

The BMW Motorcycles: A Century of Innovation exhibit is on display now through January 20, 2024. Hours of operation are 9AM-5PM Monday through Friday, and Saturday from 10AM-4PM. Admission is $12 for adults, children 6-17 are $6, and children 5 and under are free. Contact information for the BMWCCA Foundation and the Ultimate Driving Museum including directions are available here.

There has never been such a complete chronology of BMW bikes on display in the U.S. and if you love motorcycles you don’t want to miss this. 

BMW Motorcycles, A Century of Innovation is presented by Continental Tires, generously supported by BMW Motorrad, BMW Motorcycles of America, BMW US Riders Academy, Coco Mats, Hagerty and Bobā€™s BMW.


Andy Reid
Andy Reid
Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 carsā€”none of them normal or reasonableā€”as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.


    • True! The correct history of this bike is presented in the book and exhibit, crediting McLaughlin with the win at Daytona and Pridmore with the championship.


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