Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The BMW Museum

When I think of Munich, I think mostly of Octoberfest, dudes cruising around in old-fashioned leather pants, and now, curiously enough, surfing. But something else also comes to mind: BMW. After all, they're based in Munich and, indirectly by owning a MINI at one point, I'm a fan. So, heading over to the headquarters and museum were a must do while we were in town.

A view of the headquarters tower, the BMW museum (small, round, space-ship-shaped building just in front of the tower), BMW Welt (the large building in the foreground covered with solar panels), and one of BMW's factories (off to the left of the tower) as seen from the Olympic Park Tower:

Up front, let's just say that, other than having a MINI, which is owned by BMW (along with Rolls Royce), I've never really wanted a BMW for some reason. Nothing bad, just not on the list. Saying that though, I do have respect for the brand and its heritage. I'm especially wowed by their history of motorcycles, which they had tons of on display:

Probably my most memorable impression of BMW motorcycles is the Long Way Around and Long Way Down series with Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman. If you've never seen them and you're at all into travel-adventure stories, you must check them out!

After going to the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart a few months ago and having a great time, I was looking forward to seeing another company's museum. BMW's version is definitely a striking building on the inside and beautifully done. Unfortunately, it isn't laid out as quite as well and seemed, well, somewhat random and confusing. One moment you're looking at some really cool old motorcycles and the next you're seeing super-modern Formula1 cars. It was a bit disorienting and hard to follow the history of the company and the brand evolution.

We did have some luck that we caught up with a guy giving a tour in English so we followed along for a few minutes to hear what he was saying. Our "tour" lasted for only about three or four minutes until he told us to stop following him and that the tour was private. Oops! Sorrrrrrrrrrrry!

Some parts of the museum, like I said, were visually striking, such as this ramp that went up towards the museum exit. From it, you could look at a bunch of photos and some cool race cars.

But some of the other areas were down-right WEAK!!! Most car manufacturers today have a "base" series of cars as well as a high-performance and/or upmarket series. Think Toyota/Lexus, Nissan/Infiniti, or even Mercedes/AMG. BMW's high-performance series is called "M" and they're basically near-race cars built for the street. In other words, they're fast. And cool. And pricey. And this is how they display them. Sort of like a used-car show room. How sad for the peeps that build them!

It wasn't all doom and gloom over at the Bavarian Motor Works Museum though. Around 60 years ago, BMW wasn't doing so well in the post-war German economy. To keep their workers employed and the lines running, they developed a small car, which was more motorcycle like, that they could sell inexpensively. This work of art, the BMW Isetta, just happens to be one of my all-time-favorites. I know, it's crazy small and funny looking, but it's a cute small and a cute funny looking!

John John and Diana checking out a classic:

Probably my favorite feature of the car is that the front of it opens rather than the side. Just like an old VW Bus, there's no crumple zone up front, which makes it kinda' scary in the case of an accident. It is awesome though. Something that I learned about Isettas that day were that they were known as pot-hole finders since all four wheels follow different tracks on the street. From what I understand, the design makes it almost impossible to dodge holes in the road. Ohhhhh...just something else to love about the car.

We wandered around the museum for about two hours before heading across the street to check out BMW Welt ("World" in English). I think that it's a more interactive-style of museum where you can get up and close with BMW stuff. We really didn't give it any time, though, other than just long enough to check out the building itself, which is very impressive. It's on my list for another visit to Munich.

On our way out of the complex, there were some motorcycles set up for taking photos. I believe that Diana is a closet Harley (Davidson) rider and, had she grown up in the United States, that she'd be sporting the orange and black and some eagle tattoo or something. Her face in this one is priceless:

So, overall, not as good as Porsche's museum but still worth a visit. There are lots of interesting motorcycles and cars to check out, especially the Isetta, which gets its own room! I have been thinking that it might be good to go to work for BMW so that I could get another MINI, but this time on the employee-pricing plan!

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