Cars.co.za celebrates BMW’s 50th anniversary with book

This year is a year of celebration for BMW Group South Africa, which is marking its 50th year of producing vehicles in this country.

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From humble beginnings in the early Seventies as Praetor Assemblers, which built unique-to-South-Africa Glas-derived models, to a brand that is deeply embedded in South African motoring culture today, the BMW story has been a fascinating one.

“We are deeply honoured to tell the BMW story,” says Hannes Oosthuizen, Head of Special Projects at Cars.co.za. “The South African motoring heritage is incredibly important to Cars.co.za. We see it as our duty to preserve this history and to make our nation’s motoring achievements known to the world. That is why there are two examples of the (E30) 325iS in our SentiMETAL heritage fleet and why we are developing the first 333i 1/18-scale model in the world.

“Producing the BMW 50th Anniversary series was a challenge, particularly because we didn’t only want to get all the most important BMW models together in one place (probably for the first time ever), but also the people behind the brand,” Hannes explains. “So we set up interviews as far afield as Germany, where we had a particularly informative session with Dr Walter Hasselkus (who was the CEO of BMW SA from 1984 to 1989).”

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Other important personalities in the BMW South Africa story who feature in the series include Klaus Wambach, Geoff Goddard, Leo Haese, Paul Weavers and, of course, the current CEO (and the first South African to lead BMW Group South Africa), Peter van Binsbergen.

“Given BMW’s extraordinary South African history, we’ve been discussing ways of telling this unique story and preserving our heritage,” Peter says. “The occasion of the 50th anniversary celebrations for BMW Group South Africa, which included the announcement in June of a R4.2-billion investment in our Rosslyn plant, provided the perfect opportunity for us to look back on our journey over five decades, as we position the business for the next 50 years.”

The series is presented by well-known motoring personality Jacob Moshokoa and most of the filming was done at the Gerotek testing facility in Gauteng. A staggering number of rare BMWs were brought together for the series, including the unique-to-South-Africa 2000 SA, 2004, (E12) 530 MLE, (E30) 333i, (E30) 325iS, (E23) 745i and even a (E34) 540i manual.

Other locally produced, high-profile cars include the (E28) M5, (E31) 850i and the (E36) M3 – South Africa is famously the only country outside of Germany to have assembled those models.

“The story of how Klaus Wambach essentially built the first 745i (which uses the iconic BMW M1 supercar’s engine) on the floor in Rosslyn is indeed a highlight,” says Hannes. “The brand’s memorable – and edgy – advertising campaigns and, in particular, the manner in which the E30 3 Series catapulted the brand into the consciousness of South Africa will also be of interest.”

The 6-part video series is now live on the Cars.co.za YouTube channel – South Africa’s largest motoring channel – and takes viewers on a journey from the early days (BMW 2000 SA and 2004), BMW’s unique-to-SA “homologation special” models, the importance of local motorsport (through which the likes of Tony Viana and Geoff Goddard championed the brand), to its clever marketing strategies and South Africa’s love affair with the marque’s E30 3 Series and M cars. (https://bit.ly/BMW50YearsSA).

The launch of this video series coincides with the introduction of an officially sanctioned book featuring some never-before-seen images and exclusive interviews as well as production data. Published by Vantage Fine Automotive Art, two versions of the 260-page book will be available – 2 000 standard books printed on the finest Magno Plus Silk, 170gsm paper and 333 limited-edition leather-bound books. (The book can be pre-ordered here: www.vantagefineautoart.co.za.)

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