New England is fertile ground for sporting cars, with its wide open highways and criss-crossing back roads. The forests, mountains, and streams yield an idyllic landscape, while friendly people and towns with one stoplight hark back to a time when you didn't have to live in an overcrowded concrete-and-glass jungle to pursue a lucrative career.
Towns like Sunapee, Newbury, Hopkinton and Epping dot the southern part of New Hampshire-places where most people don't "set the world on fire" but enjoy an increasingly rare distinction: They're actually happy. And so are their European cars. This is a place where you can actually use that hot-rod project car you've built at twice the original cost and not have to worry about getting carjacked.
Bavarian Autosport is one business, however, that did "set the world on fire." Founded in 1983, selling parts mainly for the BMW 2002 and mainly to members of the BMW Car Club of America (BMW CCA) out of a small shop in Newmarket, N.H., Bavarian Autosport quickly became a major parts house in the Northeastern United States. (I could always remember its phone number- 800/535-2002-since it's two of my favorite Bimmers.) It also serves many tariff-suffering Canadian BMW enthusiasts.
Today, Bavarian Autosport operates out of a new facility in the renaissance city of Portsmouth, N.H. More than two-million catalogs and newsletters were sent out in 2004; an average of 500 to 600 packages are shipped each business day; the Web site receives more than 100,000 visitors per month; and there are about 15,000 active part numbers in its database and more than 350,000 actual parts in its warehouse.
This volume allows it to host what is perhaps the largest 1-day BMW event in the United States, the annual Bavarian Autosport Show & Shine. The first Show & Shine was 1992 or 1993 (there is a slight disagreement among historians) at the Newmarket facility. There were about 20 cars and maybe 50 people. The 2004 event was slightly larger. "We distributed 360 event packets to vehicles officially participating in the Show and Shine event," co-owner Dave Wasson said. "As far as the total attendance, well, we gave out 1,500 hamburgers, 1,500 hot dogs, and 250 bratwursts, so, figure, what? 2,500 people?" From the looks of things, that number sounds about right.
While there are lots of door prizes, the key awards are voted upon by the spectators themselves. Best Interior (a set of Bilstein shock absorbers and an Eibach spring set), was won by Stan Chamallas of Greenland, New Hampshire, for his 1974 3.0CS with red leather. Best Exterior (a P21S car care kit, $400 AC Schnitzer gift certificate and Bavarian Autosport Ultimate car cover), was won by Theo Verios of East Islip, N.Y., for his 1999 M3. Best of Show (a Bavarian Autosport Tri-Flo exhaust system and Bavarian Autosport performance software upgrade) was won by Jerry Katechis of Astoria, N.Y., for his stunning 1999 528i.
Richard Roche won the Farthest Traveled award for the fourth year in a row by driving his 2001 325i to the event all the way from Tombstone, Ariz.-anything for a road trip.
While other corporations force upon employees endless commutes to overpopulated cities, Bavarian Autosport co-owners Peter Robart, Mark Ruddy, and Wasson, felt that New Hampshire is the better place to work and operate a business. Sixty-five employees agree. Bavarian Autosport has had the same owners for 30 years. That's the way it's done in New England.
Bavarian Autosport 2004 Show & Shine Manufacturer AttendeesBosch, Billy Boat Performance Exhaust, Mann Filter, K&N, Remus Sportexhaust, PIAA, Bilstein, P21S, Lubro Moly, Nokian Tyres , The Absorber, Covercraft, Thule, Tire Totes