It is hard to believe that it has been 13 years since the first Z3 homecoming back in 1997.
The Z4 is now built in Germany and the Spartanburg plant turns out SAVs for the masses. The standard Roadster owner that attended just one HomeComing or all of them has always held a special place for the Labor Day weekend in their heart. Yes, it is typically the end of summer but it has also been the time when Z3/Z4 owners collected in droves at the BMW plant and basked in the sun (or often rain).
Last year, ZFest was created to fill the void left by HomeComing and held their first event in Ohio. This Labor Day holiday they will mass in California for the second year of this roving event. We would have loved to try a West Coast version of the event but we have some previous commitments.
Some habits are tough to kick–check out the ZFest site and plan a road trip this weekend. Can’t make the trip then browse some of the hundreds of photos from the early HomeComing years at Z3HomeComing.com.
It is hard to believe that BMW will cease production of the Z series car at the Spartanburg plant this year. The Z4 which was introduced back in 2002 will continue to live on but will now be produced in a German facility. With that transition, the Z-car HomeComing event will spiritually end.
Back in 1997 at the very first HomeComing it was a magical opportunity to take the car we loved back to it’s birth place. The place where metal, paint and spirit joined to form a car that could take us to the mountains and the beach and was the envy of others.
That first event found its beginning when the Lester’s contacted BMW and planted a seed. The idea grew and a date was picked. Word spread across the Internet via emails and postings and plans began for the trip. BMW assumed that only people from the surrounding states would come. They used local dealers to get Z3 sales lists and sent out postcards. That really didn’t matter–The Internet did the inviting.
People came that from as far as California that 1st year. Over a 150 cars gathered on the grass of the plant that day. The event was history and continues to this day.
Some of those who attended the event found that postcard in their mail when they returned home from the weekend. Snail mail didn’t stop the party in that first year.
So this Labor Day (Roadster Homecoming) shed a little tear. BMW will have closed the Z4 line down and will produce only the X model cars here in the US. The X models have yet to be invited to the plant despite some early attempts to build interest from enthusiasts–X5HomeComing.org
The Z4 will finally be produced where every BMW enthusiast thought it should have been built in the first place. The new 2009 Z4s can visit the plant but they can never come Home–at least in the US.
One of the best things about living in Spartanburg was being close to the BMW plant. Every year the Z3 HomeComing event came to town with another opportunity to tour the plant. I first toured the plant back in the fall of 1996 with an IIE group. We spent about an hour doing the normal plant tour. As a follow-up I drafted an article to share the tour experience with others.
In the years after that first tour, I became familiar with the typical sights and sounds of the production floor. The plant added the X5 and the coupe–another production line, more warehouse space, etc. I added to the article each year leading up to 1999. That year I hit the jackpot–a second shift tour of almost five hours in length. The night tour included the paint shop, offices and more. We were told that very few people ever donned the white overalls and booties to watch how the painting process occurs from inside the climate controlled environment.
BMW always had a strict “No Photography” policy within the the production facility. Rumors always floated around about people who had stowed a camera inside their pocket for the tour. With each HomeComing event the production floor access grew greater and greater until we partied on the production floor with cameras. Below are some photos from within those hallowed walls in Spartanburg.
Z3 on Display in the Plant
Overhead Conveyor leading to Paint Shop
Z4 Posed inside the Plant