That Time of Year – HomeComing Memories

If you are a long time Z3 or Z4 enthusiast you know what happens about this time of year.  Your thoughts turn to convoys, plant tours and time at the Zentrum in South Carolina.  It is hard to believe that it has been 14 years since that first Z3 HomeComing.  BMW sponsored the event for a handful of years before it found it’s way to the road and started to move around the country under the name of ZFest.  This year Zfest is back in the upstate for their gathering.

BMW Zentrum

Take some time this weekend to refresh your memories at if you have that empty spot in your heart for the upstate of South Carolina and your fellow BMW enthusiasts.

Happy Labor Day!

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The Last BMW Roadster HomeComing?

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.

Z3 HomeComing Postcard

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–

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.

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Looking Back-The BMW Plant Tour of 1999

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

?Z3 on Display

Paint Shop

BMW Paint Shop

Overhead Conveyor leading to Paint Shop

Overhead Conveyor leading to Paint Shop

Body AS/RS

Body Gantry

Z4 Posed inside the Plant

Z4 posed inside the plant

Check out Z3 year for more photos inside the party and plant. Read the complete plant tour story and visit the BMW Manufacturing website to satisfy your cravings.

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