Club Happenings – Spring 2019: Cars and Coffee with Erik Wensberg
by NJ BMW CCA
By David Hauter
NJ Chapter members came out on a blustery but nice Saturday in late April for a Cars & Coffee get-together, which was a great way to spend a weekend morning. The gathering in Somerset brought out a great selection of BMWs past and present, including a pair of beautiful E36 M3 Lightweights, the new M2 Competition, a classic 6 Series and an i8. It was a great time of car talk and camaraderie and the highlight of the day was the presence of Erik Wensberg, who capped off the morning with a very entertaining talk.
Erik was the M Brand Manager at BMW of North America from 1985-1998. He directed the transition of the E30 M3 to the E36 3 Series, oversaw the development of the dominant racing programs with the E36 M3 and Team PTG in the late 1990’s, and was largely responsible for BMW of North America’s “Classic” collection that now includes a wide range of cars including everything from the CSL racer of the 1970s to the E36, E46 and E92 M3s and the McLaren F1 GTR that raced at Le Mans in 1996 among many others. Erik is still heavily involved in cars and motorsport. He’s an advisor to the BMW CCA Foundation Trustees and is also a member of the Board of Governors at Lime Rock Park.
Erik told some great stories of his adventures while working at BMW NA, including his first experience with the classic race cars. “When I was at the company for a month, I got a phone call from a guy in Connecticut and he said they had a lot of stuff in storage for us and didn’t know what we wanted to do with it and I should come take a look,” he says. “So I go to Brookfield, Connecticut and was taken to a dingy storage barn and I peered inside and see a 320i Turbo sitting on the ground with no wheels on it, a March GTP car on the side and all these boxes everywhere. I realized there were half a dozen cars in there that we used to race in North America and they’re covered with an inch of dust. They said they were told that all of it was going to be given to a boy’s technical school to learn how to cut and drill. I said the hell they are and told them to lock the door and no one goes in until I tell them what to do. The company’s competitive DNA was rotting in a warehouse in Connecticut and we had to do something about it.” With Erik’s persistence, most of those cars were restored, are still owned by BMW NA today and are worth millions. More importantly, they provide a direct link to BMW NA’s motorsport heritage like nothing else could.
If you ever get a chance to see Erik Wensberg, it’s definitely something you don’t want to miss. The Cars & Coffee event was great fun and also a great success, as auction items