Ultra-rare BMW to headline new car show

(Photos by Jeremy Burke)

NEWPORT — A classic roadster valued at nearly $1 million will be the featured vehicle at a new car show this summer: the Clearwater Classic Car Show.

Hans and Janell Goplen, owners of the Clearwater Restaurant on the bayfront, are organizing the new event.

When Hans’ brother, Erik, the global creative director automotive at BMW Group, learned that Rand Wintermute owned a 1939 BMW 328 Roadster, “he went crazy,” Wintermute recalled. “He said, ‘Rand, you’ve got to bring this car down, I want to feature it in the car show.’”

Wintermute, a retired Coast Guard commander from Seal Rock, obliged.

The fervor over this particular motor vehicle was a understandable reaction: there are approximately 41 of that year and model left in the world today, and only three are in the U.S. Not to mention, the last one at auction was sold for $950,000. The 1939 BMW 328 Roadster was first in class in the 1939 24 Heurs du Mans; it came in first in the 1940 Mille Miglia as well as its modern equivalent in 2004 and the car was among 25 finalists for the Car of the Century — an international award which was given in 1999 to the most influential car of the 20th century. Even today, Wintermute reports that he’s gotten his roadster, which is a four-speed with a supercharger, up to 127 miles per hour.

Wintermute has had a love for cars all his life, but his passion was really sparked when he began learning to drive in European rallies while stationed overseas at Coast Guard Activities Europe. In 1988, while stationed in London, Wintermute was able to find what is now his 328 roadster — he didn’t hesitate.

Now, home in Seal Rock, Wintermute is a collector but still has a soft spot for the roadster among his more modern cars.

“I’m also a Porsche (collector) ... but I prefer this car because it’s so historical,” said Wintermute. “You know, this car was involved when Adolf Hitler was Reich chancellor in Germany, this car was very prevalent.”

While he doesn’t like to talk about the car’s popularity with Luftwaffe officers and pilots during the third Reich, he acknowledges that it is part of the history of the car and the company — BMW built the plane engines for most of Germany’s fighter planes during World War II.

While the car’s history is unsavory for most, the genius of German engineering is still deeply valued in the classic car community. Wintermute primarily drives it in rallies — both in the Pacific Northwest and in France, where he summers with his wife, Deborah — but he has taken it to a few car shows, including the highly prestigious Pebble Beach Concour d’Elegance.

Moving in that high society, Wintermute and his roadster caught the eye of a car collector who is well-known across America.

“Jay Leno was trying to buy this car. He offered me over $750,000 for it and I turned him down,” he chuckled. “I said, ‘Jay, get up to $900,000 (or) $850,000 — we’ll talk.’”

For now, Wintermute enjoys taking his car out on sunny days and driving carefully around Newport, as well as his regular rally rides. This summer, he’ll be coming back from France for the new car show.

Everyone who attends the Clearwater Classic on July 7 will have a chance to examine the engineering that went into the vehicle, as well as Wintermute’s contributions to its design — namely, the conversion of the 1,971 cubic centimeter engine to propane power.

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A correction — sort of

 

At the Newport News-Times we always like to correct our errors and inaccuracies. It’s part of how we make sure we get the first draft of history right.

So it wasn’t any surprise when Jay Leno called the office Wednesday morning. After all, we mentioned him in today’s story about Rand Wintermute’s rare and valuable 1939 BMW roadster.

Jay cordially pointed out that somehow the facts got fudged a bit — he never offered to buy the car, valued somewhere between $800,000 and $1 million.

“I don’t go around like the Monopoly man offering to buy people’s cars,” Leno said. “I might have said, nice car.”

Fair enough. Back to Wintermute for clarification. He apparently runs into Leno at different car shows, especially the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

We gave him Leno’s number and he gave him a call, one car enthusiast to another.

“He said the article is incorrect. I’m gonna drop the price down to $750,000,” Wintermute reported back. “He said, ‘Rand I may come out. Where the heck is Newport, Oregon?’”

Meantime, our industrious reporter dug out a tape verifying the quote she reported.

It all may be a moot point however.

“It’s not for sale. Not even to Jay Leno,” Wintermute said.

I guess we’ll have to leave it right there.

— The Editor

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