European Auto Festival: Cars, food and friends


The BMW Plant in Spartanburg, S.C., hosted the 15th annual European Auto Festival on October 15 and 16. The event drew roughly 6,000 attendees from 15 states and three countries. More than 550 cars were showcased, including marques such as Ferrari, Mercedes, Volvo, Rolls Royce, Jaguar and, of course, BMW.

The festival has come a long way since its 1996 beginnings, when just 40 vehicles were featured from an MG club. Within two years, the show grew substantially and Paul Ianaurio, the curator of BMW’s Museum, BMW Zentrum, was asked to aid with the festival.

This year, representatives from 74 car clubs, and sponsors such as Michelin Tires and BMW supported Ianuario in making the show a success. The Red Cross also lends its volunteers and the majority of the funds brought in by the festival are donated to disaster relief.

“If you’re doing it for the money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons,” said Ianuario.

This year’s featured vehicle was a 1932 Helicron from the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tenn. The Lane has an esteemed collection of both European cars and motorcycles on display. The Helicron was found abandoned in 2000 and has since been restored.

True to its name, the festival welcomes all kinds of European cars. Ianuario encourages attendees to drive their vehicles and refrain from worrying about “bringing a 100-point car.”

“The show isn’t about the cars, it’s about the owners,” he said. “Don’t clean your car; just park it and talk to your buddies.”

Darren Frank, of Charlotte, N.C., attended with his 1969 ISO Grifo. He has been coming since 2005, when he won “Best of Show.” “Winning the crowd pleaser award was a big thrill,” he said, but it’s the casual nature of the show and the relationships he’s built that keep him coming back each year.

The festival closed with a banquet featuring racecar driver Boris Said as the keynote speaker. Several owners were awarded “Crowd Pleaser” honors and “Corporate Awards.” The festivities wrapped up another successful show that not only supports a good cause, but also celebrates European food, beer, cars and, best yet, good friends.

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