Being a member of the IND team offers many amazing opportunities- we’re able to work with some of the best people in the aftermarket and racing industry. We are also blessed to have some of the most fascinating, friendly clients in any industry anywhere. And finally, every once in a while we get unparalleled access to racing and car culture, only afforded to us by our positions at IND. We are truly fortunate people. One of our favorite perks of the job is our semi-annual trip to Germany.
Although travelling to Germany is not an excellent business investment in standard terms, for a company built around love for BMW M, there is no other way. It is possible to have a concept of the things that inspire IND from the comfort of the US, but to maintain our sense of purpose, to renew our drive; we must go and feel the country that made BMW M for ourselves. And so, as we have done so many times before, we made our plans for a pilgrimage to Germany. Our stops this year were a veritable who’s who of racing legends- KK Automotive; The Nurburgring, Eisenmann, BBS Motorsport.
Each stop allows us to plan for the future, while strengthening our resolve. Our mission as a business is not the easiest, and it is not the shortest path to financial gain. Our visits remind us of who we are, and why IND must do things in the best way, not the easiest or the most quick. Please follow us on our tour of the home country of BMW M.
As always, our trip starts in historic Heidelberg and the Heidelberg Suites hotel. This hotel has been IND’s home away from home for five years now, and its location and incredible view are unique. Set directly on the Neckar River, this hotel has an incredible view of the Old Bridge and Heidelberg Castle, along with Heidelberg’s old downtown district. This incredible town is an excellent home base for anyone interested in visiting the Nurburgring, and the Porsche manufacturing plant in Stuttgart. Even the BMW Welt in Munich is a three hour drive, making Heidelberg an easy 2-3 hours away from incredible automotive culture and history.
One trend we noticed immediately was an increase in hybrid cars like this amazing Porsche Panamera Hybrid. German car manufacturers are focusing on making energy-efficient automobiles that are not only efficient, but also stylish and fun to drive. We hope to see this trend make its way to the US in the next few years.
Of course a trip to Germany is not complete without food and beer, and the IND team quickly checked these necessities off the list, immediately after settling into our hotel. The Palmbrau Gasse restaurant in historic Heidelberg has become a staple of IND’s trips to Germany, offering excellent service, delicious food, and most importantly excellent beer.
Our first stop on this year’s trip was the incredible workshop of Motorsport 24. M24 has maintained a long standing commitment to BMW racing, and have been a staple racing manufacturer in Germany for over 12 years.
The M24 facility is nestled in the small German town of Kalefeld, and the spotless ultra-modern race shop found within is in stark contrast to the rolling hills and relaxed atmosphere of Kalefeld. M24’s facility is a haven for all things racing, with meticulous organization and every necessary tool on hand including a MAHA chassis dyno, complete machine shop, a clean engine assembly room, welding and fabrication area, and every other item that could possibly be needed to build a winning race car. Not to mention the incredible selection of actual sprint and endurance racing machinery found within this amazing house of speed.
Even the office in M24 is infused with a love for racing. Photos, miniatures, and trophies from countless race victories decorated the office as well as the shop and were a testament to the dedication and professionalism of the M24 team.
Life for many M24 race cars begins and ends in their engine building room, a clean room specially prepared for the purpose of building racing engines like the mighty 3.8 liter S54 seen above. Extreme precision is required when asking an engine to generate every ounce of available horsepower, and this holds especially true for the engine builders at M24 who are known for creating some of the most powerful racing engines in Germany. No detail can be missed, no step taken improperly, to create a reliable racing engine at the power levels demanded by M24.
These engines then find their way into any number of M24 prepared cars, from WTCC-bodied cars destined to dominate their class, to E30 M3 restomod projects, to nearly unlimited E92 M3 race cars, to stroker motor E92 M3 GTS street cars designed for mixed street and track use. Some of the modifications in the photos above are incredible- airboxes with enhanced volume, Helmholtz resonance chambers, S65 mechanical throttle pull conversion, and of course all manner of strut tower reinforcement.
Two of the incredible machines whose engines are shown above can be seen here. The first is a truly unlimited E92 M3 race car with extreme body work, wide fenders to allow for a widened front track and wheel width, and huge downforce from its M24 rear wing (seen on IND’s Green Hell Portfolio car). The second is a genuine E46 WTCC chassis, maintained and modified by M24.
Walking further into the shop we saw two M3 GT4 race cars parked directly next to each other- an incredible sight! These cars are very rare in Germany, and it was truly impressive to see one facility servicing two chassis at once.
Everywhere we looked we could see M24 race parts applied in unique applications. This 135i race car was bristling with racing components- even this one photo shows a rear subframe modified for roll center, solid bushings, adjustable suspension arms, custom exhaust, transmission cooler, differential cooler, and a custom fuel system. Quite a few performance parts for only a few square meters of car real estate!
On our way out of the building we saw an array of support vehicles, ready to take customer’s cars to racing events all over Germany. The building’s color scheme matches the colors of the company logo and gives an excellent impression!
We thanked the M24 team for showing us their amazing facility, grateful to witness the sorts of amazing achievements possible with hard work and a dedication to BMW racing. As always IND is thrilled to be an M24 parts distributor, and a visit to their facility simply validated our pride in working with these amazing people.
No trip to Germany is complete without a journey to the global epicenter for racing, the infamous Nurburgring. Known as the “Green Hell”, the Nurburgring is the emotional center of racing in Germany and is visited by millions of people each year. The term “race track” is simply not sufficient to describe the emotional experience that is the Nurburgring. Although photos will not truly suffice either, I hope that the images we shot during our trip will inspire others to make the same voyage, and to experience the Nurburgring for themselves.
Any visit to the Nurburgring should start with a good breakfast, and Heidelberg Suites was kind enough to accommodate. As with all of the food we encountered in Germany, the breakfast at our hotel was phenomenal.
The M Flight club also presented us with this fantastic hand-carved plaque, commemorating our visit and meeting with M Flight in Germany. It’s an honor to be welcomed with such a gift, and we are deeply thankful to all of the M fans in the M Flight club!
This would have been our 5th trip to the Nurburgring, and while each journey to the track is unique and exciting in its own way, this trip was highlighted by our meeting with the M Flight club of Germany. The M Flight club is one of the most well organized, dedicated, and enthusiastic group of M fans IND has had the pleasure of encountering, and a meeting with this team of car fanatics made this trip to the ‘Ring that much more special. After a dinner and chat with the club, we all ventured out to the track, and as IND filmed and photographed the action some of the M Flight members attacked the Nurburgring.
No photos can illustrate the sheer scale of this course, or the incredible elevation changes experienced when navigating the Green Hell. The Nurburgring will test any car and driver to its breaking point, and watching the folks at M Flight drive the course in anger was a privilege in itself.
Of course, a visit to the Nurburgring is not complete without a visit to the BMW M test center. This is a very special stop for me personally, as it’s a chance to view my personal all-time favorite BMW race car- This E36 320d Diesel touring car, piloted by Hans Stuck to a the first 24 hour endurance racing victory by a diesel vehicle back in 1998.
Our next stop would take place the following day, when we would visit another home away from home in Germany- Eisenmann GmbH.
IND has been the North American distributor for Eisenmann GmbH for 6 years now, and we have always felt incredibly lucky to have this relationship. Working with Eisenmann has strengthened IND as a company in more ways than we can count, and each year we return to Eisenmann to thank them for their excellent work and plan for the year ahead.
This year one topic was on everyone’s minds, the new BMW M4. This car is a revolutionary approach to the M3 heritage, and Eisenmann must respond in kind. Eisenmann prepared for our visit and welcomed us with open arms. We all knew that we would have to create something truly unique to do justice to the incredible sports car that the new M4 will be.
After our meeting we took a staple IND tour of Eisenmann’s facility. Although we’ve covered this amazing place several times in the past, some of the details that make Eisenmann special are always worth a look.
Our tour starts with Eisenmann’s engineering department. Eisenmann’s engineers are what separate this company from the fly by night manufacturers. Eisenmann engineers design exhaust systems for Porsche, AMG, AC Schnitzer, Hamann, and many other original equipment applications. This design expertise allows Eisenmann engineers to design exhaust components of the highest quality, best fit, and of course best sound. Each time I walk through the engineering department I have a chance to see years of expertise in action, and am grateful for the opportunity.
Sometimes, all the engineering money can buy is not a match for old world craftsmanship, and Eisenmann prides itself in having the best craftsmen in Germany. When a brand new exhaust tip idea needs to be tested, sometimes the best way to prototype the shape is on a traditional anvil, the way craftsmen did hundreds of years ago. Similarly, Eisenmann’s hand welding is world renowned, and each system is still assigned to a single technician for welding who will build that exhaust system from start to finish, just as Eisenmann has done for the entirety of its near 30 year history.
The M3 system shown above is in its final stages of hand fabrication, and has proven to be one of Eisenmann’s best selling systems to date. It’s incredible sound and good power increase have made M3 owners around the world fans of this exhaust!
Eisenmann’s original manufacturing business includes exhaust tips for industry greats like Porsche and AMG. Eisenmann’s craftsmen are uniquely able to create the complex and beautiful tip designs needed to fit with modern automotive design.
Eisenmann’s “Classic Line” exhaust systems have been a long term project that is now truly coming into its own. The Classic Line systems allow for fans of classic European cars to complete their cherished restorations with exhaust systems that are meticulously designed to replicate the original exhaust system exactly. Eisenmann engineers carefully reverse engineer original exhaust systems all the way down to the material of manufacture, to perfectly simulate the noise of the original car, just as the car sounded in its heyday. Performance and racing variants are offered also, of course.
In the photos above we see a Classic Line system with custom tip configurations being test fitted, and a classic line exhaust canister being hand assembled and prepared for hand welding.
Our final stop of our German tour was the incredible BBS Motorsport facility. This group of individuals has been personally responsible for creating the most famous and successful racing wheels in motorsport history, and we were truly in awe of the amazing opportunity granted to us by this organization. BBS Motorsport rarely sees visitors outside of the serious racing community, so please enjoy this rare look into a company that truly defined wheel style and manufacturing trends for over 40 years.
The BBS Motorsport staff are fortunate enough to test new wheel styles right as they are designed, like this new F30 application Motorsport wheel.
As soon as we walked into the office, our eyes immediately landed on the legendary FI road wheel. Although the BBS FI was designed for production cars, this wheel is designed and built by BBS Motorsport exclusively and has set the standard for ultimate quality road wheels. The strength and weight of the FI are unparalleled to this day, and the FI will always remain a testament to the engineering expertise housed within the Motorsport facility walls.
An overview look into BBS’ bustling facility shows an incredible array of machines and capabilities. The BBS Motorsport facility is unique in its ability to convert the complete facility extremely rapidly, allowing for all workstations to work on one wheel design production at once, or for each workstation to produce a different wheel. This allows for extreme flexibility and incredible variability in production runs, giving BBS Motorsport the ability to respond to the needs of their race customers, whether those needs are for one set of wheels or for a run of 50 sets.
Most impressively, BBS Motorsport is able to spin rim sections in house, and to perform heat treating and quenching on-site. Heat treating and quenching normalize and align the grain structure of the wheel’s material after it’s been worked, increasing the strength by orders of magnitude over an un-treated wheel. After the wheel is completed, each wheel is tested for forging irregularities with a penetrating dye to ensure that the resulting product is absolutely perfect from a metallurgical standpoint. Finally, BBS Motorsport wheels are tested in the main-line BBS testing facility at BBS headquarters, only 20 minutes away. BBS testing equipment is able to simulate loads in any direction, deflecting wheels under extreme loads with and without tires installed and providing real-world proof of fatigue resistance for any number of desired test cycles.
No US “forged” wheel manufacturer completes these critical steps after building a wheel, and it is for reasons like these that BBS has always and will always continue to stand above their competition.
Descending onto the production facility floor was an exercise in self-restraint, as literally hundreds of incredible wheels grabbed for our attention. The first wheel centers we encountered were these amazing BBS magnesium vintage racing centers, still manufactured by BBS today so support classic car racing clubs all over the world. BBS revolutionized the racing wheel business in 1972 with the invention of the three piece wheel, and subsequently set the stage for multi piece wheel manufacturing in the future. Seeing these vintage magnesium racing centers in person was like being introduced to 40 years of race wheel heritage, and was a powerful experience.
To maintain the highest possible standard of build quality, Bugatti chooses BBS Motorsport to create the wheels for its incredible Veyron supercar. Original equipment Bugatti wheels feature a very special bead-lock feature that allows for the custom made Veyron tires to clamp securely to the wheels, allowing for safe operation at speeds over 250mph. This technology was designed by BBS in conjunction with Bugatti engineers specifically for the Veyron project.
If extremely wide rim sections and center lock wheels are your thing, BBS Motorsport’s incredible selection should satisfy. This facility had more wheel sections with over 11” widths in one place than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. Of course, center lock lug designs were also extremely prevalent, allowing race pit crews to have extremely fast wheel and tire changes.
IND also got a sneak preview of BBS’ brand-new two piece wheels. This new two piece wheel design combines extreme wheel strength with a replaceable outer barrel for easy serviceability in a harsh racing environment.
Finally we were taken into the Motorsport wheel warehouse section, to see hundreds of spare wheel centers and rim sections, ready to ship to racing customers at a moment’s notice. Our BBS facility tour left us with a lasting impression, and a true respect for the intellectual strength behind the BBS brand.
As we left the Heiderlberg Suites behind for another year, each member of the IND team felt lucky to have once again made the voyage to Germany, a country that will always serve as IND’s point of focus, and the origin for our mission and drive. The people we meet here each year inspire us to work harder every day, and to continue brining our clientele the most sought after and best quality components for their BMW cars. Thank you all for joining me on our trip, and for reading this story!