BMW buffs restore legendary vehicle – Plattsburgh Press Republican
MORRISONVILLE — Bob Gerry and his son, Justin, restored a vintage BMW that now sits in a museum.
The 1974 BMW 2002tii sport sedan had for many years belonged to Yale Rachlin, longtime editor of Roundel, the magazine of the BMW Car Club of America.
When Justin located the car, said Bob, who lives in Morrisonville and has been a BMW devotee for many decades, “it was in some dentist’s front yard, rusting away.”
That was a sad demise for a vehicle that had been as well-known as this one.
Rachlin had also been head of the BMW Club’s Boston-area chapter, Bob said.
“He would take this car and go all around the East to different tracks,” he said.
“(It) was instantly recognizable at club events and racetracks due to its distinctive BMW motorsport-colored stripes and ‘YALE R’ Massachusetts license plates.”
Rachlin, who died in 2005, had sold the car in the late 1990s and, Bob said, always regretted doing so.
In fact, BMW enthusiast Vince Strazzabosco of Chicago had, with Justin’s help, tracked it down and bought it before Rachlin’s death, and the former owner had expressed delight that he had done so, according to a story that ran in the Roundel this past March.
After a few years, though, Strazzabosco sold it to the Gerrys.
As father and son began tearing apart the vehicle, word got around, and photos of it flooded in from other enthusiasts.
“People were saying it was maybe one of the most significant BMWs in the country,” Bob said.
Events farther down the road bore that out.
A MIDSUMMER EVENING
The Gerrys stripped the car down to its shell and sent it out for rust repair and to be painted.
They put hundreds of hours into a restoration faithful to the car as it was when Rachlin had been behind the wheel.
They even ordered “YALE R” NY state vanity plates.
And somehow, it seems possible that Rachlin knew about and even appreciated the BMW buffs’ painstaking efforts.
“Talk about uncanny,” Bob said. “On a midsummer evening, I had just come in from the shop” where he and Justin had been working on the car.
The phone rang, and the caller was Rachlin’s widow, Bette.
“(She) called the minute we got it running,” Bob continued. “I ran out to the shop and gave my son the phone, and he blabbed to her for probably an hour.
“She was very emotional.”
The Gerrys know what it’s like to love a car — and the associations that come with it.
“My wife (Shirley) and I bought our first (BMW) in 1973,” Bob said. “We’ve had a bunch since then.
“They’ve just been so much fun to drive.”
For almost 10 years, Justin drove Rachlin’s BMW on racetracks in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
And he took it with him when he moved to the Atlanta area.
About 18 months ago, a representative from the 70,000-member BMW Car Club Foundation approached Justin about that car, encouraging him to donate it to the museum the organization maintains in Spartanburg, S.C., near the BMW manufacturing plant.
“We aren’t quite that philanthropic,” Bob noted.
He didn’t put a figure on how much it had cost to restore the car, but it was significant.
“You don’t even want to know,” he said.
But then Scott Hughes, a benefactor of the museum, bought the BMW and donated it for permanent display.
And early this year, a contingent of at least 50 vintage BMWs escorted the 2002tii, with Justin behind the wheel, to the museum.
For this journey, it sported “YALE R” plates issued by the state of Georgia.
NOTHING LIKE IT
So Rachlin’s BMW holds a place of honor at the museum in Spartanburg, and the Gerrys feel honored at their role in getting it there.
It might be the most high-profile car they have ever worked on together, but it won’t be their last.
When Justin was 13, his parents bought him a 1976 BMW; it carries its own memories for the family, like the time Bob drove it to pick up his son at football practice.
“And the engine blew,” Bob said, chuckling.
It’s time to rehab that car now.
“In late summer, (Justin) will come home and get it running,” Bob said, praising his son’s mechanical skills. “It’s in my shop right now. I’ve been trying to get some new seats into it.”
Overall, he and Justin, who’s 40 now, have stripped down eight or nine BMWs together.
“To have been able to do this with my son all these years,” Bob said, “I don’t think there’s anything like this in the world.
“You sit back and think of it, and a tear gets in your eye.”
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