Zundfolge / BMW History

The Tale of Two Local Race Cars

By David Lightfoot | January 28th, 2024
And Old Chapter Icon Lives OnAnd Old Chapter Icon Lives On

If you follow Bring a Trailer, you might have noticed a couple of nice BMW 1600 race cars that are for sale, with the auctions closing this on Monday, January 29th. What wasn’t well known, including by the current owner, was that both these cars have a history in the Seattle area. And one of the cars is the famous “Green Car.” Famous at least to chapter members in the late 1970s to late 1980s.

First a little background, the Puget Sound chapter was originally an independent club in the Puget Sound region. Soon after starting in June 1970, the chapter became a member of the BMW ACA. This remained so until the chapter joined BMW CCA in late 2000.

Back in the early days of the chapter there was an active track program and autocrosses were popular in the area, with many autocrosses held at the Boeing Space Center in Kent. This is the backdrop for this story.

About a week ago, these two cars came up for sale on Bring a Trailer. Thanks to Bill Spornitz for bringing this to our attention. Both cars had been raced by Brecht BMW out of San Diego, from about 1990 to the early 2020s. Some old-time chapter members noticed the cars, especially number 25, looked familiar. Car number 25 was known as “The Green Car” back in the early days of the chapter.

Here is the story. The names may not be familiar to you, but they were all active Puget Sound chapter members. Many are still in the chapter.

From Denny Organ: “I bought and sold quite a few cars in the late ‘70s to mid-‘80s. Not sure of the original motivation to buy the Green Car but I found an ad in the Seattle Times for a car with a blown engine in Everett. The young man who owned it just wanted it gone from the front of their house. I believe his family were the original owners.”

Bill Petersen fills in the details: “When you first acquired that car, we towed it with a rope (!). During the towing we went through a four-way stop, and cross traffic failed to notice the towing arrangement. I don't recall which of us was driving lead/towed, but fortunately the lead driver noticed the potential and stopped, and the towed car allowed the rope to go slack as the cross traffic drove between the vehicles!”

“Denny had me rebuild a 2-liter engine, though I'm not certain of its origins. I recall bearings, rings, valves, and adding the B&G 'custom' camshaft grind. I think it had a downdraft carb at that time. Pretty sure I did the rebuild at my parents’ house in North Seattle.”

Back to Denny: “I used it to commute to work for a while, and one rainy day I was rear-ended in North Seattle and then pushed into the car in front of me. That crunch on both ends kind of took the wind out of my sails. I sold the car to Bill “as is” and didn’t think much of it afterwards. Maybe it was nine months or a year later he invited me to take a ride/drive with him in it. During his ownership Bill installed some massive sway bars, brutally stiff shorter springs, installed a single side-draft Weber, and put on some kind of I believe Dunlop tires that glued the car to road in amazing fashion. But the real personality change for the car, Bill’s secret mystery mod, was a welded (locked) 4:22 differential. That resulted in clunking, banging, smile inducing fun every time we leaned into the throttle in any corner.”

Bill Petersen picks up the story: “When I acquired the car, I replaced the pink and yellow springs with Koni shocks that lots of folks were using, with the Miller-Norburn springs and Bilstein shocks indeed, very firm 22mm sway bars, negative camber plates, and the 4.22 diff from a 4-door 1600 that I purchased for parts. Someone had made a custom intake manifold to accept a dual side-draft carb, and I installed a 40DCOE Weber. This kept the car in improved sedan for autocrossing since the 2-barrel downdraft was original in later '02s. The car was great up to around 90 or so! That diff was a hoot, very noisy in slick parking garages and clunky in low-speed turns. Those Dunlops were hand-cut dog leg tread that Terry Flanagan got to test on the Precision Tire and Wheel 2002 on track. After the test, I was able to borrow them for a few months until it was time to send them back to Dunlop. Amazingly resilient and predictable in rain and dry it was a real treat!”

02 with Chapter History on Bring a Trailer02 with Chapter History on Bring a TrailerThe Return of the Green Car

https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1967-bmw-1600-2-6/

Then it was Bill Petersen’s turn to sell the car. He sold it back to Denny Organ in 1979/1980. Denny picks up the story: “I was instantly interested in the car again. Not sure how many years Chuck (Christensen) and I ran the car in WWSCC (Western Washington Sports Car Club) and BMW Club autocrosses, plus lots of track days. About 1986, I got involved in Showroom Stock cars and the Green Car was sold to Terry Flanagan.”

“With Bill Petersen’s creation of the Green Car, and with my second ownership, somehow Chuck Christensen and I decided to become partners in the car, with both of us running it in as many autocrosses and club track days as humanly possible. I know that I won on the partnership as I am a fairly crappy mechanic and Chuck is impeccable. That partnership, and most important, that special friendship continues on to this day. So we may be just car guys with lots of stories, but beyond the fun we have playing together, some of us get the true reward of friendships for life.”

Photo #210 from the listing for the #25 car, shows the underside with some of the original green paint still present.

From Byron Sanborn: “When Terry bought the Green Car from Denny in late 1986 I converted it into a ITB car. (Byron worked at Vintage Racing Motors in Redmond and continues to work there.) Later that year we bought two more cars and started to build them into ITB cars as well. The “white car” Terry Flanagan owned, and we rented it out for at least three years. Mike Helton started racing and almost exclusively rented that car in ‘87 and ‘88. The third car we built for Denny Warner (he was the parts manager at Bellevue BMW at that time). Denny only raced one year and that car got sold. In ‘89 or ’90, Terry sold the Green Car (#25) and the White car (#26) to Bill Brecht who was very involved in Southern CA vintage racing with VARA. At some point Brecht bought one of the original Hyde Park Trans-Am 2002s and for many years ran all three cars in vintage races on the West coast. I know Steve Walker owned the Hyde Park car a few years ago but has since sold it.”

Byron again: “Neither one of these cars has road racing history that predates 1986. The Green Car obviously had already had a spectacular autocross and club tack day history, but the other car was just a streetcar that we found in Seattle for about $1500 if I remember correctly.”

From Denny Organ: “The older logbooks for #26 have many entries with Mike Helton’s signature, so that must be his car.”

Mike Helton's Race CarMike Helton's Race CarOne of the ITB Cars Built by Byron Sanborn

https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1969-bmw-1600-2-4/

These two cars were raced by the Brecht family for over three decades before being sold to the current owner, who now has them up for sale on Bring a Trailer.

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