That pristine BMW 316i at the corner is a feast to the eyes of Martin Philippo. Time he met the great person hidden behind the car.

It has caught my eye before, this BMW 316i. It’s a very nice example that hasn’t been personalized in some horrid way. It’s pure and simple as it was conceived in Bavaria. I meet Joop, the beamers owner. It appears he has some serious pedigree in racing cars. That’s where my CineCars genes really come alive. This is the story of Joop Koppen.

As a fifteen year old lad Joop picks up the trade tinkering in Guus Otto’s workshop in Noordwijk. In these days that is the place to be for mechanics connected to the Tulip Rally. Graku, a tyre company, is part of the deal, they make sure the teams are supplied with fresh rubber. There, in that little workshop, fast cars are turned into even faster cars. The cars tuned by Otto do need to be tested, so Joop takes them out on the nearby Zandvoort Circuit. That’s where he turns his remarkably fast laps, something that is soon picked up by the Graku staff and the representatives of oil company Castrol. They decide to give him a chance and thus become his first sponsors. From that day on Joop Koppen participates in the touring car challenge.

His first racing car is a Panhard, but that is soon replaced by a beefy BMW 2002. Huge fenders to accommodate the wide wheels, heaps of power, but most of all very reliable. With a machine like this you can finish a race! With the BMW Joop doesn’t just stick to his home circuit Zandvoort, he takes it to Zolder, Spa-Franchorchamps and even Silverstone in the UK. ‘Those where great days’, he remembers. ‘The people in the paddock looked after each other, helped out when necessary. Things were nice and friendly.’ Competition however is killing and some hard racing is needed to gain successes. Success that finally arrives in the form of winning the 2,5 hour race at Francorchamps.

In the late sixties the appeal of the Italian cars wins it over Joop’s love for the BMW. He now races a Lombardi 900 in the specials category. These are the days when regular trips to Italy for a few new parts become common as muck. A new camshaft or carburetor? Italy is the cradle, the origin of these brands and it is there and only there you can find the latest and hottest parts. The road to Milan is long and winding, but on the banks of lake Geneva traffic isn’t as dense as it is today and for a guy used to fast cars the journey is a piece of cake. Everything for a few extra horsepower. In later days, Joop and the guys at Graku specialize in historic racing, their weapon of choice being the Autobianchi A112. Again he finds the camaraderie he loved so much about his track days.

Racing drivers like Joop do prefer great cars for daily transport as well. A Saab Sonett springs to mind, as does a genuine Swedish Volvo P1800 and of course Joop’s favorit, the Audi Quattro. And don’t forget the extremely fast Mitsubishi Lancer with its two liter turbo intercooler engine. In the end it all comes back to the brand that first endeared him in his early racing days, BMW. Reliable engineering, tight cornering and adequate roadholding, exactly what every pilot wishes. This is the car that triggered this story, that sports the photographs with the article. It’s a 1987 BMW, the first production year of this model. It is fitted with the infamous Bosch fuel injection system, which BMW will later replace by the cheaper Motronic version that doesn’t quite live up to the expectations promised by the original. Despite the badge, the displacement of the engine is 1767cc’s, delivering a smooth 102 hp without any stress. This here BMW is completely stock, sporting its original paint and without any aftermarket nonsens added. That’s how we love our classics. Joop’s racing days are over, but the tight cornering of his prized BMW puts a grin on his face every single time he takes it for a spin. And that is the way it should be.
Martin Philippo