You know it was a good weekend when you sit down to write the coverage from a show and all that floods your mind are inside jokes. My sides still hurt from continuous laughter with Noah, Mike, and the boys from Black Forest Industries after a successful Oktoberfest celebration in Cary, North Carolina. That said, the weekend was a whirlwind and one I looked forward to sharing during the long, loud, and exhausting drive back to Ohio, downing espresso and Red Bull, just trying to stay awake. So here we go. The BFI O’Fest recap.
On Friday morning, I woke up early to finish last-minute touches on some graduate work. With the noon deadline approaching, I had to work fast to not only turn in a substantial assignment but also, to fix my E30 I planned to take on the roughly 600-mile trip south to attend BFI’s O’Fest. At nearly noon, I wasn’t packed, my E30 was still on jack stands in my garage, and I had only just submitted my assignment after a last-minute cram-sesh. Leaving Ohio with my girlfriend in just two short hours, I was down to the wire. However, I work best under pressure and began to tear into my E30.
Some backstory: after a day out with my E30, we were driving home when we hit some construction. My swapped E30 sits incredibly low, as it should. The ground-touching bits are the Red46 Sump Armor and my makeshift downpipes. In the construction zone, carefully dodging all the roughest sections and holding up the minimal late-night Ohio traffic behind me, a raised section of the road that spanned both lanes inevitably impacted the underside of my car. Fun, stomach-knotting, noises began immediately making themselves heard over the straight-piped drone of my E30.
Fearing that I had cracked yet another oil pan despite my skid plate and solid drivetrain mounts, I held my breath for the remaining few minutes back to my garage. As I pulled in, I didn’t see the disheartening slug-trail of oil that would indicate I had destroyed yet another oil pan, and just parked the car. I would deal with it in the morning. When I looked the following day, I found that I had a fresh dent in the skid plate (thanks, Red46, for saving my bacon yet again) and had smashed my downpipes, which had pulled the brand new bolts I had just installed to hold the exhaust to the flanges, fresh out. One bolt remained, holding the exhaust in place, and just required new replacements to tidy it all back up.
With only two hours to find new bolts, pack, and get on the road, I was definitely in a rush as I walked out to my garage to figure out what to do. Fortunately, in my bag o’ mixed hardware, I had some nuts and bolts from my Subaru exhaust that seemed like they would do the trick. After about twenty minutes of installing them in the tight space, I successfully mended the exhaust, checked all my fluids, fixed an unrelated wiring gremlin I had been putting off, and tossed my bags in the car. I managed to make it just in time to pick up Lili, right on schedule.
The timing couldn’t have worked out better. Normally, my last-minute procrastination is hit or miss with success. If anything, the stars lining up and letting me turn in my work, fix the E30, and hit the road exactly on time would set the tone for the weekend. I sincerely hoped this while I had to put on a cool and calm facade for Lili, who I did not want to worry by admitting that the last three long-distance trips in my E30 had ended in a return journey on the truck of shame. Hopefully, my luck would hold and the weekend would be a complete win for my trusty BMW.
After the mad dash to finish everything, we were finally on the road. The top was down, the weather was perfect, and we were able to enjoy a comfortable cruise as we headed south. Fortunately, the drive down was completely uneventful. At just after midnight, we arrived at Mike’s house in Raleigh, surely waking up his neighbors with a straight-piped E30.
We were greeted by a shirtless, tattooed, and sleepy-looking host, standing like a beacon, representing North Carolina from his front porch. Mike kindly set up a couch for us to surf for the evening, grumbled about us being so late, and told us we’d be heading for BFI early the next morning. Exhausted, we collapsed on the couch and tried to ignore the ringing in our ears from nine hours of straight piped driving.
Saturday morning came early. No coffee, no breakfast, just out the door to wash off 600 miles of road grime from my E30 at a local self serve wash. Well, we tried to wash cars. None of the machines would accept our cards or cash for some reason, so Mike, Lili, and I just took his 1.8T-swapped MK1 and my E30 over to BFI to meet up with everyone and set up the event. Oh well.
When we arrived at the Adam-specified time to prepare for the show, we were the only cars there except for a random Civic. As the BFI folks trickled in, the Civic became the focal point. Double parked in the BFI lot, no one could figure out who owned the car. Adam Ligon, the owner of BFI, had been adamant that no one was to leave cars in the lot overnight for the show, so it certainly wasn’t one of ours. We quickly found the doors to be unlocked, the owner’s wallet, license, money, and cards inside, with no keys. With the show about to open in a few short hours, someone joked about having the car towed. When Adam arrived, that joke became a reality. A tow truck appeared about an hour later while we were setting up and hauled off the interloper, wallet inside, for what we suspect will be the worst weekend for that car’s owner as they try to claim their ride without money or identification.
While whomever that car belongs to had what we can only guess to be an awful weekend, we made sure to have the best. The show opened at 11:30 and quickly filled with the best European cars from around the area steadily pouring into the lot. At noon, every lot in the complex was packed. The smell of bratwurst and German craft beers permeated the air, G60 supercharger whines and the sounds of straight piped Euro cars ripping up and down Chatham street graced our ears all day while we caught up with old friends and made new ones.
The level of quality that was consistent among all attendees was incredible. I had never been to BFI’s O’Fest before, but apparently, this 9th-annual event was one of the best. An amazing turnout, breathtaking cars, and many, many beers made the day worth the drive alone.
To my surprise, a high number of BMWs came out despite the VW/Audi focus BFI holds most dear. Not being the only E30 was certainly a treat, as some of my favorite E30s from around the web were present on the lot.
Inside the building, BFI was cutting special keychains for the event from the same metal they build many of their products with. Looking for coffee, I was told to check the ‘sewing room.’ What I walked into was a large room filled with tables, materials, and sewing equipment of every kind. In that room, all the hand-sewn products sold by BFI are individually finished. It was truly surprising to see the BFI headquarters for the first time. Impressive doesn’t begin to describe their level of quality and production capabilities. For as long as I have known about them, I was under the incorrect assumption that most of their products were only designed in-house and produced elsewhere. What I found, though, was a building of true enthusiasts who painstakingly hand-make everything with impeccable detail right there in Cary, NC. The keychains were a small representation of their abilities, as they cut them right there to distribute throughout the day as mementos of the season-closing O’Fest and a little piece of BFI’s manufacturing process.
Back outside, I joined up with none other than Noah, the tech Adam brought along for the BFI Passat Build here at ECS, for a fantastic reunion. We enjoyed plenty of beverages, conversation, back-and-forth insults, and everything to see at the show. It was an afternoon of reflection, where we were able to appreciate friendships forged over a common love for cars, that ignore the distances that separate us. A wonderful part of this community is that we all feel at home, regardless of where we are, so long as we are with friends.
When the day wound down, the show cleared out, and we all hankered for some food. Noah kindly invited everyone to his house, where he had been smoking some brisket, for the festivities to continue. Despite only knowing Mike and Noah for roughly a week when they were here at ECS, both were eager to have Lili and me stay with them for a night each, hosting us for what was one of the best weekends of the year and a perfect end to the season. We all convened at Noah’s for excellent food and the usual house-party vibe. Fireside chats, beer pong, the usual trappings of a fall evening, made for a perfect end to a day of fun that didn’t end until the early hours of the morning.
After an evening of partying, a full day of O’Fest celebrations, and very little sleep since Friday, we were exhausted by Sunday morning. Fortunately for us, our pounding hangovers would be quickly reversed thanks to the power of adrenaline. Before heading back to Ohio, we all decided brunch was in order. On the way to downtown Raleigh, a section of a three-lane, the one-way road turned into two lanes and took a sharp left-hand corner under a bridge span. Just out of view as we approached were two cars stopped inexplicably next to each other, blocked by the bridge pylons, and sitting dangerously in the middle of the road. Noah, in his MK4 GLI, stopped abruptly as he rounded the corner and nearly smashed into the two complete f idiots sitting for no reason. Following behind them in my completely loaded down E30, without ABS or traction control, I saw them skid to a stop and mashed my clutch and brake pedals. As my wheels locked and I began sliding in a smokey skid, I realized quickly the front of my E30 was about to marry the back of his VW.
In these moments, there are generally two reactions. The first is a panicked freeze. Everything around you unfolds in bullet time as you helplessly watch the carnage unfold, hoping only to walk away in the end. The second is an almost superhuman ability that capitalizes on the time dilation to achieve a feat that could only be called a natural 20 on a dexterity saving throw. Somehow, despite my admitted lack of ability when it comes to tactical driving, I fell into the second category. As my car slid with locked brakes toward certain destruction, I decided to take my foot from the brake to the throttle, kick the clutch, and spin the tires to try and rotate the car. With no working e-brake, it was my only option. Fortunately, it worked. I was able to unlock the brakes and deftly pivot the car away from Lili’s side and twisted to a stop, my driver’s side mirror scarcely a few inches from the GLI’s quarter panel.
I kept the E30 on the road and didn’t slam into the VW. Meanwhile, the car behind me was able to stop in time thanks to the extra few feet I managed to give by sliding sideways. Their headlights shone in uncomfortably close through the rear passenger side window, but no contact was made. The two cars who caused the trouble must have heard my car make a Jason Bourne-esq stop in a cloud of smoke and casually dipped out, unaware of the utter destruction they nearly caused between two immaculate examples of Euro cars.
Crisis avoided, we found parking and went to sit as our nerves slowly returned to normal. I found myself unusually quiet as they conversed around me over brunch, almost viewing everything in the third person, as the slideshow of my time with my E30 slowly played over in my head. After that experience, I can tell you, the ‘life flashing before your eyes’ moment is precisely true. I barely remember brunch, walking back to our cars, or sitting in near silence in Noah’s living room as we calmed down enough to get back in the car and head home.
With that harrowing adventure behind us and some much-needed caffeine in our systems, Lili and I finally got on the road. While we were a few hours behind schedule, I certainly can’t complain for the extra few minutes I had to spend with Noah and the new friends I had made from the weekend. As if to say we had met our quota for near-death experiences in my E30, the universe gave us a quiet and contemplative ride home that was free of any more adrenaline shots.
Sitting here at ECS now, reflecting on the weekend, it hurts to think about what almost was. More prevalent, though, are the good memories of everything else. The Bojangles chicken sandwiches, the overly-competitive beer pong, the pristine Euro cars, the Cheerwine, and the relaxed atmosphere of Oktoberfest celebrations that would make any Bavarian proud are ones I won’t soon forget. I have to say, this weekend was the perfect closer to the 2019 car season for me. While I won’t be at the BMWCCA O’Fest or SEMA this year, I don’t regret missing those shows. Black Forest Industries throws one helluva party and Noah, Mike, and the rest of the boys know how to host a goofball E30 guy with nonstop laughter, food, and cheap beer. Here’s to next year, guys.
We would like to extend a very special thank you to Noah Keyes, Mike Palcowski, Adam Ligon, Jamie Or, and everyone at Black Forest Industries for putting on the Oktoberfest show and hosting Lili and me without hesitation. All photos are courtesy of Mike, Jamie, and myself. Be sure to check out all the glorious Black Forest Industries products right here at ECS Tuning and set your calendars for next year’s festivities.