updated June 2003
It has come up time and again in the BMW CCA Roundel and all over the planet. We gotta keep covering this issue till the world gets straightened out.
It's a simple, painless lesson. Learn now and avoid embarrassing yourself in front of other car enthusiasts.
It its history, BMW has made cars, motorcycles, and aircraft engines. There is no confusion surrounding the aircraft engines, so lets move on to the cars.
This is a BIMMER. I don't have to tell you that this 2004 M Coupe features FOUR wheels. (Photo coutresy BMW NA)
BMW cars are called Bimmers.
If you are a New England native or want to sound like one, say BIM-mah.
That's what this club is about, BMW cars. Bimmers.
Bimmer is also is the official name of the Newsletter of the Boston Chapter.
It has been published continuously since 1970.
From sometime in the 1990s to March 2000 the newsletter was called BIMMER (all uppercase).
Justin Hughes, the current Editor in Chief changed the name back to Bimmer.
Then Suzin Koehler became the Editor and changed the name to Boston Bimmer.
Bimmer Magazine is based in California and has nothing to do with the Boston Chapter, even though it is a very nice magazine.
But wait, here's the important part.
This is a BEEMER. BMW Motorcycles have two wheels. (photo courtesy BMW Motorcycles USA)
Beemer or Beamer
BMW motorcycles are called one thing but it is spelled two ways.
Beemers or Beamers, you just say BEAM-er. Or maybe BEAM-uh.
This is very simple.
Motorcycles have two wheels.
Beemers have two wheels.
In that photo to the right, how many wheels do you see?
It's a Beemer.
There is no Grey Area
Now some smart guy in the audience always says "What about a motorcycle with a sidecar?" The sidecar has one wheel. The motorcycle still has two wheels. It's a motorcycle with a sidecar.
What about some guy on a motorcycle pulling a trailer? Same thing: motorcycle has two wheels, trailer has one wheel. Just like a car pulling a trailer. The car still has four wheels, and the trailer has some non-zero number of wheels.
Mini and Rolls Royce
Now some new Mini owners have gone around saying that they own a "Bimmer".
This is probably because the Boston Chapter lets the Minis run in the BMW autocross classes.
(So far, nobody has wanted to autocross their Rolls-Royce.
I wonder if a Rover produced in the BMW Group rules would be allowed into the BMW classes?)
A MINI is not a BMW.
Look at the hood.
Is the spinning blue-and-white propeller there?
It isn't a Bimmer, Beemer, or Beamer.
But it is made by BMW, so lots of people consider it a BMW.
But it's still a MINI.
This is an Isetta. It was a car made by BMW. It is not a motorcycle. Look carefully and you can count 1, 2, 3, 4 wheels. Yep, Isettas are really Bimmers.
What about the BMW Isetta?
No the Isetta really had four wheels, not three wheels.
Legend has it that the Isetta saved BMW from bankruptcy during some very lean years in the 1950s.
Isettas are goofy looking small cars, not goofy looking big motorcycles.
Look at the photo: four wheels.
Therefore they are Bimmers.
Where did this come from?
Why are the bikes called Beemer and the cars called Bimmer? A Very Highly Placed BMW Spokesperson sent me the following (reproduced here with permission).
While I can't point to any official document that supports this, my understanding of the origins are as follows.
The term Beemer was first used with motorcycles. Back when British bikes dominated the market and BSA was a well-known marque, riders referred to them as Beezers -- a way to say the letters BSA as if it were a word.
BMW riders said Beemer as a way of saying BMW as a word. This was long before the popularity of BMW cars, so whenever the term Beemer was spoken, it referred to the motorcycle. In theory, one could apply Beemer to either cars or bikes since it is only a reference to the name BMW. In fact some folks do call BMW cars Beemers.
When the cars became popular, many people referred to them as Bimmers as well as Beemers. I don't know why this was adopted instead of simply using the existing Beemers.
But generally speaking, one calls the bikes Beemers and the cars Bimmers. While it would be ok to refer to a car as a Beemer, it doesn't seem appropriate to refer to a bike as a Bimmer.
Well I don't think its OK to call a car a Beemer. Wouldn't that be confusing? What if we called a knife a fork? A nuclear bomb a toothbrush? A politician honest? Or a car a motorcycle? Confusion. Anarchy. What next? A total breakdown of communication. Possibly the end of civilization or even nuclear holocaust.
Where was I? Oh yeah, other than letting people call stuff the wrong name, this BMW spokesperson is right on.
To sum up and in order to avoid confusion, let's just say that Beemer is the label for BMW motorcycles, and that makes Bimmer the preferred label for BMW cars.
Here's all you have to remember. If it has fewer than four wheels it is considered a Beemer (or a Beamer).
Then all you gotta do is think to yourself: how many wheels does my BMW have? Four wheels? Yep! Bimmer.
Unfortunately, there is at least one BMW CCA Chapter with the word Beamer in the title of their Chapter Newsletter. How this came to pass and why it hasn't been corrected is a mystery. All we know is that the chapter is located in California, which may be explanation enough.
Now You Know
So, now that you know, what do you do with all that knowledge?
Look carefully at the cover of the official Boston Chapter BMW CCA publication at the right.
See that word in red at the bottom?
Please say BIM-MER or perhaps BIM-MAH.
If somebody calls your car a Beamer, you may want to correct them if you care at all about how foolish they appear to be... I mean I'm sure I would want to be told if i was confusing a car with a motorcycle or I had a sesame seed stuck between my front teeth or something.
If you decide to try to correct someone else less in the know than yourself, please be gentle. Remember, they don't have to call your car a Bimmer.
This issue can be very sensitive to some people who will absolutely insist that they drive a four wheeled Beemer. If you get into an argument with somebody... from let's say California... just let it go, say "let's agree to disagree" or something like that, and be secure in the knowledge that you will never embarass yourself again by calling a Bimmer a Beemer.
Thank you for your support.