Somewhere hidden away in a nondescript warehouse in Western Washington lies the Peter Gleeson BMW Collection. Today, thanks to membership in the local BMW Car Club of America chapter, me and a few other BMW fans are getting a guided tour by the collector himself.
Peter Gleeson is recognized as one of the top BMW collectors in the country and he’s taking the time to show off his collection to our small group. This is Peter, and here he is welcoming us to his collection.
In a place you’d never guess lies an amazing collection of cars, memorabilia, toys, and even a dang boat. Let’s start there.
The BMW Abbate V8 runabout was a collaboration between BMW and the Italian speedboat champion and boat builder Giulio Abbate.
Built by Abbate of Lake Como, Italy, the craft is constructed of mahogany. The BMW 507-series engine produces 150hp. Instrumentation is housed in two large BMW 507-style roundels.
Mr. Gleeson is an art lover as well as a car lover. Quite a few cars in the collection combine those interests.
The oddest car in the collection, in my humble opinion, is this Art Car by Lee Quiñones. It’s a Ford Flex, which is a totally unremarkable vehicle to begin with. The graffiti style of Quiñones was hot in the 80’s on subway cars but smacks of corporate sell-out status when on a 2010’s Ford.
This 1975 BMW 3.3Li was painted by Dexter Brown, widely regarded as the leading automobile artist working today.
The original owner was also responsible for the 1993 Autostory Motoring Art Salon in Genoa, Italy and it was here that Dexter Brown was commissioned by him to paint this car as part of the exhibition over the duration of the Salon.
During the show, Dexter flattened the original Polaris silver coachwork down to provide a key, and then applied numerous treatments of acrylic paint and sealer over several days to gain the desired effect. The creation of this unique work of art attracted a huge amount of attention.
The pièce de résistance of the Gleeson Collection is this Frank Stella M1 art car. Commissioned in 1979, the Frank Stella BMW M1 Procar was painted to Stella’s “Polar Coordinates” design for close friend, racecar driver and champion, Peter Gregg. This was the only time a BMW-commissioned artist created a car for anyone other than the manufacturer itself.
The Frank Stella Art Car sits side by side with a stock M1 (rare enough on its own).
Mr. Gleeson holds court in front of his M1s.
Even if the Frank Stella M1 is the rarest car in the collection, there are still amazing automobiles yet to discover. These three BMW E9s are also super rare.
These are three of the 1,265 homologation specials built between 1971 and 1975. A homologation special means it was built to make the car eligible for racing – in this case for the European Touring Car Championship.
The “L” in CSL meant leicht (light), unlike in other BMW designations, where it meant lang (long). The lightness was achieved by using thinner steel to build the unit body, deleting the trim and soundproofing, using aluminum alloy doors, hood, and trunk, and using Perspex side windows.
Due to the weight savings, these cars became the darlings of race teams. However, many were destroyed while racing which makes these cars even rarer than their production numbers.
This is BMW Motorsport’s only CSL rally car. This car was forgotten about in a garage for 20 years until Mr. Gleeson bought it, and shipped it back to England for a full restoration.
One of the first 169 Carb CSLs, which were the lightest CSLs ever made. This car has raced in many liveries, the one it wears today is known as the “cow car.” 1975 was its best racing season which is why it was restored to that year’s livery.
What’s this car next door? Clearly Mr. Gleeson loves his CSLs.
This CSL earns the “Batmobile” moniker because of the full aero package (front spolier, rear wing). This car is 1 of 57 produced.
Another impressive racing car with a history, this one is the winningest Z4M coupe ever. This car ran in Japan’s Super Taikyu Endurance Series.
Even the matching Puma racing shoes are on display.
There is so much cool stuff, and this blog post is already too long. Here are a final few scenes from the rest of the collection.
What car collector doesn’t also have die cast versions of all of their favorite cars?
Mr. Gleeson’s cars are often loaned to different museums and events, you might see his cars at the LeMay Museum in Tacoma, WA or at Amelia Island Concours. If you want to tour this collection, consider joining the BMW Car Club of America or Avants, both clubs have been invited to tour the collection.