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"It was like stepping into a new world.""It was like stepping into a new world."

"It was like stepping into a new world."

5 min reading time

BMW M and Me: Rae Roberts.

As part of our BMW M AND ME series, where we speak to enthusiasts from within the M community about their passion for the brand, Rae Roberts embodies everything M stands for – the thrill of the drive, a blend of creativity and skill.

27 March 2024

Hello Rae, first off, let’s take it back to the very beginning. What was your first memory of BMW M?

My earliest memory of BMW M is from the 'BMW M4 – Ultimate Racetrack' film that I watched as a senior in high school. I was infatuated watching the car slide around on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean and I had never seen anything like it before. I found myself going down a rabbit hole of BMW M content while waiting excitedly for more videos to be uploaded. Another one of my favourite BMW M videos is of a car drifting around other BMWs which eventually panned out to reveal the M logo. I must have watched these films hundreds of times, glued to my laptop screen. This inspired me to pursue advanced driving training: it was like stepping into a new world.

BMW M and Me: Rae RobertsBMW M and Me: Rae Roberts

Love at first drift – we can relate. What was it specifically that made the BMW M brand stand out to you?

BMW M is a brand that people from all ages and walks of life aspire to. It’s a brand where people fall in love for a lifetime – you so often see people reminiscing about their journey leading up to ownership, and the amazing moment when it finally happens. I’ve observed a common progression where owners start with a more standard model before ultimately acquiring the full M car trim. The choice of generation and model within the M series seems to reflect a person’s personality.

Take the M3, for instance, a vehicle that remains characteristic and timeless across different generations. Owners tend to find the M3 that resonates best with them, whether it’s due to aesthetic design, engine capability, or overall engineering excellence. It’s not uncommon to encounter individuals who own the same M car model across multiple generations, appreciating each version as a time capsule representing the pinnacle of automotive design and engineering.

Your shoots have covered a number of different locations and passions in your life, why did you choose to go to the places and what’s the story behind them?

Much of my childhood unfolded in Clermont, Florida, where these initial images were captured. My last memories of the town were tinged with pain, as I sacrificed my hard-earned achievements to pursue a personal dream. The area served as a stark reminder of a past marked by significant losses, with only my red BMW - my F30 335i - remaining.

Embarking on a journey across the US to embrace a new chapter, I documented my experiences along the way, always accompanied by the car that had become a constant support. This vehicle played a pivotal role, ferrying me to a two-year stint in personal injury law, being the subject of my first-ever drawing, and providing solace during my lowest moments.

At the age of 12, my entry into the marketing world began with Yamaha Outboards, courtesy of my dad - an independent marine fabricator and custom boat builder. His selfless dedication to ensuring I had the opportunities he missed out on forged an unbreakable bond between us. Grateful for his sacrifices, I consider him my best friend.

My tenure in the outdoor industry saw me representing 20-30 brands, and my first hourly job at a glider port involved tasks like "running the line" on gliders and maintaining the surrounding aircraft. Among the images in the series is my M3 beside the glider, a place where both my dad and I learned to fly, capturing moments of me in flight from a separate plane.

BMW M and Me: Rae RobertsBMW M and Me: Rae Roberts

Aviation eventually took centre stage in my brand, providing a unique experience of near silence and a profound connection to my machine. However, straight out of high school at 17, I found myself in the legal field after a stint in the outdoor industry until age 16. Despite enjoying various pursuits, including my passion for aviation, I grappled with imposter syndrome and stepped away, feeling an inability to fully appreciate the sacrifices made for my dreams.

During my last year in high school, faced with a challenging commute, I had to quit my airfield job. Expressing my desire to continue working to my dad, I declined his offer to buy me a BMW for straight A’s, deeming it impractical. Yet, on Christmas morning, a dark blue E90 328i awaited me in the garage, a joint effort from my grandmother and him. Overwhelmed with gratitude, I embraced the opportunity, waking up early every morning to navigate empty country roads and savor the taste of a lifelong pursuit.

Adding an E90 335i to our garage, my dad and I delved into the engineering and composition of the platforms, forging a humbling and fulfilling bond over our shared automotive journey. Six years later, I achieved a long-desired racing license, a testament to the enduring passion that never waned. Upon relocating to the West Coast, my life underwent rapid positive transformations.

Returning to Florida recently, the experience has been a healing full-circle journey. I successfully achieved my West Coast goals, establishing myself as a premier automotive artist and using the proceeds to enhance my driving skills on the track. The return home transformed once-dark memories into fundamental moments, revealing a larger purpose that I couldn't see clearly before.

You were an aerobatics pilot from a very young age before pivoting to driving, why did you make the change, and what were you searching for out of driving?

I started flying at the age of nine, and by fourteen years old, I was carrying out intense manoeuvres on my own. Pulling both positive and negative Gs back-to-back, doing spins and dagger turns, aviation gave me a taste of that thrill that I’d been searching for. But it was until I’d gotten behind the steering wheel of an M that I felt like I’d truly found my passion. Flying and driving have a lot of overlap – you need to be able to predict, react, and respond almost without thinking. There’s a huge amount of skill involved, but when you become one with the machine, something truly magical happens

Your own art car is a stunning display of passion and design, why did you choose to create it?

When I started out as an artist, I didn’t in any way own my dream M car, and so I would paint it instead. However, after taking off as an artist, in February of 2022, I was able to buy my M3, entirely funded by the proceeds from my artwork. I feel as if the car is a physical representation of my story, and how my affinity as an enthusiast has led me to being able to live (and drive!) my dream.

I knew that – as an artist – I wanted to create my own personal 'Art Car', inspired of course by the wonderful BMW Art Cars. This is my "Ghost Pig" livery (a twist on Porsche’s Pink Pig livery, replacing the German typography with BMW M factory locations from across the world). It’s gloss black acrylic hand painted on a satin black wrapped body, and a homage to the history of this car’s race car sibling and its motorsport rivalry with the Porsches. It’s a subtle nod, yet tells a story, where if you know, you know. 

BMW M and Me: Rae RobertsBMW M and Me: Rae Roberts

In your paintings, you’ve often featured M cars. What makes them a great subject?

The distinctive and timeless silhouettes of BMW M cars serve as a natural subject for me as an artist. I choose to paint cars that evoke a sense of connection and effectively communicate the emotions of being behind the wheel. One aspect I appreciate is the seamless transition between different M car models while maintaining a familiarity with the platform. This inherent familiarity is my artistic bias, and I find comfort in it as I create my works.

Through my paintings of M cars, I’ve discovered that even those who may not typically show interest in such vehicles are drawn to them once my artwork is complete. Buyers have shared that my portrayal of the cars enhances their appreciation for the design. This feedback is particularly gratifying for me. As an artist tasked with creating aesthetics that endure in someone’s space for a generation or longer, I strive to consistently capture the most beautiful elements of a vehicle’s design. BMW M cars, spanning every generation, happen to offer a wealth of those elements.

It's clear – just like our cars – you’ve got motorsport DNA. If you had to pick just one car from our current BMW M line-up, would you most want to take on track and why?

I can’t narrow it down to just one! If I’m picking more of a 'road and track' car, it’s got to be the M2. It’s one of those cars you can drive to the track and on the track and home again – and thoroughly enjoy it the entire time. If we’re talking strictly race cars, the M4 GT4 is just phenomenal. Definitely wouldn’t say no to being thrown the keys to one of those, that’s for sure.

What do you think BMW M’s role is in the modern-day automotive industry? Does it have a cultural function beyond cars?

I believe BMW M pioneers creativity and experimentation within its niche in the market. While opinions on their new designs may vary, I, as an artist, appreciate the brand’s willingness to stir controversy by introducing novel concepts. For me, the act of creation should occasionally challenge the status quo. BMW M often sets the standard and has a history of fearlessly embracing experimentation, such as placing a 4.0L V8 in an M3 in the late 2000s— a unique model that I proudly own.

BMW M and Me: Rae RobertsBMW M and Me: Rae Roberts

Even today, BMW M continues its experimental approach, offering cars catering to different preferences, from practical point A to point B drivers to those seeking a touch of sportiness and models designed exclusively for enthusiasts. As an enthusiastic owner, I’ve noticed that this community enjoys unparalleled resources, aftermarket part options, and vibrant community forums—more extensive than any other German auto manufacturer. People see their vehicles as a reflection of their taste and a symbol of self-expression. BMW M stands out as the go-to brand for individuals of all ages who express themselves through the cars they drive.

If you could distil the BMW M brand into one of our current cars, which one would it be and why?

I think that the G80 is the perfect showpiece for the M brand’s evolution. The 3 series has always been at the centre of M’s identity, and the modern M3 ticks every box. Whether you’re wanting to build up a track car, drop the kids off at school, or turn heads at a car meet, it’s perfect. The M3 has come a long way and changed with time, but it’s still the car that every kid stops to look at in a parking lot and dream about how they can own one someday.

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