Roundel editor-at-large and Windy City Chapter stalwart Bob Roemer has died in San Diego. His tenure at the magazine spanned nearly three decades; dubbed “Mister Roundel” by longtime editor Yale Rachlin, Roemer is generally credited with establishing the credibility and journalistic standards of Roundel. In addition to feature articles, Roemer wrote a monthly column of insider information, Heard On The Strasse, which often predicted BMW corporate strategies well in advance of any official announcements.
Editor-in-chief Satch Carlson sent a brief note to current Roundel staffers announcing the passage:
We have lost Mister Roundel.
Bob Roemer died yesterday after a long, difficult battle with a crippling affliction akin to MS. For years, in fact, all of his writing had been done by voice-recognition technology.
If you are new to the BMW CCA or to the Roundel staff, you may know Bob only from his insider information in his Heard On The Strasse column. But he played a significant role in the directions that BMW took in America, and he confirmed the value of the BMW Car Club of America as a demographic force to be reckoned with when he embarked on a campaign to bring the E36 M3 to the U.S.
By then, Bob was well known as a champion of “the real M3,” the iconic E30. So Erik Wensberg, then director of all things Motorsport at BMW NA, encouraged Bob to start a letter-writing campaign among the members of the BMW CCA. The strategy worked; although there were other passionate advocates of a U.S. version of the E36 M3, including BMW NA president Victor Doolan and California dealer Rug Cunningham, Wensberg was able to show a pile of letters that said, basically, if you build it, we will come—and he gives all the credit for that success to Bob Roemer.
More important to me was the role that Bob played in establishing the credibility and independence of Roundel Magazine. Club publications are naturally expected to praise the corporate edifice of the marque; indeed, many enthusiast clubs are owned by the manufacturer. But Bob was more of a critical journalist than a fawning devotee, and the high point of his critical career, in my opinion, came with the launch of the E31 8 Series coupe. It was beautiful, yes; but it was also heavy, ponderous, and relatively clumsy. If this is the jewel in the crown of BMW, said Bob, then it’s cubic zirconium.
That article, more than any other, cemented Roundel’s reputation as an independent, autonomous publication, one willing to praise the marque when it merited praise, but also willing to let people know when the emperor was running around naked. I think our best salute to Bob would be to dedicate ourselves to the same level of integrity and fortitude in our journalistic pursuits.
Any man's death diminishes me, wrote John Donne, because I am involved in mankind. But I find that the deaths of a very few special people diminish us even more—and Bob Roemer was one of those.—Satch CarlsonBack to News