Its been just over 4.5 years since I bought a one of my BMW hero cars, a 1986 635CSi. A love affair which began at 16 in rural Iowa at a gas station.
Welcome to my life circa 1994, in Fairfield, IA. Deep into the throes of testosterone induced mania and desperate for something which would set me apart from the lifted truck, Chevelle and Camaro crowd I reasoned not just any first car would do.
A gentleman had moved to "town" from Arizona and purchased a local gas station (one of two still in business). With him came a dark blue 1987 5spd 635CSi. Whether it was an underestimation of the size of the gasoline market or how far he was from anyone mechanically keen to what a 6 series BMW was, the car was for sale shortly after his arrival. All in all very "Witness Protection Program" in hindsight.
Financially between my father and I we may have had two nickels to rub together, on a good day. So just why my father agreed to let me test drive a car which cost substantially more than a Chevy Cavalier is, to this day a mystery to me. Perhaps he recognized the barely hidden lust behind my eyes every time we passed the car parked with its obnoxious for sale sign tacked to the windshield. Or maybe it was that he was simply the hero dad that he was.
Some words were said between the owner and my Dad then we had the keys. My father and I drove in silence with him behind the wheel of the Big Six. Himself being a hot rod guy I didn't expect any real feedback approaching positivism towards the car and I was granted as much. I however was nearly bursting with anticipation as I poured over just how many damn buttons this car had. I mean it had a "trip computer", what it did was lost on me but it looked like a calculator in the dash and that was pretty damn cool and sure to impress women. Power headrests? I had no idea such technology was even possible, I was riding IN the future.
When we had a reached a safe enough distance from town dad turned over the keys to me. "Safe" being a distance from anyone other than that of corn in case he had to hide my body when I wadded up a car we (I) couldn't possibly afford. A small bit of personal information myself is necessary here. I am not tall man now in my mid 30s so at half that age its safe to say the low seating position of the big coupe was a challenge. I mashed every seat button available but nothing would get me anywhere approaching what could be considered a safe seating position. Seeing over the dash was not going to preclude me from driving the lusty old German. Unfortunately here is where I draw a blank. My memory ends at turning the key. I recall a deep bellowing mechanical howl, fear, ecstasy and my teeth being dry from what could have only been a completely ridiculous grin. Sold.
At some point my father pried my hands from the wheel and we took the car back, again in stony silence. To my thinking there was only the signing of paperwork left to be done. The old man however had an ace up his sleeve. Chugging home in our decrepit Plymouth Reliant K wagon he acknowledged my pleading and related that the Brake Lining warning light was on in the 6. I had either missed it or didn't know what Brake Lining was. Likely I did not care. He played his ace. We could talk about purchasing the car should I prove that I could afford to maintain it. I needed to get a quote on doing pads and discs from the local "just out from under the shade tree" auto shop. My father was not going to have the BMW as a lawn ornament. From my perspective it would have been a much needed improvement/addition on the lawn to our pair of 1958 Ford Edsels and my half finished 1964 Chevy Belair (welded shut back doors, chain steering wheel, swivel bucket seats, you get the picture).
What my father had artfully done is deferred rejecting me himself and let the local mechanic do it for him. Genius. There was no amount of bitching on my part which would make the brake job any cheaper so I accepted the price quote as the end to the Big Six dream. Hey, an 84 Toyota 4runner was pretty much the same thing right?
As time passed I staged an automotive rebellion with my father and peers. I got into something exotic which I could afford (barely at times), Volkswagens. And as you can see I got into tie dye shirts....shut up.
Fast forward to 2010 and I was looking for my next terrible German car idea. The Sixer test drive was long pushed to back of my mind but never fully forgotten as I had always kept the car vaguely on my radar. "Vaguely" due to my research over the years which had cleared youths rose tinted glasses via stories of low production numbers for 5spds, atrocious automatics and sky rocketing maintenance appetites.
One evening at a weekly local German car gathering the topic happened upon the old six series. Suddenly as solidly as they had so many years ago all the pieces fit. I didn't just want a 635CSi, I needed a 635CSi. I was trying to sell my 99 Saab Viggen under the auspice of being able to give the finger to my manager and quitting my job. The Viggen eventually sold and the funds stayed in my back account for the sum total of 11 hours before I was driving home my childhood sweetheart embodied by a 86 635CSi. Ace played. Miss you dad.