Bob Ulin’s BMW 635CSi is what I call a boomerang car: After selling it some 20 years ago, it is back in his possession once again, thanks most likely to the Internet and the perseverance of a stranger. Ulin lives in Leavenworth.
By TOM STRONGMAN
In 1983, Ulin was an Army Major assigned to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), in Casteau, Belgium, near the city of Mons. He ordered a European-specification 1983 635CSi with English instrumentation from the BMW factory. Ulin’s name is stamped permanently on the vehicle identification plate.
The price in Belgian Francs was roughly equal to $18,000. The Euro-spec model produced about 40 more horsepower than the U.S. model because it didn’t have a catalytic converter.
The 635CSi is a handsome, two-door coupe designed for high-speed touring. The engine is a 3.5-liter, six-cylinder. Ulin said he loved the car’s excellent road holding and its ability to cruise comfortably at more than 100 miles per hour. Once, he said, he “held on for dear life” and floored the throttle on the autobahn in Germany, and the speedometer topped out at 160 mph.
After Ulin’s SHAPE assignment, he was assigned to the U. S. Embassy, and then NATO headquarters, both in Brussels.
In 1989, Ulin brought the BMW with him when he was assigned to the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. By then, it was old enough to be imported with a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency, thus keeping its more powerful European engine intact.
While in Carlisle, Ulin met Terri, the woman who would become his wife, and after they were married he sold the car for something better suited to daily driving. Ulin said he wanted to sell the car to someone who would appreciate it.
In 2011, Ulin got a call at his home in Lansing. It was a BMW collector who now owned Ulin’s car, and he was going to sell it. Was Ulin interested in buying it back?
“I used to have nightmares about it sitting in a boneyard somewhere,” Ulin said, and he was relieved to be able to have the car once again. His car has just 88,000 miles and is in outstanding condition. The paint shines like new, and the interior is free of tears or major wear. The engine still has great energy, and the car feels as solid as it did 30 years ago.
Ulin has spent the last two years tweaking his car to keep it running like new, and he added window tint to help ease the load on the air conditioning. Mostly, though, he is content enjoying it and remembering their time together in Belgium.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is email@example.com. To read other Gallery stories, go to tomstrongman.com.