BMW 850 CSi

BMWCSI1 Fortunately I had a month to research cars before my family followed me to the UK. I found a red BMW 850 CSi I could not live without. After spending weeks checking and driving many cars, once I drove the 850 CSi, I was hooked. This was not your sister’s BMW. This wasn’t even a successor to the venerable BMW 6 CSi. This was an entirely new car. It reminded me a lot of another classic, the BMW M1 produced around 1980 in limited quantities. This was the top of the line grand tourer BMW had. It sported a magnificent 5.6L V-12 that produced 375 hp. Although it was the same basic engine of the 850 Ci, the CSi had various modifications that increased its horsepower by 50 hp. The CSi only came with a 6 speed manual tranny. It also included four-wheel steering, active rear axle, two oil coolers and a few other things to differentiate it from its smaller cousin, the 850 Ci.

When the salesman was explaining the various reasons I should buy this CSi instead of the cheaper Ci, he did not neglect to mention that although all these cars were electronically limited to 155mph, the 850 CSi only had that limiter in 6th gear. If I wanted to go faster all I needed to do was downshift to 5th and nail it! He told me it could almost get me to the 200 mph club in 5th. (Oh damn. He got me again – and I was already sold) That the 6th gear was to improve mileage, like an overdrive.


This was a big car. Driving around the UK was a bit of a chore, with the narrow lanes and overhanging trees.  Beautiful, but you had to pay attention because the CSi was slippery with a drag coefficient of 0.29.

One of the first things I added to this car was a new radio/nav system.  This was fairly new then, so one day I called my wife from the car, and the lady on the Nav told me to turn the next right.  My wife immediately said, “Who is in the car with you?”

I tried to explain, but she didn’t believe me till I demonstrated it to her when I got home.

Silverstone Circuit is about 100 miles north of my house and I would drive up occasionally to attend a track day or see a race. On my way back home one afternoon I was cruising on the M40 at doing about 80 daydreaming when I saw a car flashing his lights at me. I promptly moved over to check out the guy in such a hurry, when a black Ferrari 550 Maranello passed me like I was standing still.

We were on a long section of a major highway with no traffic yet. In a couple of hours this entire area will be full of commuters. This was the time to check and see if what the salesman told me about speed limiters was correct. The 550 was about a mile in front of me when I downshifted to 3rd. Hit it….100mph. Upshift to 4th……140. Shift to 5th…The 550 was still  pulling away. 160 mph. Now I’m closing on the 550. I would like to sneak up on him, but I’m sure he will see this blazing red Valkyrie coming at him.  Still closing… now I’m only 1/4 mile behind him. 170. Now I know the salesman was right. There is no limiter. (Remember to stay out of 6th gear!) Now that I’m within passing distance I want to go as fast as possible so he won’t accelerate away from me. After all, the 550 has at least 60 hp more than the CSI. 180. I just passed him. The look on his face was priceless. He downshifts. I can see the dip in his nose as he momentarily changes gears. He’s catching me. 190. At redline…I can see a few cars entering the highway up ahead and in a couple of seconds we are going to be among them. I back off. I let him win.

BMW-850-CSI-11Like I said, PRICELESS. That Maranello driver never thought that a BMW would pass him at 160. (What a GREAT memory this is…)

One day I drove from our house in West Sussex to my office in London and I accidentally “curbed” (Why do people say accidentally?  Obviously one doesn’t hit the curb on purpose.) both left tires going about 40ish. The road narrowed about a foot on either side to cross a bridge, and I didn’t notice it till I blew out both tires. When I pulled over, I had the added bad news, that I cracked both rims and would have to replace them as well. I don’t even remember how much they cost but it must have been a lot because I seem to have erased the memory. (Of course, I had to have the vehicle towed, etc.) It was also time to get the Valkyrie serviced. I could have bought a small car for the cost of this service and wheels. Time to look for another daily driver.

Next: Porsche 911 C4