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A flat-out drive to hospital in an M635CSi | Thank Frankel it’s Friday

15th October 2021
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

Recently I got a note from a well-resourced friend. It sounded like he was apologising. It went ‘I’m afraid that on the way home today I appear to have accidentally bought a car.’

Why did he seem to be saying sorry? Simply because he knew the car was one I have coveted since it was new half a lifetime ago. It was a BMW M635CSi.

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I am regularly asked to name my favourite ‘M’ car and people often look slightly surprised when I don’t immediately namecheck the obvious E30 M3 or E34 or E39 M5s. Admire them though I do, it is the so-called ‘M6’ I’ve always loved the most.

And here’s why. Back in mid 1980s, my father had one. He had a little cottage in France just across the water from where we lived in Jersey which he used to describe as the launchpad. Because it was from there that he would launch himself on his various motoring adventures in Europe. The BMW was his rocket. He’d head off for weeks and many thousands of miles at time with his wife, my kid sister and all their luggage on board and really at the time there wasn’t a better car for the job.

The peculiar thing was he also had a Ferrari Mondial bought for precisely the same purpose and if there was ever a plausible reason for having both, I’ve long since forgotten what it was. All I know was that he always went on about how much better than the BMW was the Ferrari, but when the time came to actually drive one, he always took the BMW, his actions as ever speaking far louder than his words ever could.

And sometimes I’d go to the cottage with some mates for a long weekend and we’d chug around in the rusty 2CV he also kept there. But after I’d reached a certain age, I was told I could drive the BMW unsupervised, so I swiftly arranged another trip and took a small gang over for New Year. But before I could dream up a suitable excuse to drive the M6, we needed to get the wood in, because without lit fires we were going to freeze. And it was in the process of chopping said firewood that the handle of our axe broke while being wielded by my chum Alexis. And buried itself an impressive distance into his left hand.

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To this day I have never seen so much blood emanate from a human being. It was appallingly fascinating to see. Alexis calmly extracted the haft, regarded the small, scarlet fountain now blossoming from the remains of his hand and calmly said, ‘Might need to get that seen to.’

There was no point calling an ambulance: none of us spoke sufficient French and even if we’d lucked upon a fluent English speaker, the cottage was so buried in a forest by the time we’d given adequate directions, Alexis would most definitely have become a whiter shade of pale. He needed to get to hospital. Fast. The 2CV was simply not fit for purpose.

I’m so ashamed at the frisson of excitement that built within me: not only was I going to get to drive the M6 as fast as I possibly could, if the local law enforcement community tried to spoil my fun I could show them Alexis bleeding out in the passenger seat and probably get a high speed escort into town.

So I wrapped his hand in plastic bags then duct-taped them to his wrist (the M6 had the optional cream buffalo hide which needed to remain unspattered), installed his girlfriend Diane in the back and legged it.

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I had a brilliant time, maxing out the 290PS (213kW), 3.6-litre, twin cam, 24-valve straight-six in every gear, slithering around roundabouts, being egged on by Alexis who, despite the amount of claret draining from his system, appeared to be having a great time too.

We screeched up outside the hospital, ran in and were seen almost immediately. I then remember two things: first the medics cutting the bags from his hand to reveal a sight which would have done justice to a video nasty followed by a gentle thump as Diane, who until now had not seen the extent of the injury, passed out on the floor of A&E. Alexis then waited patiently while they brought her back to life and made sure she’d not injured herself on the way down.

And that was that. They patched him up with an impressive network of internal and external stitches, pumped him full of painkillers and antibiotics and sent us on our way. I drove the BMW home rather more sedately. Alexis was more than willing for a repeat performance which I’d have been happy to provide. Diane, on the other hand, thought she’d probably had enough adventure for one day.

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