Moonlighting With

<<-- Back to Having Fine

All About the BMW 635CSi

Our Thanks to Tony Gray of York, PA for this in-depth piece. It is really spectacular work!

The mystique...

In the 60's it was James Bond's Aston-Martin DB5 and the Batmobile. In the 80's it progressed to exotics like Magnum PI's Ferrari 308 and the Daytona favored by Sonny Crocket patrolling Miami. Hollywood history is filled with automobiles that enhance and sometimes eclipse the human actors that operate them. For Moonlighters, the BMW 635CSi is so much an integral part of the show it becomes another cast member.

So what about this big coupe? Why is it so revered, even today, as one of the most respective models of the Ultimate Driving Machine? Let's turn the clock back to the mid-1980s. American sports models, once thundering muscle cars with huge gas guzzling V8 engines, are significantly less powerful. By 1985, with the exception of the new Corvette, American performance is defined by add on body cladding, expansive graphics and the occasional turbo 4 cylinder or V6.

The background...

Starting with the small 2002 model of the late 1960's, BMW had cultivated a loyal following. The 2002 was a small, light and very nimble 2 door that, while not overly powerful, was keen to toss around on those back country roads. Continual improvement increased the original 85 horsepower up to 130 in the later fuel injected models and an impressive 170 in the 1973 turbo. The 2002 line morphed into the now ubiquitous 3 series that is almost found on every street corner.

The larger coupes followed shortly thereafter, but were significantly more refined and expensive, and thus more exclusive. The initial 2800CS models led to the 3.0CSi until their replacement in 1976 with the exquisite 6 series. Based on the 5 series sedan models, the big coupes had a more sporting 2+2 layout, with revised suspensions to make the most of its 3.0 liter and later 3.2 liter engines. A minor facelift in 1982 developed the specific model used in Moonlighting.

Maddie Hayes and Jaguar from the Pilot
The first time Maddie arrives at City of Angels, she does so in her Jaguar XJ-S, recently returned from the repossessor by her attorney. This car was only seen in the pilot, and was abandoned after one of the bad guys was found dead behind the passenger seat.

The Moonlighting Company Car....the Porsche from the Pilot
Later in the pilot, David shows up with one of the "company" cars, a Porsche 928. This is the vehicle used in the remainder of the pilot.

The Corvette from the Moonlighting episode Read the Mind, See the MovieIn Read the Mind, See the Movie, Dave is driving a C4 Chevrolet Corvette, but it is never explained if this is another company vehicle or something he borrowed or rented. It is not seen again.

Moonlighting's BMW 635CSi from the ealier seasons

Here is a shot of the 635CSi seen in most of the episodes. Note the heavier, US only bumpers.

Moonlighting BMW 630CSi

Compare this with the later model, with its "worldwide bumpers". Note the thinner black molding ahead of the front wheels.

David Addison and the wrecked BMW in Come Back Little Shiksa
Unfortunately, the earlier car was destroyed by David in a fit of desperation, in Come Back Little Shiksa.
This was NOT the actual camera car, as it was a totaled earlier model 633CSi purchased from an insurance company specifically for this scene.

The Odometer from the soon to be wrecked BMW in Moonlighting
That's a good thing since as seen in this speedometer shot from the same sequence; the camera car had less than 6,000 miles on it!

The times...

The 80s in America were extremely hyperactive with Ronald Reagan in the White House, MTV redefining culture on a daily basis and Wall Street millionaires spending their new fortunes in a barrage of conspicuous consumption. Where the traditional American status symbols such as Cadillac and Lincoln had become passé land barges, the latest models from Mercedes and BMW demonstrate the driver is on the cutting edge of style. The term Young Urban Professionals or Yuppies, described this new generation and their free spending lifestyles.

As the original intent of City of Angels Investigations was to be a money losing tax dodge for Maddie Hayes, set up by her scheming accountant, what better way to burn through cash than to set up house in an expensive office building, filled with unproductive employees and while away the hours driving around in a high dollar German Sports Coupe. While some other cars were mentioned or shown briefly (a red Porsche 928 and a White Jaguar XJ in the pilot and a Corvette in Read the Mind, See the Murder), it was the Bimmer used in the series that stole the show.

The car...

The 1985 model year 6 series was significant in that it introduced a reliable fuel injection system and US cars had their engine displacement increased to match that in the rest of the world at 3.5 liters, thus the 633CSi became the 635Csi. Horsepower rose to 182 bhp, acceptable for the time but well below the European model's 218 horses due to a lower compression ratio and more restrictive exhaust system with catalytic converter. This "go" was offset with the first use of Anti-Lock Brakes for "whoa".

Sporting drivers chose a 5 speed manual transmission, but the cars on the show used a 4 speed automatic, sourced by ZF. These automatics had a sport mode that is now seen on almost every contemporary performance car, but in 1985 was a novel feature.

The car used in the show was painted a lovely Bronzit Beige Metallic, with seats shod in classy beige leather. It was loaded of course with sunroof and alloy wheels, the integrated front air dam and fog lights complete the look.

The NEW car...

Later in the series, in the episode Come Back Little Shiksa, the original car is destroyed in a fit of rage by David Addison ramming it repeatedly into the walls and poles of the parking garage. Although he has Bert take the car to the shop for repair, it is obvious by anyone paying attention that the particular car is damaged well beyond economic repair. The car destroyed was most certainly NOT one of the actual camera cars, and this was revealed in the commentary track of the DVD of that episode. The vehicle destroyed was an earlier 633CSi that was purchased from an insurance agency for the princely sum of $1 after someone was found expired in the trunk. Apparently the odor could not be removed and this otherwise expensive vehicle was sacrificed for our viewing pleasure.

Its replacement (not seen until the episode "Eeek! A Spouse!") was a 1988 model, optioned almost identically. This new 635CSi is also Bronzit Beige Metallic, with a Natural Leather Highline Interior, Leather steering wheel, 225/55R-15 V-rated tires, electric seats, rear air conditioning and the full zoot option package.

Upgrades in engine technology had raised the output some, to 208 horsepower and 225 ft lbs to torque, that kept the car respectable on the street. In keeping with the times, and new competition from other makers, the car started adding luxury features such as the aforementioned rear A/C controls, a complex ride height suspension system and even more leather. Most cars heading to warmer climates had the leather dashboard cover deleted due to significant cracking issues.

Externally, there wasn't much different other than revised bumpers that now matched those sold outside the US and improved headlights.

There was a report that the well-worn replacement car was sold on eBay in 2002, but this author has not yet discovered the fates of the other vehicles used during production.

Filming tricks…

Anybody who watches the show knows the importance of the in-car scenes. It is well known that many of these scenes were used to "catch up" the production schedule. With over 100 pages of script on an average episode versus 60 in the normal one hour show, Moonlighting used inventive and ingenious ways to make up for whatever lost time they could. A novel technique was used in which pages of dialogue were taped to the dash of the BMW, out of camera sight. This gave Cybill and Bruce a quick reference during these scenes and allowed them to put a significant amount of film in the can relatively quickly.

The car itself was placed on a standard dolly and driven around town, with three Arriflex Cameras attached….one on Bruce, one on Cybill and one off to the side. You will note that the vast majority of the cuts are on one or the other and the side 2 shot was very rarely used. Some night scenes were shot on stage, with lighting tricks used to simulate oncoming traffic, but most shots were done on location on the streets of LA.

Recommended Reading "BMW 6 Series Enthusiast's Companion" by Jeremy Walton; Robert Bentley, Publishers Home Page


This is not meant to violate or infringe on any copyrights.
It is just a labor of love and is for entertainment purposes only.
© 2002-2004. All rights reserved. CYber SYtes, Inc.