Because, obviously, he doesn't own it anymore.
Back in 1981, a young man named Uwe Gemballa started a tuning company that bore his name. Before the days of aftermarket firms like Liberty Walk and Mansory, Gemballa was one of the first to go overboard with exterior styling. Insane wide body kits and side strakes quickly became its trademark, and Porsche was one of the first brands modified. Other components, such as the wheels, seats, audio systems, and paint, were also given attention.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz models also received the Gemballa treatment to the same degrees of – and this is entirely subjective – automotive art or outright tackiness. This BMW 635CSi is just one such example, but we’ll get back to that shortly. The Leonberg, Germany-based tuner continued to grow in popularity well into the 1990s and into the 21st century. It even modified cars too, with one of their projects holding the Nurburgring lap record until it was beaten by a Porsche Carrera GT. Seemingly things were going well for Gemballa, but then tragedy struck in 2010: Uwe Gemballa disappeared in South Africa on a business trip, supposedly to meet potential investors for a new dealership.
Several months later, he was found dead – his body wrapped in plastic – and buried in a shallow grave alongside a highway (three men were later convicted of kidnapping and murder). Gemballa has since reorganized and is still in business today, but the absence of its charismatic founder is still being felt. So back to that 635CSi: Now that you’re familiar enough with Gemballa itself, it also needs to be pointed out that some of its customers were, well, interesting people in their own right. In 1985, a buyer from the United Arab Emirates bought that 635CSi, which features the standard Gemballa look: yellow paint and an interior unlike anything else. The result are the photos included in this article.
Gemballa fitted four fully adjustable Recaro seats, installed a TV in the dash and to its right a high-end stereo. Nine-inch wheels were placed up front while a pair of 13-inchers were at the rear. Also out back were four flame-spitting exhausts. Gemballa further added shorter springs and stiffer shock absorbers. All told, this Gemballa-modified 635CSi cost 240,000 Deutsche Marks, roughly $160,000 today. That UAE buyer took delivery and the car really wasn’t seen much again until 2003. It was discovered by US Army soldiers in Iraq, just after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Where in Iraq, exactly? In the palace residence of one Uday Hussein, one of two lunatic sons courtesy of that lunatic dictator.
The 635CSi wasn’t in the best condition. War will do that. The interior took a beating and the body probably suffered somewhat, too. But nothing that couldn’t be repaired fairly easily. And herein lies the mystery: nobody knows what happened to the Gemballa 635CSi after Hussein and co. checked out for good. The US military confiscated a lot of the Hussein family’s possessions, gold toilets and all. So it’s a pretty safe bet to assume the car (along with many, many other cars) were hauled away by the US too. Where to, exactly? Nobody knows. And it’s too bad, really. The BMW 635CSi has become a highly sought after collectible, especially among brand enthusiasts.
Combined with Uwe Gemballa’s legacy and eventual death as well as its final owner, this 635CSi really should be in the hands of a collector today who’d not only restore it, but also appreciate its grandiloquent nature.