Once spotted, never forgotten. As police inspector Benno Berghammer, aka the Bulle von Tölz, Ottfried Fischer brought character, humour and Bavarian quirkiness in spades to the eponymous TV series. And his car was suitably atypical as well. The BMW 635CSi possessed the size, power and presence to hold its own alongside a star of screen-hogging stature. But why did it have only one front seat?

Mothers, eh. Carping away in the back seat instead of being happy that their overworked sons have taken them for a drive. A mature, professional man still living at home with his Mum needs a thick skin. Luckily, police inspector Benno Berghammer has the hide of a rhino; nothing and nobody can disturb his stoical sense of calm – certainly not his own mother. Well not completely, anyway. When it came to hardnosed stubbornness, Resi Berghammer (played by Ruth Drexel) could mix it with the best of them.

The role of the Bulle (literally "bull", in an allusion to his bulky appearance, but also slang for “cop”) von Tölz (after Bad Tölz in Bavaria) was a dream come true for actor and cabaret artist Ottfried Fischer, but he still needed a very special car to do the part justice. Initially, the BMW 635CSi came as something of a surprise; the elegant coupe hardly fitted the rather downtrodden profile of the average staff car. Indeed, the 218 horsepower of its straight-six engine could whisk even a man of Ottfried Fischer’s substantial proportions to the scene of the crime with a hop and a skip – and from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in a little over seven seconds when the occasion demanded it. When the successful TV series began in 1996, Fischer’s used 6 Series Coupe was not far off its tenth birthday and therefore well within reach for a Bavarian civil servant. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t something a little special. And specialness was a key attribute for this very distinctive car.

But why did it only have the one seat up front? Ottfried Fischer used to say it was a nod to another cult TV series Irgendwie und Sowieso, in which there was always plenty of automotive exotica knocking about. One such car was another BMW, a 3200 powered by the legendary V8 engine and affectionately known as the “Baroque Angel”. In one episode Elmar Wepper, who played the role of a car mechanic with his own workshop, is seen driving a Cadillac Eldorado Convertible with only a scrawny wooden garden chair in place of the usual front seat bench. In Irgendwie und Sowieso there’s never any proper explanation for this rather offbeat customisation. But the missing seat in the police inspector’s BMW was a running gag in Der Bulle von Tölz and soon became a cult feature of the show. All of which more or less ensures the mystery of the missing seat will never be fully explained.

Our favourite fancy police car actually became a victim of crime itself on one occasion, when it was stolen during filming in 2001. Less than impressed, the crew alerted the police, who instigated a large-scale manhunt. Sure enough, the villain and his celebrity loot were duly apprehended on an autobahn. Of all the cars in Bavaria, the hapless thief might have known better than to swipe a police vehicle. Not only that, but Ottfried Fischer and his colleague Katerina Jakob had also been named an honorary policeman and policewoman of Bavaria. So choosing their car to steal was not a particularly clever move.

Der Bulle von Tölz came to an end in 2009 with 69 episodes in the can, and today its chief automotive protagonist – like so many coupes of its type, which have long since graduated to classic status – is owned by a collector. What we don’t know is whether the car has been reunited with its front passenger seat. That would, after all, risk the wrath of historical authenticity. The Bulle von Tölz always sat on his own in the front, and the old curmudgeon will surely have had his reasons. A survival tactic for when mama Berghammer was on board, perhaps?


Technical data: BMW 635CSi (E24)

Period in production: 1978 – 1989

Six-cylinder in-line engine with 160 kW (218 hp)

Acceleration 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph): 7.6 s, Vmax: 222 km/h (138 mph)

Price in 1982: 50,400 marks

Number of units of the 635CSi produced: 45,215

Fan page for the TV series: http://www.derbullevontoelz.de/

Bulle von Tölz MUSEUM: http://www.dasbullevontoelzmuseum.de/