Schomp Stories: Billie Carstens
Words by Caroline Schomp
Beneath the pleasant demeanor of the middle-age clinical instructor who teaches genetic counseling at UC Health, there beats the heart of a speed demon. “Cars are my passion,” says Billie Carstens. And one look at her Lapisluxury Blue MINI with black and red racing stripes and John Cooper Works badge lets you know she’s not fooling.
Carstens has owned MINIs since 2004, all of them bought at Schomp MINI. But her love goes back long before that. “In college my love was always MGs. I wanted an MG so badly…You had to be able to work on them, though. In retrospect, if I were a boy that’s probably what I would have done. But my passion is really driving, not really the gearhead stuff.”
In college she had a Mustang II and followed that up with a couple of red Honda Preludes. “But I always wanted a sports car and when the MINIs came out, I just loved them. They’re so cute. And they were fun.” Her first one was lightly used and had a customized exterior. “It’s kind of funny because it looks like a 19-year-old boy’s car…I thought about taking all the stickers off…my kids and all their friends – they were in grade school – took up a petition not to take the boomerangs off, so I left them on.”
While the boomerangs made the car look unique, what Carstens really liked was what made the car go. “Because it was fun. I loved the suspension. It stuck around the corners…and I liked the sound of the supercharger…it was little, it was quick – agile…. I like the way that first generation sat…it was the go-cart.” She also was developing relationships with the people at Schomp MINI. “The MINI dealership has been such an integral part of this journey with MINIs…They’ve always been so great about talking to me about cars and how this worked and the turbo and what does this do.”
When that MINI started to make a funny sound, and just before she headed off to Southern Colorado, Carstens brought it in. The mechanic who listened to it (Bennett Moore, now our service manager) said the supercharger might be going out, “probably a bearing.” After talking it over with her service adviser and the mechanic, she decided to take a chance. Her MINI died in Pueblo and was towed back to Schomp, where it sat. Carstens, who is mother to twins, was forced into driving her family’s Pontiac van. “I just couldn’t stand it.” She bought a new MINI off the showroom floor, switching to an automatic, which made sense considering her work commute from Centennial to Stapleton.
Carstens’ new MINI was a 2011 Cooper S. While she liked it, she didn’t love it. “It made me sad that it rolled a little bit, like on these curves [on South University]. But I still liked my MINI. It was just more of a car. I traded in my go-cart for a car.” She kept eyeing each year’s new MINIs. “So when I heard they were coming out with a twin-scroll turbo I thought, okay, maybe it’s time. And I’ve never done this because I’ve always driven cars until they died, or until there was nothing left to them. So for a change I traded it in at 66,000 miles and got a new one. It’s the first time I’ve ever traded in a car when there was nothing wrong with it.”
She’d developed a good relationship with Devin Scott (now the Lead MINI Product Genius) over the years. “He’s gold. Such a genuine, sincere person; he’s going to tell you the truth.” So she came back to him. “I didn’t think about a John Cooper Works. I dreamed about that before but couldn’t afford it but I’d saved up some money and maybe, just maybe, I could consider it…I wasn’t sure.” Devin told her about the possibility of a Cooper S with a sport suspension. “He knows how I like to drive. That’s another advantage of getting to know someone like Devin.” He wasn’t able to find one. “So would I order a new S or do I go for the John Cooper Works? He told me all along…He said ‘Don’t take it for a test drive because you’re going to want one.’” And he was right.
It just took that one test drive, Carstens says. “I came back with a big grin. That’s the way I like it. It stays tight, stays flat around the curves. I like to feel the road, although it’s way more power than I need…and then the curves. I love the curves…This car has brought back the passion for driving! I love this car…I get really decent gas mileage. As aggressive as I drive, I still get in the 30s.”
So, if you happen to see a Lapisluxury Blue John Cooper Works MINI in your rearview, don’t be fooled by the sweet-looking woman behind the wheel. Like it or not, she’s going to pass and leave you eating her dust.