Why you’d want a BMW E9 coupé
BMW was on a roll in the 1960s, introducing bigger, more sophisticated models. Its recovery began with the 700, followed by the sporty Neue Klasse saloons. For the NK coupés, the 2000 C/CS of 1965, design chief Wilhelm Hofmeister and Manfred Rennen took their cues from the Giugiaro-penned 3200 CS. The shape was deftly facelifted on a longer wheelbase to become the E9, launched as the 2800 CS in ’68.
At full capacity making mainstream saloons, BMW decided to have the low-volume coupés built by Karmann. The E9 CS was nicely finished and expensive – indeed, the 3.0 CSA cost more in the UK than an Aston Martin DBS or a Jensen Interceptor. Good though build quality and equipment levels were – there was even a drop-down tray full of tools and spares in the panelled bootlid – under the skin the news was not so good. Karmann’s rust protection was minimal.
Values fell to rock bottom in the 1980s when many cars were neglected. Finally the rare, homologation-special CSL began to attract attention. Just 1265 were made, using thinner steel throughout, plus aluminium bonnet, bootlid and doorskins. It is now highly collectable, the ultimate being the 3.2-litre ‘Batmobile’.
Outside the UK, left-hookers had Perspex side windows, polycarbonate bumpers, plus no power steering or soundproofing and less trim – but many were specified with normal glass and even steel doors. Alpina-modified cars are even more sought-after. As CSL prices surged, interest increased in the svelte, highly usable coupé from which it was derived. They all cost much the same to restore: roughly £35,000 for a professional bodywork rebuild, and c£50k for the mechanicals plus trim.
Some CSLs have been reshelled into standard bodies: carefully touch the roof to see how thin it is. Sourcing a rot-free E9 from the US is tempting, although it will need other work; the engines were lower compression, and had power-sapping emissions equipment from late 1972, plus 5mph impact bumpers from late ’73. Most exterior trim is available, but some items can be difficult to fit, so assess what is missing if buying a project.
Build details are available from BMW Classic; the VIN should be on the heater bulkhead, on a plate in the engine bay, on the ring around the starter and on the transmission case. CSLs begin 2-275- (2-285- RHD), bar the first 169 (2986cc engine), which were in the 3.0 CS range (2-210- to 2-212-). See e9-driven.com/E9_Vins.asp for more information.
Images: Tony Baker
BMW E9: what to look for
See above for trouble spots
Given regular maintenance, the M30 single-overhead cam engine is long-lived but corrosion in the alloy head passages can lead to blowing gaskets, and head cracks from plug hole to exhaust seat. Check for emulsion on the oil-filler cap and overheating: a blown gasket means potentially very expensive engine work to avoid recurrence.
Look for leaking struts, broken springs and worn suspension bushes that will wreak havoc with the poised handling. Steering box should have minimal play.
Be meticulous when checking CSLs for authenticity: numbers should match the chassis plate and pattern of spot-welds on the inner wing should be as seen here.
These correct 14in wheels are often swapped for 16in; confirm that originals are still with car. All-disc braking system is complex, so check it is in good order.
Bosch D-Jetronic injection is reliable and all parts are available; faults are usually caused by misinformation. Twin Zeniths on carb models can be overhauled.
Standard CS trim was vinyl or cloth, with hide a desirable option; CSL had Scheel seats that are prone to sagging. Pieces at sides are unique to CSL and often lost.
Sturdy Getrag four-speed manual ’box lasts well; worn synchros/noisy bearings will only manifest on high-mileage cars. A five-speed Getrag was a rare option.
BMW E9: on the road
All E9s should feel effortlessly quick and pull strongly from low revs. Sluggish performance may be due to a worn camshaft and rockers; a £2000 top-end overhaul (plus £1000 labour) should put it right, if the bottom end is still strong. Blue smoke, knocks and rumbles are the telltales if it’s not, in which case budget £5-10,000 for a full rebuild.
Inspect for oil leaks, especially from the rear crank seal (about a day’s time to replace), gearbox output flange and diff flanges. Exhaust manifold cracks are common.
Bosch D-Jetronic injection can be upgraded to L-Jetronic if desired. A few owners have fitted uprated ECUs from suppliers such as Haltech to give more precise control; others fit triple Weber carburettors for more power. Some cars have been modernised with later running gear, including engines and five-speed gearboxes from a 5 or 6 Series BMW. If this is done well, these cars achieve prices that reflect the quality and cost of the work that has gone into them.
Automatics used ZF ’boxes to May 1972, then Borg-Warner 65 units; both were strong, but the latter is prone to leaks. Again, later, more sophisticated transmissions do get fitted.
Check autos for clean fluid up to level, and functioning kickdown. Rear axles rarely give trouble, unless run dry (look for leaks); CSLs had limited-slip diffs, which were optional on other models.
Wallowy handling from the rear end is likely to result from worn dampers, as well as soggy rear suspension and subframe bushes. Two servos are fitted to cars with all-disc brakes, and they are not cheap to replace, so test for uneven braking.
BMW E9 price guide
2800 & 3.0 CS
- Show/rebuilt: £32,000
- Average: £19,000
- Restoration: £5000
- Show/rebuilt: £35,000
- Average: £24,000
- Restoration: £6000
- Show/rebuilt: £48,000
- Average: £34,000
- Restoration: £9000
- Show/rebuilt: £140,000
- Average: £90,000
- Restoration: £30,000
BMW E9 history
1965 2000 C/CA/CS introduced
1968 Dec E9 2800 CS production starts: 170bhp, 0-60mph 8.5 secs, 128mph
1969 2800 CSA (auto) option added
1970 Feb 2000 CS/CA manufacture ends
1971 3.0 CS replaces 2800; 180bhp in twin-carb CS (0-60mph 8 secs, 131mph); 200bhp injected CSi added (0-60mph 7.5 secs, 139mph)
1972 May 3.0 CSL announced, to homologate for ETCC, 1265 built; CSA Borg-Warner 65 replaces ZF
1972 Aug CSL up to 3003cc to race in over 3-litre class
1973 CSL up to 3153cc, homologated July with ‘Batmobile’ kit: airdam, front wing-top fins, roof spoiler, large rear wing. CSL wins European Touring Car Championship, repeated 1975-’79
1974 UK cars get new 6in-wide alloys, adjustable steering column, leather option etc; outside UK,
2.5 CS model added for economy, just 874 built
1975 Nov E9 replaced by E24 6 Series
1976 3.5 CSL wins Group 5 World Championship
The owner’s view
Kiwi John Hudson divides his life between NZ and London, and has CSLs in both: “I’ve had one in New Zealand for more than 30 years. I have a passion for BMW – it’s the only car I’ve owned that I’ve not had to modify to be happy with it. I saved this one from being made into a racer; I also have a CS and a CSi shell that will become a racer.
“I found my UK CSL seven years ago and spent five years rebuilding it. There was grass growing through it and parts missing, it had been bodged on the sills, had the wrong wheels and had minor damage at the rear, but the inner-wing spot-welds were all original and the interior was still in place. I did 4000 miles in the CSL in 2016, including two trips to Germany. I love driving it; the visibility is amazing.”
Maserati V6-powered SM was conceived as a sporting DS and was a technical tour de force. Complexity and rust make it costly to restore, but comfort, handling and brakes are superb.
Sold 1970-’75 • No. built 12,920 • Mpg 14-23 • 0-60mph 9.3/8.3 secs • Top speed 139/142mph • Price new £6369 (1974) • Price now £20-40,000
Launched earlier, the XJC could have been a serious rival to the E9. Build quality wasn’t great, but it was stylish, quick and rode superbly. Rot has claimed many; V12s and Daimlers are rare.
Sold 1974-’77 • No. built 10,375 • Mpg 12-22 • 0-60mph 8.8/7.6 secs • Top speed 124/148mph • Price new £4315 (XJ6C, 1974) • Price now £10-35,000
BMW E9: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
The E9 is a quality car that, in good condition, is a delight to drive. But after many years in the doldrums, followed by a price explosion, many hide poor past repairs, swapped parts and identity crises.
If in doubt, check with BMW and the Car Club before buying and avoid incomplete/rotten projects unless very special, or you are an experienced restorer.
- Rakishly handsome looks
- Outstanding all-round vision
- Smooth, powerful straight-six
- Prices are still rising
- Many components are rare and costly
- Corrosion can be very extensive and extremely expensive to rectify
- CSLs may not be what they are claimed to be
BMW E9 specifications
- Sold/number built 1968-’75/30,765
- Construction steel monocoque
- Engine iron-block, alloy-head, sohc 2494/2788/ 2986/3003/3153cc straight-six, twin Zenith carburettors or Bosch D-Jetronic injection; 148bhp @ 6000rpm-206bhp @ 5600rpm; 156lb ft @ 3700rpm-211lb ft @ 4200rpm
- Transmission Getrag 4-speed manual or ZF/Borg-Warner 3-speed auto, driving rear wheels via limited-slip diff on CSL (optional on other models)
- Suspension independent, at front by MacPherson struts rear coil springs, semi-trailing arms; telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar f/r
- Steering power-assisted ZF-Gemmer worm and roller, 4 turns lock-lock (assistance optional at first)
- Brakes 2800 front 10.7in discs rear 9.84in drums; all others 10.7in vented discs f/r, with servo(s)
- Length 15ft 31/4in (4655mm)
- Width 5ft 53/4in (1670mm)
- Height 4ft 6in (1372mm)
- Wheelbase 8ft 71/2in (2630mm)
- Weight 2845-3024lb (1293-1375kg)
- 0-60mph 9.7-7 secs
- Top speed 124-137mph
- Mpg 17-22
- Price new £7399 (CSi & CSL, 1974)