I do not always expect to feature automotive royalty on this website, and more importantly I do not always expect to have access to a man as knowledgeable and as gracious with the information he has as I do here, so it is important to treat this issue with high respect.
To begin, a short history lesson is in order:
The BMW E9 (aka BMW New Six CS), is a two door Grand Tourer (GT) Coupe manufactured from 1968 to 1975. There were five versions, the first being the 2800 CS, followed by the 3.0 CS and CSi, the 3.0 CSL and finally the 2.5 CS.
The car was an evolution of the older underpowered 2000 C/CS. BMW had just made a straight six M30 170hp engine so they put the two together, and hence the 2800 CS was born. The 3.0 CS/CSI improved on that with fuel injection and optional A/T. There was also a smaller displacement, low production volume 2.5 CS made in the ’70s, built as an answer to the fuel crisis at the time.
The jewel of the line however, and the subject of this article is the 3.0 CSL (‘L’ for ‘light’ ie. ‘lightened’). A special homologated aka race – prepared version built on a limited run which became one of the most important racing BMWs ever made. Remember, BMW wasn’t always the giant company it is today. In the ’60s their production quality was top notch but they were expensive, and as a small brand struggling against established names it had to carve a niche in some way.
So in the hope of establishing a reputation as reliable yet sporty they decided to take their cars racing, an expensive and risky PR venture that would have made or broken them. Fortunately, they had this:
And boy did they make their mark.
Not only did they win Le Mans in 1973, it won five European Touring Car Championships and continued to win various races four years after the last model rolled out in 1975. More importantly those images of the ‘Batman’ BMW with its giant rear wing beating more established Porsches, Alfas and Fords were doing great favors to their image.
An image that the brand espouses today via their slogan ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’, ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’ and the like. Catchphrases that befit a quality built car you can drive to work while at the same time has the pedigree of a racing champion.
Here I interview Mechanical Engineer Haro Echter, who in the course of trying to find one eventually ended up owning and running a BMW E9 Workshop in Holland – in other words a man we car nuts like to call ‘our kind of guy’. Haro graciously shares with me his invaluable experience while trying to find and restore his own CSL, a venture that caused him to amass many parts, gain a ton of experience and make a lot of friends along the way.
Here is the interview in full.
Please tell me why the car was homologated.
The E9 was homologated because to compete in the European Championship in the ‘Standard’ class you have to race with a stock car. Meaning any car available to the public in every dealer in the land. The E9 ‘standard’ was way too heavy to compete with the Ford Capri in the Euro Championship around 1970’s. The rule was that the production number of that model has to be minimum 1000 pieces.
What had to be done to homologate the car?
The E9 was made in the Karmann factory. Most European car factories were hesitating to change their assembly lines for a small batch of a certain model. The E9 was planned to be a ‘special’, so BMW decided to have the production line at the Karmann factory. The standard E9 was made out of 0.85 mm steel plate. Weighing around 1360 kg. BMW ordered 1000 plus ‘Lightweights’.
In order to make the E9 lighter they used steelplate 0.73 mm for the body parts. The doors, hood and trunk were Aluminum. All hand grips and grilles were Chromed Aluminum instead of chromed steel.
Interior parts were as simple as possible to lose weight. The front seat were lightweight and the backseats were just foam shells, made by Scheel.
The CSL has some technical differences compare to the standard E9 . The brake system had discs in front and rear. The brake membrane-enhancer box was way bigger. Dutch race pilot Toine Hezeman asked BMW to add some wind splitters and spoilers on the car. So the last ’69 CSL’s were called ‘Batmobiles’.
How many were homologated?
1069 pieces were made. Lefthand steering CSL had a VIN starting with 2275*** and the Right hand steering CSL had 2285****
How did you come to have one?
There was one particular racing team with ‘maroon’ colored E9 from ASMOCO. Those were the only one without open pipes. Just silent race cars. Very special to see them passing by and you could only hear their tires rubbing the asphalt. I wanted to have on like that. Just my Ultimate Dream car.
Many years later I got a call from my Uncle Harry that he saw a strange BMW with only 2 doors and a ‘Italian’ body line. It was a E9 2800 CS handshift, grey metallic with blue velvet seats, 4 electric windows and a super smooth 6 inline engine.
You have to understand that Italian Car designer Bertone designed the Bertone 3200 CS for BMW around the 60’s and that model was the ‘Blueprint’ of the E9. BMW used the same bottom plate of the E12. They just ‘angled’ the front struts to get lower front body line.
That is where it got his weakness. The engine power gave the car a torque right at the weakest spot: the connection of the inner wing and the shocks. When racing there was a constant ‘flex’ that causes ‘fatigue’ in the plate. Every E9 over time, will show a broken front inner wing.
Bertone also designed the the Alfa Romeo GTV 2000. Same body line and the C post was a copy of the C post of the E9.
When I bought my first E9 I realized that BMW phased out this model. The European Law says that a car factory has to supply part at least 10 years after finishing production. First thing I did was searching for E9 parts. Dutch junkyards, BMW dealerships and private E9 owners knew, over years, that I was buying E9 parts. At first for my own use, but slowly I gathered so many spare parts that I began selling parts to other E9 owners.
This became so big that I got an old glass factory and started my own E9 shop. (I was) buying old E9s and disassembled them myself so all the parts were kept unbroken. The BMW dealerships in Holland, Belgium and Germany knew I was looking for overstock parts, so they regularly called me and offered a good deal as long as I took all E9 parts. BMW was not interested to maintain the E9 on the road. They wanted to sell newer models and discouraged E9 lovers to keep their car running.
I had some 120 E9 owners in my clientele who came every weekend to look for parts, conversations, technical advice and coffee.
One of the clients asked me to start a Club, but I told him he should start one. So the BMW Coupé Club Nederland was born. With a lawsuit from BMW because he used BMW in the club name.
Many years later BMW Nederland changed their attitude towards BMW Clubs . They became more supportive and we had our BMW Coupé meetings in BMW Dealerships on Sundays.
I was Technical Support Member and gave seminars during those Club meetings how to fix carburators or how to set valve clearance. In my business selling E9 parts I stumbled on an Italian CSL. (It cost) 17000 guilders to buy it, but my business partner at that time decided to sell it.
Many years later I finally got my own CSL , 1973 from Switzerland. Full -Welding all bottom and panels it became very sturdy. Daily driving and I went on European Race Tracks with the CSL club.