|1972 BMW 3.0 CSL
|Original List Price:
|About $12,000 (this car was never sold in the United States)
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|Stamped into the firewall
|Engine Number Location:
|On left side of the block Club: BMW Car Club of America
|1973 Porsche Carrera 2.7 RS, 1970–74 Ford Capri RS 2600, 1963–77 Alpine A110
This car, Lot 15, sold for $187,500, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Quail Lodge Auction in Carmel, CA, on August 14, 2015.
The last time I wrote in these pages about an E-9 (BMW’s internal engineering designator for this generation of Karmann-bodied coupes), it was for the “Affordable Classics” column in August 2004 (p. 20). That bus left about six years ago, when these handsome coupes started catching on in the market.
I’ve owned a Euro-spec 2800 CS for nearly two decades — long enough that I bought it right (dirt cheap by recent valuations — and no, it is not for sale), but, like most fellow coupe owners of the time, tweaked it without fear of diminishing its value at the time.
Usually the changes were drivability upgrades, such as a 5-speed transmission, bigger brakes, and fuel-injection conversions. Those of us who longed for a CSL at that time were encouraged to take less-than-virgin E-9s strangling in smog gear and build them into Poor Man’s CSLs. After all, every single CSL in the United States was a gray-market import. All of this history and pent-up desire eventually helped build value in our subject 3.0 CSL.
The hierarchy of BMW desire
Our example is near the top of the desirability pecking order for E-9s. Top of the heap belongs to fully decked-out “Batmobile” CSLs — for road or track.
The Coupe Sport Leicht cars, without the air dams and wings but with the alloy body panels and Perspex windows plus fuel injection (like our subject car), are next in line.
Next down the list are the carbureted examples, then the “comfort” package CSLs (standard-issue seats, glass power windows and radios). These cars are ahead of fuel-injected 3.0 CSi cars.
Note that every single model in that list was not officially imported to North America. The best we got was the general-issue carbureted 3.0 CS, which got more smog gear each year until production ceased in 1975.
Obsolete — but not outdated
While the street-going CSLs were competent in their day, technology has marched on. IMSA-spec CSLs may do well and have lots of spectator interest in today’s vintage racing, but my 100k-mile C5 Corvette with street tires and the air conditioning on can outdo anything a CSL can do — without risking expensive body panels.
Back in the day, a CSL was more of a high-speed touring car than a track rat. BMW had to do a lot of re-engineering to make the CSL competitive in the German Touring Car series against the Ford Capris. The work involved more than just installing aluminum body panels and ditching the power windows. A lot of those esoteric changes to the track cars — such as lighter weight differentials that drove the alternator — didn’t make it to the street cars.
E-9s at moving events have now gone from Autocrosses and track days to gymkhanas and tours. This happened because the cars are getting more valuable — and there are plenty of newer, better BMWs out there.
That stated, those who lusted for a CSL from 1975 onwards don’t care. They love these cars, and they’re willing to pay for them now.
Rising interest and rising values
The CSL was a high-water-mark car for BMW, and it is a special car that attracts collector interest because potential owners have reached the financial ability to buy the car of their dreams.
Other comparable European cars of this same era have also soared in value, and the poster child for that is just about every pre-993-era Porsche 911. These BMWs are also winning popularity with younger gearheads.
These younger collectors realize that these “old cars” — which were built around the time they were born — are more fun to drive than the current Fly-by-Wire technology in just about every modern car that is zippier than a rental Kia.
This younger generation of collectors/enthusiasts may not be as great in numbers as the traditional Baby Boomer pool, but they are not afraid to spend money on what they want. And, yes, E-9 BMWs — especially CSLs — are on their short lists.
A steep rise
From the mid-1980s until roughly 2009, E-9 enthusiasts generally felt we were hiding in plain sight with these cars. They were priced between $10k to about $35k on a good day. When Rick Cole started collector car auctions on the Monterey Peninsula 29 years ago, he picked these cars as a sure bet to go up in value.
It took two decades for that to happen, but Cole was right.
When global interest in 1970s grand touring cars started to take hold, these cars were among the first to rise in interest and value. They quickly shot up in value.
Gasoline was poured on the fire when a BMW Classic-restored 1975 Batmobile CSL sold for $218,400 at Bonhams’ Dubai Auction in October 2010 (SCM# 167805). From there, the E-9 market blew red-hot, and we have only started to see price stabilization this year.
An example of this is the only other E-9 at Monterey this year: a 1973 3.0 CS at the Mecum auction. This car — a collection of newer parts in a body painted a modern BMW color — brought $35,750. Some said it sold cheap because the BMW enthusiasts were at Legends of the Autobahn. Others said that is was a no-numbers-matching car, so it appealed more to novices who want a driver rather than enthusiasts who are building a car investment portfolio.
Our example from Bonhams can be enjoyed on the street — provided that the new owner is in a state that will license a privately imported car. California is not one of them.
Yet as a global market car, it has an enthusiast base that ranges from Antigua to Arkansas. This car is not a concours lawn ornament, and the repaint will keep it out of concours preservation classes. That said, the car still has a great deal of its originality, and it is still good enough to be considered investment quality.
The selling price, which surpassed the consignor’s reserve, can be seen as well sold or well bought, depending on whether you view the glass as half full or half empty. I’m tempted to say that the glass is half full, but it could be tipped over. Then again, I’ve drunk from that glass, and I would gladly have more. Well sold and well bought. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)