1976 BMW 3.0Si
6-cyl. 2985cc/176hp FI
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During the 1950s BMW utilized a split sales strategy of selling top-of-the-market products (such as the ultra-expensive BMW 507) alongside economy class transport (see the Isetta microcar and BMW 700) while mostly ignoring the wide middle of the market. This approach was less than successful, and ultimately was abandoned in the early 1960s. The Munich company instead began to focus on the mainstream appeal, only with a bias towards luxury and sportiness that they had earlier developed. This shift was embodied by the “New Class” 2000CS coupe, which debuted in 1965 with a two-liter four-cylinder mill and a rather funny face.
In response to critics, a new “New Six CS” was appeared in 1968 with a longer nose and a truly beautiful front-end treatment that became the BMW standard for many years. At the same time a 2.8-liter, 170-hp six replaced the old four. The car had a top speed of 128 mph while still featuring luxury accoutrements like power windows, leather seats, air conditioning, and rear level control, and it carried a price around $10,000 new. This list price put it squarely in line with other European luxo models, as Mercedes-Benz’s 1968 280SE six-cylinder coupe cost more than $9,100.
In 1972, BMW bored out the six to a nominal displacement of three liters and added rear disc brakes, at which point the car became known as the 3.0CS. The Bosch D-Jetronic injected version became the 3.0CSi and a lightweight version was known as the 3.0CSL. The latter was a highly successful European Touring Car racer in the mid-1970s. Neither of the latter two cars were officially imported into the U.S. Gray market examples abound. The last two model years in the U.S. were afflicted with large and unsightly bumpers.
The E9 coupe, as it is known today by its internal designation, has become a highly sought after car that is essentially the post-war standard for an understatedly elegant coupe. Unfortunately, the car’s lovely body is also its undoing. Karmann built the body shells for BMW and the car is essentially one of the prettiest ways to creatively trap moisture ever devised. Rust-free and well-restored examples are rare. The other Achilles heel of the E9 coupe is overheating and resultant cylinder head cracking. Many E9s have had 3.2- or 3.5-liter engine transplants from later E24 coupes. Interestingly, this seems to have little effect on values.