Living in the Shadow – the very rare BMW 2000CS was the predecessor to the E9 Coupé but was it any good? Just about every BMW fan knows about the E9 CS coupés that spawned the iconic CSL but its predecessor, the 2000CS, is often unfairly overlooked. Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith.
There are some BMWs that have earned their place in history for their superb performance, some for their stunning looks and some that have an untouchable motorsport pedigree, and an occasional few that have managed to combine all three. And then there are models that seem to have passed under the radar, forgotten by all but the most dedicated enthusiasts.
BMW 2000CS 1965
|ENGINE:||Four-cylinder, SOHC, eight-valve, M10 BMW|
|MAX POWER:(DIN)||120hp @ 5600rpm|
|MAX TORQUE: (DIN)||123lb ft @ 3500rpm|
|PRICE WHEN NEW:||£3365 (1965)|
The BMW 2000CS is one such car. Given that it eventually spawned the stunning E9 CS Coupé line and the iconic CSL, it must surely be one of those aforementioned machines that has the looks, performance and motorsport genes; it’s surprising that it’s been overlooked for so long. As has been well-documented, BMW was on the brink of financial disaster at the end of the 1950s but the little 700 and the ‘Neue Klasse’ Saloon that made its debut in 1962 brought the company back from teetering on the edge of the abyss and the 2000CS was the company’s first attempt at producing a more upmarket machine that was in keeping with its aspirations to bring the company back to the level it had been before the war when it had been at the top of its game.
The 2000C and CS were launched in 1965 and used the Neue Klasse’s hardware in a two-door body that was the work of BMW’s chief stylist at the time Wilhelm Hofmeister – of the kink fame. It might have been designed in-house but BMW farmed out the construction of the CS to Karmann in Osnabrück and this was the start of a long association, with Karmann also building the E9 CS Coupé as well as the shells for the E24 6 Series. Once the bodies were complete they were shipped to Munich to have the rest of the components fitted.
Opinion seems to have been divided somewhat on how successful Hofmeister was at creating the low-slung machine with a light and airy glasshouse. From the rear it was a very convincing shape but there were complaints about the treatment of the car’s front. The kidney grilles were somewhat oversized and while you can’t see it in the pictures (we’ll come onto why in a moment) the 2000CS had rectangular shaped headlights rather than the round items that had been a feature before, and ever since. At the time it was seen as being a little quirky, interesting and enigmatic but perhaps history has been unkind to the CS as we now know that with a few tweaks to the CS’s shape the E9 Coupés cars that arrived in 1968 look so much better with their elongated noses and sweeter frontal treatment.
The C and CS were the first BMWs to use the 2.0-litre version of the BMW M10 four-cylinder engine from the Neue Klasse and in the C on a single carb it developed 100hp while the CS with twin Solexes could muster 120hp. Performance was not going to set the world on fire and contemporary reports suggest a 0-62mph time of around 11 seconds and a top speed of 110mph. Respectable for the day but when the car’s high price was taken into consideration it needed to offer a lot more style to make up for the somewhat lacklustre vital statistics. At the time the CS wasn’t manufactured by BMW in right-hand drive form so the cars that did make it to the UK were actually converted for driving on the left side of the road by a miniature production line set up by the then BMW Concessionaires in Portslade. Most of the parts used in swapping the steering wheel from the left to the right were sourced from BMW, bar the wooden dashboard that was British made. As BMW didn’t make the oblong standard headlights with a beam pattern suitable for a right-hand drive car the UK concessionaires installed the quad round setup that we can see in the pictures which were also fitted to North American machines, too, although obviously set to dip in the opposite direction.
Just 148 CS’s were converted for UK consumption out of a total production run of 13,691 (C and CS combined) although the Portslade production line also converted a number of cars that were destined for other right-hand drive markets around the world. The low number of UK cars can be easily understood when you consider that it cost an eye-watering £3365 and at the same time you could have bought a Jaguar E Type 2+2 for just £2245 and the Jaguar offered more style and more performance. You must have really wanted a 2000CS to have purchased one back in the mid-‘60s.
The car we have here today belongs to Matthew Swanborough and we’ve just collected it from Munich Legends where it has been having a bit of a check over and general fettling. Its bright red paintwork and chrome detailing are certainly helping to pierce the gloomy winter’s morning. If you approach the car from the rear three-quarters angle you do have to do a little bit of a double take when you reach the front, as from the rear it does to all intents and purposes look like the later E9 CS. The front end, though, is a little stubbier (it had to be elongated to make space for the E9’s straight-six) and the combination of the highmounted headlights and the oversized kidney grille give it a slightly gawky look. It’s not unattractive, just not as pretty as the later cars and back in the day the 2000CS must have felt like Brigitte Bardot’s older sister. It’s interesting to note that the CS continued in production until 1970 – two years after the 2800CS made its debut – and it would be interesting to see how many found homes once the more glamorous sibling had come to market.
It cost an eye-watering £3365 and at the same time you could have bought a Jaguar E Type 2+2 for just £2245.
Matthew wasn’t originally looking for a 2000CS, as he recounts: “I was in the market for a 2002tii but I found them to be quite disappointing when I looked at a couple. Then, thanks to some clever listing title details, a 2000CS showed up on a popular auction site when I was searching for a 2002. It happened to be one mile away, so I went and looked, fell in love, and the rest is history!” That wasn’t actually the car we can see here, though, as that first CS required a complete restoration and having recently become a father Matthew realised he wouldn’t have the time to do the car justice, so he sold it to another enthusiast. He was, however, sold on the idea of the 2000CS and vowed to buy another when the opportunity arose: “I was completely taken with the 2000CS’s looks, lines and rarity. They are truly beautiful in person and as a BMW lover I feel that they stand as an important part of BMW’s fine history and as a predecessor to the more common and seductive E9 it should be admired as a part of history.” Eventually Matthew found another 2000CS and while it wasn’t perfect it had spent its life in a dry part of South Africa and as a result it hadn’t been affected by rust which is the big killer of these cars.
“I don’t have a huge amount of history with the car but the story goes it was a well-known car in Bloemfontein in South Africa, which has desert-like conditions and was a doctor’s weekend car,” Matthew tells us. “When I bought the CS it had just had a light respray due to being sun-faded on the roof and bonnet. I did some further work to the car but struggled to source parts in South Africa, as there seem to be even less of them over there. The colour and the condition of the car really attracted me to it – given how rare they are in any country, to find one in such stunning original condition made me jump.”
Munich Legends proved to be very helpful in sourcing parts for the car: “It was missing things like the gear knob, boot badge, horn press on the steering wheel, and it was running a bit lumpy. Sourcing parts was relatively easy here in the UK, however not cheap. In my opinion, though, it is details like these that differ a good 2000CS from a great one,” says Matthew. Munich Legends also checked the car over and pronounced it to be structurally sound which was a relief as there are very few CSs that are still in fine fettle. The original shell had so many built-in water traps that any car that’s spent its life in a damp climate is potentially a real rust bucket.
It’s not unattractive, just not as pretty as the later cars and back in the day the 2000CS must have felt like Brigitte Bardot’s older sister.
While it’s obviously not going to feel like a quick car it’s still great fun to punt along once you’ve got used to it. The steering wheel is gargantuan and you could be forgiven for thinking it would be more at home on the bridge of the QE2, but once you’re used to its size the steering does prove to be pleasantly accurate and quite light on the move. Performance is less than sprightly and the gear change has a long throw compared to a modern machine but somehow it suits the car’s style. It’s not an out-and-out performer, more of a leisurely but hugely stylish cruiser. On the driving experience Matthew agrees that it’s great fun: “There is a rawness about driving a 45-year-old car that is hard to describe. The sporting feel in the coupé cabin with the pillarless windows opened on a beautiful summer morning is special, and the brilliant red paintwork on the bonnet reflecting the rich green countryside is eye-catching, even from inside the car. I’ve been fortunate to have driven all manner of sports cars over the years and never received as much attention as in this, including thumbs-ups and appreciative nods.” Despite the fact that he loves his 2000CS Matthew has decided to put it up for sale and it’s currently with 4 Star Classics looking for a new owner who will appreciate its charms. “The intention was originally to keep it,” says Matthew, “but I have to admit the thought of moving on and experiencing and owning other BMWs is also quite high on the priority list. My ultimate goal is an E28 M5. I will be very sad to part with it, and I have never owned a car with such a wonderful presence. While some cars appeal to some people and many people can appreciate a well-kept car, I have never known a car to have such universal appeal from passers-by. It seems everyone wants to comment or ask about the car, whether they’re five- or 85-years-old. Also, given its place in BMW’s history and the car it preceded, there is something quite humbling about the fact that 95 per cent of people of all ages claim they have never seen one before.” Overall the 2000CS deserves greater recognition. It was an important cog in the CSL’s wheel and had the 2000CS not been built we may never have had the E9 at all. It’s rare and has a quirky charm and now’s the time for it to emerge from the shadow of its illustrious younger brother.