Collection of BMW E9 CS Coupés from South Africa

Collection of BMW E9 CS Coupés from South Africa

What’s in your Garage? A fantastic collection of E9 CS Coupés this month, all the way from South Africa.  We meet up with Frank Puncec, a true custodian of the E9 Coupé. He owns four of them including the only factory-original Batmobile in South Africa and an E3 Saloon with M535i underpinnings, for good measure… Words: Johann Venter. Photography: Oliver Hirtenfelder.

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In the early 1960s BMW needed to add a mid-size coupé to its Neue Klasse line-up so styling chief, Wilhelm Hofmeister, came up with the 2000CS, code-named E120. When introduced in 1965 it was considered a bit of an ugly duckling, with its slightly uncomfortable wraparound headlights. By 1968, however, it had been transformed into one of the most elegant coupés around – the E9 – with delicate roof pillars, a distinct absence of a B-pillar and a large expanse of glass. It had design influences from both Bertone and Michelotti. It was stylish and graceful, had a far neater front-end and, thanks to the newly developed in-line six-cylinder engine, had the performance, too. The new coupé bore a kink in the C-pillar and sported a shark-nose front-end – which would become a BMW hallmark for years to come.

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Frank Puncec truly has a fantastic collection of these Coupés and I chat to him to find out how he’s managed to own eight in the last 34 years. “I have my tennis career to thank for this great collection; I followed in my father’s footsteps. His name was Franjo Puncec and he had great success on the European circuit as a singles and doubles player representing the former Yugoslavia in the ’30s and ‘40s. During his career, he was the highest ranked Croatian in the world tennis rankings.”

With a collection like this you would have thought that E9 Coupés have always been part of Frank’s life, but I soon discover this isn’t actually the case. “I used to drive a 3.0-litre V6 Capri,” he chuckles. “It’s quite ironic actually; I went to Wynns 1000, the nine-hour endurance race at Kyalami, in 1974 to see the Ford Köln Capris (in white and blue livery) race. In those days you could access the pits and interact with the mechanics. Whilst doing so, I heard this magnificent thunderous sound. When I turned around I was faced with this winged wonder: a Batmobile. One of the drivers of the Batmobile was our very own F1 champion Jody Scheckter and that’s how the adoration and passion started.

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“Soon thereafter I saw a Fjord blue CSL flying past me on the highway and I knew then that I had to have one. It didn’t happen immediately, though. The Coupé kept on plaguing me; for example, when I was coaching tennis in Austria before getting onto the ATP circuit, a pupil of mine had an immaculate 1975 CSi E9 with leather interior. I started playing league matches in Germany in 1981. I nearly veered off the path by buying a Mercedes 280SL Pagoda in Düsseldorf because I really liked the shape. The very next day, though, I bought my first Coupé: a 1975 Fjord blue CSi.” After having lusted after the BMW it could so easily have been a letdown but fortunately the car more than lived up to Frank’s expectations: “By then I was playing on the ATP European circuit and used it to travel across Europe. It’s the best way to travel. It has no B-pillar so when you let the windows down and open the sunroof, it feels like you are driving a convertible. It’s a real wind-in-your-hair experience. I especially enjoyed driving the Coupé through the south of France.”

 This was only the beginning of Frank’s Coupé saga though: “I brought the CSi back to South Africa in ‘84, as I returned home for a while after an injury. When I returned to Germany I bought another Coupé, a 1973 turquoise CSi with a black interior in which I again crossed the European Continent a few times in. Unfortunately the romance did not last; the car was broken into and the radio and car’s papers stolen.” A shroud of disappointment covers his face. “I should have brought it back to South Africa; instead I sold it in Germany,” he explains.

That could easily have been the end of the E9 affair but, as Frank recalls with a broad grin across his face, nothing could have been further from the truth: “In 1989 I saw a Batmobile advertised at a Porsche dealership in Frankfurt. I was disappointed when I got there: it had the wrong springs, looked like a speedboat, and was totally covered in dust. That was in the October. Back in South Africa I accompanied my good mate Paul Casson when he bought his CSL Städtepaket. It was then that I realised I had made a gargantuan error by not having bought the Bat in Germany. In April the following year, as soon as I touched down in Frankfurt I phoned the Porsche dealer. Luckily the CSL was still there. On arrival I found that the Bat had been cleaned and once it was up on a lift, I inspected it and found it to be sound. When I test-drove it, it was quicker than I anticipated. “It turns out that when the car returned from Lichtenstein (where it went after leaving the factory), it underwent an upgrade back in Germany. Closer inspection revealed that a BMW dealership, Auto-Zentrum Bernhard Ernst in Witten, fitted an Alpina cylinder-head, cam, adjustable stabiliser bars (front and rear), and bigger discs and callipers in the front. I also liked the fact that the tappet cover and air box had been finished in black, with the speedo showing 300km/h, all continuing the Alpina theme.” However, despite its high spec it wasn’t exactly the perfect car for crossing continents in, mainly due to its rarity: “I didn’t dare use it every day; it was mainly parked in a friend’s temperature-controlled garage.”

Frank returned to South Africa shortly thereafter but just before he shipped the Bat back he received a rather tempting offer: “A well-known German CSL enthusiast called Werner Hunt offered me twice what I had paid for it. It was tempting but in the end I am glad I brought it home. It’s just as well, as I later used the front spoiler to create a mould so that I could make spoilers for the other Coupés!”

So far that’s the Fjord blue CSi and the white Bat accounted for, but how did the yellow Coupé find its way into Frank’s garage? “To start with it wasn’t yellow, more like a metallic olive green,” says Frank. “It was more like a barn-find, parked in a narrow little wooden garage, covered in junk. A university professor contacted me when he wanted to sell. He had heard of me through the Coupé Register. The professor acquired it from Ros Duncan who raced it. It’s a 1971 CSi and Duncan had removed the Kugelfischer fuel injection and replaced it with three side-draft Weber carbs and fitted a dog-leg ‘box. I drove it for two years, then I decided to respray it. I ended up removing and rebuilding the motor and fitted a 282-cam, and decided to keep the side-draft Webers. The interior is totally original, including the carpets, the roof-lining and the dashboard which is crack-free. It also has the original leather seats.”

If the interior is totally original the exterior isn’t, as I’m sure eagle-eyed readers will have spotted. Frank explains how the colour change came about: “When I was in Germany I’d seen the Golf yellow Coupés and thought that they looked rather dull. I wanted something more lively and thought Ferrari yellow would be the way to go. I needed to break up the yellow slightly. Black stripes are way too common and February 2013 issue of BMW Car] when he bought his CSL Städtepaket. It was then that I realised I had made a gargantuan error by not having bought the Bat in Germany. In April the following year, as soon as I touched down in Frankfurt I phoned the Porsche dealer. Luckily the CSL was still there. On arrival I found that the Bat had been cleaned and once it was up on a lift, I inspected it and found it to be sound. When I test-drove it, it was quicker than I anticipated.

“It turns out that when the car returned from Lichtenstein (where it went after leaving the factory), it underwent an upgrade back in Germany. Closer inspection revealed that a BMW dealership, Auto-Zentrum Bernhard Ernst in Witten, fitted an Alpina cylinder-head, cam, adjustable stabiliser bars (front and rear), and bigger discs and callipers in the front. I also liked the fact that the tappet cover and air box had been finished in black, with the speedo showing 300km/h, all continuing the Alpina theme.” However, despite its high spec it wasn’t exactly the perfect car for crossing continents in, mainly due to its rarity: “I didn’t dare use it every day; it was mainly parked in a friend’s temperature-controlled garage.”

 Frank returned to South Africa shortly thereafter but just before he shipped the Bat back he received a rather tempting offer: “A well-known German CSL enthusiast called Werner Hunt offered me twice what I had paid for it. It was tempting but in the end I am glad I brought it home. It’s just as well, as I later used the front spoiler to create a mould so that I could make spoilers for the other Coupés!”

So far that’s the Fjord blue CSi and the white Bat accounted for, but how did the yellow Coupé find its way into Frank’s garage? “To start with it wasn’t yellow, more like a metallic olive green,” says Frank. “It was more like a barn-find, parked in a narrow little wooden garage, covered in junk. A university professor contacted me when he wanted to sell. He had heard of me through the Coupé Register. The professor acquired it from Ros Duncan who raced it. It’s a 1971 CSi and Duncan had removed the Kugelfischer fuel injection and replaced it with three side-draft Weber carbs and fitted a dog-leg ‘box. I drove it for two years, then I decided to respray it. I ended up removing and rebuilding the motor and fitted a 282-cam, and decided to keep the side-draft Webers. The interior is totally original, including the carpets, the roof-lining and the dashboard which is crack-free. It also has the original leather seats.”

If the interior is totally original the exterior isn’t, as I’m sure eagle-eyed readers will have spotted. Frank explains how the colour change came about: “When I was in Germany I’d seen the Golf yellow Coupés and thought that they looked rather dull. I wanted something more lively and thought Ferrari yellow would be the way to go. I needed to break up the yellow slightly. Black stripes are way too common and I wanted it to stand out, so I went for green. It has the colour combination of our national football team, the Australian cricket team, and also the colours of the land of the Samba.”

It’s not just the cars that Frank’s interested in, though, as he was also instrumental in setting up the Coupé Register, too: “Doctor Stan Solarsh and I started the Coupé Register in South Africa in ’86; we placed an advertisement in the Star newspaper’s motoring section. At our first meet we had 28 cars. In those days whenever I saw a Coupé on the road, I would give chase and convince the owner to join the Register! We used to get together once a month but when Stan left for the States he handed me the info on the Register but it was out of date and I struggled to get in touch with most of the owners; there is just a handful of members left today.”

It might seem a like Frank simply holds onto every E9 that comes his way but that’s not quite the case: “I’ve always found good homes for the Coupés I’ve sold. In 2005 I sold a 3.0CS with fuel injection to the BMW Car Club Gauteng chairman, who has since done a complete restoration. I also bought a 2800CS from a guy who emigrated to Ireland. It was a very clean example. The previous owner found it in an aircraft hangar where it had been standing for 15 years. It was a very clean example with just one spec of rust and I sold that one to Paolo Cavelleri, the wellknown South African motoring enthusiast and race driver. He was looking for a straight Coupé to turn into a replica Batmobile racer.”

While the last E9 in our group photos is the red Coupé Frank does also own another one! “Before we get onto the red one I also bought another 1975 BMW CSi in Arctic blue. I bought it from a youngster working for a BMW dealership – he secured it from the original owner who was going back to Germany. My intention was to use it for parts, having said that the only thing I ever removed was the coil when I sold the 3.0CS to the BMW Club chairman!”

Back to the red Coupé, then: “I bought it in 2007. It was originally a 2800CS in white. The owner came to me seeking advice. I told him if he intended keeping it he needed to restore it, and if he didn’t then he needed to sell it. Unfortunately he passed on and it landed up with a youngster who found it completely dismantled. He tried to restore it, but couldn’t as he didn’t have all the parts, either, so I bought it from him. It has a 3.5-litre motor.”

Last but not least in Frank’s collection is the Polaris silver Saloon, the second BMW E3 he’s owned: “I bought it in 2005; a friend of mine that deals in classic cars had it on the showroom floor. I had to let my first 3.0L go but it went to a good home, though: wellknown BMW enthusiast and collector Chris Turner bought it. The original owner of my current E3 worked for Lola Racing. He put his skills to good use and converted it from a 2.5-litre Bavaria to a 3.5-litre using the engine and running gear from an E12 M535i. That is really what attracted me to this Saloon. When the owner immigrated to South Africa he had the sense to bring the car with him.” It really has some tasty bits that make it even more special: “Scheel seats, BMW M1 steering, air-con unit from a 3.0L, ABS brakes, five-speed overdrive gearbox and E12 mirrors which make it look slightly more modern.”

So what’s next for Frank’s collection? “The one car we’ve have not spoken about is my 1989 E34 535i Schnitzer. It is only one of five that BMW dealer JSN converted. In fact, the conversions were carried out by my good friend Alec Ceprnich who worked for JSN at the time. The motor is currently being redone.” Frank won’t be abandoning the E9s any time soon, though, and the Fjord blue CSi is due for some fettling soon: “Yes, there is a bit of rust from some hail damage that was never repaired properly, it’s such a nice original car that it will be well worth freshening up.”

Having owned E9s for the best part of 35 years there have been many high points for Frank: “I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the CS and CSL registries in Germany. Driving through the night from one end of Europe to another in a Coupé to go to a meet or classic car event was absolutely wonderful. I also met some of the biggest BMW Coupé ambassadors in the world, including the likes of Yannick Bernat, Dieter Tögel, and Marco Kögel.” As I end my conversation with Frank, I realise he has become one of those ambassadors, a true custodian of the E9 Coupés of the ‘60s and ‘70s.


Special thanks to: Ron Silke and Drive-My BMW E9 Club


“I drove it for two years, then I decided to respray it. I ended up removing and rebuilding the motor and fitted a 282-cam, and decided to keep the side-draft Webers”

“It’s the best way to travel. It has no B-pillar so when you let the windows down and open the sunroof, it feels like you are driving a convertible”

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