Ugly Duckling BMW's 2000C Odd Ball developed into the Jaw-Dropping CS. BMW’s E9 model, badged as the CS, is one of the firm’s most recognisable and cherished vehicles. Sporting either 2800CS or 3.0CS, it won the hearts with a near perfect balance of practicality, classy aesthetics and sporting performance. Adding to the enigma was the brutal-looking and race track-killing CSL variant that, thanks to its plethora of large aerodynamic aids, earned the ‘Batmobile’ nickname. Stuart Grant discovers the odd-looking, less powerful 2000C is the unlikely forerunner to these easily identifiable icons.
Let’s clear this up right away. The 2000C is an odd-looking car. Not really ugly, just odd. But it does grow on you and once you’ve driven one you will more than likely want to add it to your collection of Beemer coupes. Launched in 1965 the single carburettor 2000C (Coupe) and twin carb 2000CS (Coupe Sport) made use of mechanicals from the New Class BMWs, meaning that the majority of underpinnings and M10 engine were like those found in the later 2002 model. In C format the 1990cc motor pumped out 100bhp at 3300rpm DIN, while with extra fuelling on the CS was claimed at 120bhp. Power went to the rear wheels via 4-speed manual as standard, but the C could be ordered with a 3-speed auto box and top speed came in at just under 180km/h. Around 10,000 CS versions and 3692 Cs left the Cs left the factory between 1965 and 1969. The fact that only 443 of these Cs were in manual guise gives a slight inkling that this was a car for styling and cruising rather than out and out sport driving. That said, the zero to 100km/h (0-62MPH) was more than acceptable for the time at 10.4 seconds, and BMW did see to it that the stopping ability was up to scratch with boosted front disc brakes and drums at the rear.
Road manners, thanks to fully independent suspension, were akin to the BMW sporting saloons of the period and that world famous steering feel and feedback was already in evidence.
Debate rages as to who penned the shape, with some mentioning Michelotti and others claiming it as an in-house effort by Wilhelm Hofmeister inspired by Bert one’s earlier 3200CS. What is certain is that German coach builder Karmann manufactured the cars, perhaps why there are some styling similarities to the Karmann Ghia Type 34. What jolts those with a keen BMW eye is the lack of side grilles in the front panel, with just a relatively large double kidney grille finding a home. The rest of the front facia is solid steel with a row of ventilation slots lurking behind the chrome bumper providing the cooling system and engine with fresh air. In what is now common practice, the headlights were located behind a curved glass covering but American legislation saw to it that cars from across the pond kept traditional individual units.
Moving rearward, the Ugly Duckling gradually evolves towards a swan with the profile from the windscreen back pure 2800 and 3.0CS beauty. Not surprising when you find out that BMW simply extended the front end and restyled the front valance with the arrival of its longer, more powerful and silky smooth straight 6-cylinder in #1968
Opening the pillar-less doors and climbing inside the cabin continues this theme of confusion with a mix of classic #BMW
and something a little strange. Like the 2002 the large glass area makes for a light and airy interior - the seats, door panels and handles are exactly as you’d find in other BMW models of the era, but the steering wheel complete with chrome hooter ring and the abundance of wood on the dash look more like Scandinavian furniture than typical form follows function BMW.
In some ways the 2000C and 2000CS were BMW’s attempt at becoming the average Joe Motorist’s fashion accessory, giving those that wanted a stylish coupe, without the added expense of blistering performance, a chance of owning one - they weren’t cheap but were within reach of those looking at BMW saloons.
In 1969 production came to an end, not because of the looks but rather because the German giant had just introduced the 2800CS 6-cylinder BMW E9 version, which looked and went a lot better.
Shoehorning the longer engine into the old 2000C was not an option so the wheelbase and overall length was extended to make for a larger engine bay. While fiddling with the front end, designers adopted the appearance of the firm’s 6-cylnder E3 saloons so the CS got the traditional double-kidney flanked by a set of horizontal slatted grilles and circular lights.
Removing the slab front improved the aerodynamics, which, combined with the 2788cc 6-pot delivering 168bhp, drastically improved BMW’s coupe performance in the 100km/h sprint to 8.3 seconds and top speed jumped to 200 kays an hour. A 4-speed transferred the oomph to the exact same back end as the Ugly Duckling initially but this was upgraded to suit over time, including the addition of rear brake discs. Road tests raved about how, when driven sedately, the twin Sol ex carburettor 2800CS was unbelievably smooth and quiet but when provoked would wake up and become a driver’s car, eating up the roads with both grunt and handling ability. Ride remained comfortable, some would say even soft, and the addition of power-steering didn’t detract from the class-leading feedback seen in the 2000CS and making it a lot easier to park, even with the stockier rubber fitted to the new alloy wheels.
BMW also kicked the oddball interior into touch with the 2800CS, reverting to an uncluttered and very unflashy appearance with wood trim now only a highlight and not overwhelming. It wasn’t a cheap car though but fit and finish came from the top drawer; mod-cons like electric windows upped the game and detailing was exemplary - for example the well stocked toolkit that hinged out from a compartment in the boot lid, set the trend for Beemers for years to come.
By 1971 model year BMW had enlarged the 2800 to 2986cc and rebadged it 3.0CS or 3.0CSi, the CS featuring twin Zenith carbs and the CSi Bosh D-Jet fuel injection. The C.S was good for an 8.2 second 0-100km/h while the CSi galloped in 7.5 with 180bhp and 200 respectively. CS top speed was recorded at 211 and the CSi at 224km/h. When the fuel crisis hit in 1973 BMW' reacted by swapping out the engines for a 2494cc 150bhp unit but only 874 were made before the E9 production came to a close in 1975.
During the 3-litre period BMW also developed a lightweight homologation special in order to go racing in the form of the 3.0CSL - L standing for Lightweight. The use of aluminium panels drastically dropped the weight 200kg and additions of a rear wing, front air dam and various other aero gadgetry to the later 3.2-litre version helped keep the CSL grounded while also earning its Batmobile nickname. Initially the 3.0CSL had a capacity of 3.003cc to bump it up into the over 3-litre racing class and then 3153cc. Toine Hezemans scooped the 1973 European Touring Car Championship in a CSL and teamed up with Dieter Quester to notch up a class win at Le Mans the same year. CSLs went on to win the same championship from 1975 to 1979, excelled Stateside in the IMSA GT class with the likes of Brian Redman and Ronnie Peterson at the wheel, while Jody Scheckter and Gunnar Nilsson drove one to victory in the 1976 Kyalami 1000km race.
Artists Alexander Calder and Frank Stella confirmed the beauty of the E9 BMW when they were commissioned to create BMW’s first two Art Cars on a pair of 3.0CSLS. Who would have thought such exquisiteness could have come from such an ugly duckling - three cheers for the 2000C and 2000CS! The world of motoring is a better place because of you.