Bridging the Gap TWIN-TURBO #1972 #BMW-3.0CS-E9
A classic #E9
3.0 CS that has been fully restored and has twin-turbo power under the bonnet! We look at a stunning E9 CS from California that manages to combine old-school cool with the more modern trend for turbocharging. The best of both worlds? Words: Ben Barry. Photography: David Bush.
was the first M Division model in all but name, setting M’s front-engined, naturally aspirated, rearwheel drive template that would endure for almost four decades. Only recently did M Division begin to diverge from that script, equipping its high-performance coupés and saloons with twinturbocharged engines in an attempt to maintain performance figures while also meeting more stringent mpg and CO² targets.
The car on these pages bridges that gap: it’s a beautifully restored Californian #BMW-E9
that packs a sixcylinder forced-induction punch, and today I’m going to be lucky enough to drive it. But this isn’t a CSL, and that certainly isn’t a 1 Series M motor lurking beneath the bonnet – it’s a 3.0 CS fitted with an only slightly more modern 530i engine (E12), but one to which twin turbos were added long before M even considered dropping its famed naturally aspirated engines.
The story starts back in 1994 when a technician at BMW specialist Moran Motorsport in Berkeley, California took a well-worn 3.0 CS into the company workshops and prepped it for a respray. Typically, rustprone E9s fare far better in California’s hotter climate than they do over here in northern Europe, but the bodywork still needed plenty of attention and the Moran technician decided he wasn’t going to go for half measures: his tired project was completely stripped bare, with all the suspension, interior, glass, doors, wiring and powertrain removed before the bodywork was bare-metalled in preparation for its fresh coat of gleaming white paint.
It was a labour of love for the technician, and he spent the next decade working his way over the E9 during his spare time until he was finally happy. The original 3.0 CSs came with a 3.0-litre, carburettor-fed straight-six but this car’s original engine was ditched during the project’s reassembly phase in favour of a 3.0-litre, fuel-injected M30 lump from a 1977 530i, which was uprated and fitted with the twin turbochargers. It’s a compact and neat installation that could easily be mistaken for a factory job and it’s tough to see the turbos when you open the bonnet, even if you do trace the two pipes that arc over the rocker cover and down into the engine bay’s depths. In fact, it’s only by getting on your knees and looking under the car that you can actually see the small turbos that are stamped with IHI logos. They feed directly from a Pfaff manifold straight back to the inlet manifold without passing through an intercooler on the way.
At the same time as the new engine was fitted, in went a more modern five-speed ZF manual gearbox to replace the original four-speed unit, plus a heavyduty clutch, limited-slip differential and beefed-up suspension, which included chunkier anti-roll bars. It took another decade for the interior to get any attention but in 2004 the leather seats, carpets, wood, dashboard, headlining and door panels were all either replaced or restored to their former glory, and today the interior still looks fantastic. Most recently, in 2008, the turbos were rebuilt and a new stainless steel exhaust fitted, as well as a highflow K&N air filter, upgraded fuel pressure regulator and blow-off valve.
Now this very unique #BMW-3.0CS
is up for sale, sparkling in the showroom at Fantasy Junction, a high-end classic and sports car dealer located across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. There are a pair of E36 M3 daily drivers parked around the back of the premises – company owner Bruce Trenery arrives in a tidy Dakar yellow example – but Fantasy Junction typically deals in Porsches, Ferraris, classic race cars and other exotics that can change hands for hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of dollars. So it says something that this is one of the few BMWs on its books; it’s big money at $49,000 – around £30k at today’s exchange rates – but then it is a pretty special car.
We follow Fantasy Junction staffer Chris Kelley over to Golden Gate Fields for our shoot, and the streetsleeper CS looks particularly cool in the Californian sunshine, cruising down the freeway with those crisp lines glinting in the sun. Only its more modern 17- inch alloys indicate that all is not what it seems – until Kelley accelerates.
There are no power claims made for the CS but even from where I’m sitting it’s clearly a very quick car; I’m in a US-market Hyundai Equus rental car, which boasts a 5.0-litre V8 pushing out 429bhp and 376lb ft but weighs 2065kg – this is not one of the Euro-spec econoboxes that proved so popular during the scrappage scheme! – and when Kelley accelerates hard up a straight freeway on-ramp in the CS, the hard-charging Hyundai only just matches it.
When we arrive at our location, Kelley hands me the keys. My turn. Click open the door handle, swing out the elegant driver’s door and you sit down onto those immaculate sports seats, with their squishy, flat bases and the impressive amounts of lateral support around your rib cage. Those elegantly thin pillars create an airy lightness and excellent visibility in the cabin – it feels almost like you’re wearing a goldfish bowl on your head, so high is the ratio of glass to metal and the ease with which you can place the car on the road. You notice the three-spoke steering wheel that’s canted away from you, the factory-fit aircon that still blows cold, and the wood dash with its four dials, a 150mph speedo and a rev counter with a 6400rpm redline dominating.
The only changes to the standard spec appear to be a short-shift kit and an aftermarket head unit together with some speaker pods that are tucked away in the footwells, but look closely and you’ll also see that there’s a pair of electric window switches and manual winders in both doorcards. The last owner apparently got so tired of fixing the notoriously tricky electric windows that he gave up, reasoning that it was easier to occasionally turn a handle than regularly dismantle the doorcards.
I turn the key in the ignition barrel and the straightsix settles to an even idle with a warm, fluffy burble emanating from the exhaust. I move off slowly, all too aware of what a covetable car this is. At low speeds the clutch is perfectly friendly, the steering feels meaty and slop free and the gear changes are noticeably direct but also physical and stiff-jointed. The engine, though, is perfectly well mannered, pulling from low revs without the slightest grumble or suggestion that it’s been tuned for more higher-speed business than this.
But start going faster and the twin-turbo setup really comes into its own, and when you accelerate hard in first gear the 17-inch rear Eagle F1s spin up in the dry and you feel the limited-slip diff lock up quickly, firing you down the road at a pace that’s hard to reconcile with those retro looks – especially for the poor souls you’ve just left for dead at the traffic lights.
Pull for second gear and those rear tyres hook up and feel perfectly capable of putting whatever you throw at them down to the surface, even when you give it plenty of throttle through the corners.
By now you’re really motoring, the nose rising up under heavy acceleration, the rear squatting down, and an element of slop introducing itself in to the now lighter steering around top-dead centre. It’s an easy car to drive, and the suspension remains perfectly compliant and daily-driver friendly, despite the uprated shocks and springs. But the thing that stands out most of all about driving this CS is the engine. It’s far from outrageously quick, but it’s sufficiently pokey to feel plenty fast enough by modern standards, and it’s certainly far faster than the immaculate 3.0 CSL that I borrowed from BMW UK’s heritage fleet a little while back. This turbocharged 3.0-litre is also very refined, with none of the uncouthness that you might expect from an aftermarket conversion: it pulls from next to no revs, gets a stride on at 2000rpm and really kicks after 4000rpm, but it’s all so beautifully integrated and free from angry steps in the rev range that you can’t imagine #BMW
doing it any better. The only thing I would prefer are uprated brakes – the CS’s pedal feel is too spongy for my liking, so a more modern system or even an uprated AP Racing setup would no doubt transform the car and imbue its driver with much more confidence.
After half-an-hour of driving, I reluctantly hand back the keys. Not everyone will like the idea of a mint CS that’s been so comprehensively played around with, but I do. Unlike so many classics, I can genuinely imagine driving this unique car each and every day, its balance of knockout looks and modern thrust proving a compelling combination. Tough to find in this condition in the UK, too.
And then comes the realisation that Fantasy Junction is just down the road from an international port, and that this one-off opportunity could be sailing its way to you in just a few weeks. Quite the tempting proposition, I’d say.
Tel: +1 510 653 7555
Those rear tyres hook up and feel perfectly capable of putting whatever you throw at them down to the surface.
Interior took ten years to restore and it’s beautifully finished. A modern stereo and window winders are the only additions.
Engine bay looks relatively standard aside from the extra pipework as the turbos are located low down. They certainly do the job though.
This turbocharged 3.0-litre #M30
is very refined, with none of the uncouthness you might expect from an aftermarket conversion.
VIN Code 2250293
Exterior Color – White elephant
Interior Color Black Leather
Mileage 2497 Miles
3.0 Litre Twin-Turbo 6-Cylinder
Transmission 5-Speed #ZF