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  •   Chris Hrabalek reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    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.

    The #BMW-3.0CSL-E9 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.

    Fantasy Junction
    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
    Engine #M30B30 3.0 Litre Twin-Turbo 6-Cylinder
    Transmission 5-Speed #ZF
    Stock FJ1417
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  •   Chris Hrabalek reacted to this post about 4 years ago

    Eight grand. A lot of money, right ? Just think what you could spend it on, assuming you had it going spare. What’s that? It’s still possible to pick up a house, flat or cottage for that kind of money? Not where I live, baby. Besides, if that’s the way you think we’re not speaking the same language. I said ‘spare’.

    How about a whole fleet of 2CVs? Silly person, you can’t drive more than one at once. A modest little yacht, maybe? Schmuck. You really want everyone to know you’ve got maritime tendencies? A fragile Italian car with the vroomiest engine and the most tasteless interior in the whole world? Count me out, moonbeam.

    You know what I’d buy if I had eight grand to play with? I’d buy me one of the sharpest cars in the world. It would be immaculately designed, tastefully finished, beautifully engineered. It would be ridiculously comfortable, it would be fast, smooth and would handle impeccably. Above all, it would be civilised. It would probably be a #BMW-3.0CSi-E9 .

    You heard. A three-litre petrol-injected coupe, fresh off the Bayerische Motoren Werke shelves. It’d be long and blue, preferably a nice metallic turquoise. I’ve got it all figured out. Just the right proportions of glass to steel and enough ‘options’ in the straight package to leave me happy, just playing with the electric windows all day long. Forget the lightweight CSL, with or without the ‘Special’ (stripes and wings) pack. What do you think I am, flash?

    Mind you, I’m luckier than most. Most people can only daydream. Just occasionally, though, some of us get the chance to put it into reality. And I’ve just had a #BMW-3.0CSi for ten days. Yeah, surprise.

    Stroll nonchalantly out to the carpark, a new set of keys clasped in the cleanest hands this side of ‘The Lancet.’ Paranoia begins with a 3.0CSi. Why, people are actually staring at me. Is it that obvious?

    Open the door. Big door, lip till now I’d been asking myself if it really looks like eight grand. Open up that driver’s door and it even smells like eight grand. Sit in, but gingerly. Adjust the seat, bouncing a little in the process. Feels a little hard after countless cheaper makes, but it inspires the feeling that I could drive a million miles (for one of your smiles?) and climb out feeling as relaxed as when I started.

    And relaxed is the only way to describe it. It starts easily, the automatic choke sensing itself into operation. The clutch is light enough to require effortless operation, heavy enough to let you know it’s there. Into gear — slightly notchy, but nothing to worry about — and the clutch comes in as smoothly as an encyclopaedia salesman’s patter. A squeeze on the accelerator, the merest touch on the power-assisted steering and I’m moving. Can it really be that easy? You mean some people actually drive like this all the time?

    Ridiculous. It feels as if I’ve been driving it all my life. Snick, snick, difficult to stay cool about a car that feels this good. I must remove the smug look, I’ll be spotted as a masquerading upstart easy as pie. Snick, snick, I don’t even need to overtake people properly. They are actually moving out of the way. Ridiculouser and ridiculouser. There’s got to be a good reason for flooring the throttle — hell, who needs one. And guess what ? It's got to be one of the smoothest engines I’ve ever whizzed round the rev band. Easy, solid power, all the way round. Next time out I’m going to need a neck brace.

    Journey’s end before I’ve even realised I’ve started. This is getting serious. I thought motoring was supposed to be fun. This is a whole new ball game. No sweat, just complete relaxation. I figure I’m as comfortable as I’m ever likely to be, in a car as close to perfect as I’d ever want it to be.

    The interior’s just fine. Cloth upholstered seats, nice drop of quality carpet. Not a great deal of legroom in the back, but sit an ordinary mortal in the hot seat and by the law of averages he’d have to move it forward a good six inches.
    You’ll never find a fascia like this on, say, a Japanese car. It’s not overdone, there’s nothing flashy about it, it's just all there and in the right place. Steering column's adjustable for length, and the trimming can’t be faulted — even all that wood's real. The four big instruments — speedometer, rev counter, clock and I multipurpose gauge — tell me all I want to know. Quickly, easily, and without distracting me. I have all the controls I need at my fingertips, and incidental switches are never far away.

    The electric window rocker switches, for instance, are set on either side of the gearstick. Two each side, one each for back and front windows. Slow the windows may be, but strong enough to crack a walnut; should you feel the need.

    They seem to sum the whole thing up, really. They didn't have to be that good — a perhaps cheaper installation would have been perfectly adequate. But BMW have left nothing to chance, and everything is just that bit beefier than it need be, just to make sure.

    (One good reason for the strength is that in a true pillarles coupe such as this, sealing and wind noise could be something of a problem. They aren’t. But I do wish there wasn’t a duplicate pair of switches for the rear seat passengers to play with. Sod it, they’ve got seatbelts already.)

    I’m simply not interested in finding fault. I could criticize the speaker grille for flimsiness, but then you don’t normally let Dron loose in a car, hellbent on seeing which bits come off. Besides, the VHF radio more than compensates. Slightly less forgivable, though, are the steering wheel vibration and location of ashtrays. The ashtrays, set in the doors, are almost impossible to manage without double joints, certainly without taking your eyes of the road. And invariably the ash is blown off long before it drops in. Ah well, suppose I could always give up smoking.

    And back on the road. The complete smoothness. In every respect, of the thing is quite staggering. Driven the apparent gaps between the gears — at certain speeds! I’m aware of a feeling that I’m too fast for the gear I’m in, yet too slow for the next one up. It disappears quickly, the flexibility and torque of the injected straight straight six taking care of any doubts on my part. An automatic box is the real answer, although the change in carburation means losing a few brake horsepower.

    And at speed the thing’s equally disquieting. The amazing power-assisted steering is second to none I’ve encountered, with a light but positive feel right the way from a traffic crawl to the 130-odd top speed, wet or dry. I’ll repeat that: wet or dry.

    The #M30 2985cc 222bhp SAE (200bhp DIN) engine ( #M30B30 ) pulls smoothly right up to 6400rpm, and a top speed of 136mph. Accelerating up to the limit, speeds through the gears are truly astonishing. First gear will see 38mph, second’s good for 65 (0-60mph in 7 ½ secs), and third runs out at 102mph. So much for the once-magic ton. All this, and the fuel consumption between 20 and 25mpg. Or even better, driven carefully.

    And you know the real turn on? That tremendous feeling of absolute confidence. Of knowing that those great big discs all round will haul it to a stop with no apparent effort. With the redesigned suspension (‘for ride comfort’) and stronger torsion bars front and rear, the handling’s as neutral as you’ll find anywhere, the minimal understeer turned into power oversteer at a touch of the throttle.

    It’s all too easy to break the law in a car like this. Safety at speed is one thing, but when there’s virtually no sensation of speed it really does make a nonsense of a 30mph limit.

    I could carry on eulogising for hours, but I keep coming back to that price tag. Assuming that a #BMW 2002 is worth close on three grand (and it is, every penny), is there really five thousand’s difference ? Mixed feelings here on the staff. Some say yes, others an emphatic no. All depends on your social standing, aspiration and means. And since none of us figures anywhere in those terms of reference, we’d all have difficulty justifying a £7,870 cheque for the sheer pleasure the car gives.

    The specifications are interesting, but largely academic here. Anyone buying the car doesn’t need to know the grubby bits, and anyone merely daydreaming has got the pix to drool over. If you really want to know, check them out with your local dealer. We’ve a few more photographs we’d like to use, on the assumption that they tell a whole lot more about the car than a few thousand more hysterical words.

    One thing’s for sure, though. I now have a whole new set of standards to measure other, less outstanding cars against. Things will never be the same again.
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