1974 BMW 3.0 CS
words by samuel cuthbert & Photography Courtesy of RM Auctions
BMW's first coupe was the 2000CS, and it was a beautiful design that set the standard for coupes that followed it. The thing is, it didn't drive quite as well as those looks might have led you to believe. The CS (Coupe Sport) evolved through its original 2.0-liter four-cylinder guise to the 2.5-liter 2.5CS and 2.8-liter 2800CS E9 six-cylinder versions (with an elongated front end to accommodate those engines that somehow created a more harmonious design) before reaching the car showcased in our album in 1971. It would stay in production until 1975 and at the final tally they had made around 4450 units. The next year the E24 would show up and take things to a new level - but that's a story for another time.
The 3.0 CS brought with it some significant improvements including ventilated disc brakes all around (compared to the 2800CS's solid front discs and rear drums) and an upgraded manual gearbox to better accomplish fast shifts. The 2800CS was light and precise, but the synchronizers were not to be rushed, so the 3.0 CS had a sightly stiffer action, but much improved synchros and a better driving experience for the enthusiast because of it. Much praise has been given over the years to the balance created between its uprated chassis and braking setup, compliant all-round independent suspension, and what road and track called "the most sophisticated inline-six in the world". It had that elusive mix of gorgeous styling, great handling, and a level of comfort that allowed all-day driving without fatigue - a truly successful GT. Road and Track summed it up at the time in 1973 better than I could looking back now:
No car is perfect. The BMW 3.0 CS though, comes perhaps closer than any other to being a perfect all-around car. It's handsome, stable, fast, comfortable, richly appointed, responsive, well-built and entertaining to drive. Interestingly it's not the most of any of these qualities; it's the CS's blend of all of them that makes it so great. Yes, it costs a bundle - all premium German cars do, but you can't get the same sort of car from anyone else.
To wrap things up, here's a '72 3.0 CS taking a lap around Thunderhill raceway so you can listen to that sophisticated engine for a few minutes.