Buyer's Guide: BMW E9 Coupes

Photograph Courtesy BMW

Timeless lines married with just the right amount of utility. Thin pillars allowing a commanding view in nearly all directions. And that dominating motorsports pedigree.

We’re talking about the Porsche 911, right? Nope, the E9-chassis BMW coupe. In most cases, this means the 2800 CS (1968–’71) or the slightly more powerful 3.0 CS (1972–’75).

A high-performance variant, not imported at the time to the U.S., carried the 3.0 CSL designation, providing BMW with a homologation model for the day’s touring car scene. It brought more power along with less weight thanks to thinner sheet metal, aluminum body panels and plastic windows. The race version dominated Group 2 competition from 1973 all the way through 1979, well past the car’s production run.

No matter the guise, these are the models that slot between those first, slightly awkward-looking Neue Klasse coupes of the mid-’60s and the handsome, timeless 6 Series cars that soldiered on until the end of the ’80s. The E9 cars weren’t all-new, though, as they borrowed most everything aft of the windshield from their predecessors. Lengthening the nose, however, helped Wilhelm Hofmeister and team to nail the proportions.

That longer nose wasn’t just about looks, though. It provided space for an inline-six engine. Now the BMW coupe offered the full package, as noted in a 1970 Road & Track test of the 2800 CS: “a new standard of sophistication and understated luxury for 6-cyl cars.” Another highlight from that review: “It just looks right.” The editors called the front seats “superbly designed” and found the engine to be “powerful and responsive.” Just a single fault, recalled from an earlier drive in Germany, was noted: slow window motors.

And all these years later? That praise holds true, says Arjun Soundararajan, CEO of BMW tuning firm UUC Motorwerks and owner of a pair of E9-chassis cars. “It’s a swoopy, cool, long car,” he says. “I’m looking at 2002 prices and wondering why someone isn’t buying a 3.0 at this point.”

BMW E9 Coupes Shopping Advice

Our Expert:
Arjun Soundararajan
UUC Motorwerks

To me, personally, from a shape standpoint, it’s a classic profile of what is a BMW.

It’s remarkably nice over a bend or in a corner. It’s very user-friendly. It’s literally intended to be used as a daily driver.

You’re not going to go wrong with a 2800 or a 3.0. The 2800 came with rear drums. I would steer you towards a 3.0 due to better brakes.

I would say, in a perfect world, you would look for one in this order: rust-free, good engine, good suspension.

Inside the front wheel well there’s this little pocket, if you will, and water will go into that pocket and it has nowhere to go, so these cars would rust from the inside out. There’s no great reason why that pocket is there.

A lot of people went to E28 heads because the stock heads would corrode. A 3.5-liter from an early E24 would fit in an E9.

Some people automatically upgraded to Webers. Those are great.

Windows are another thing that they struggled with. They have weak motors.

The CSL: They’re cool things to talk about, but not cool things to live around. You’ll just wish it had regular glass so you could clean the thing.

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wspohn SuperDork
6/13/20 10:54 a.m.

A neighbour had the now quite rare 2000 CS which predated the E9, and didn't look too bad.

Of all that sort of styling, though, my favourite wasn't the 3.0 CS but the later first generation E24 with the 635 CSI coupes.

ddegroen New Reader
4/17/22 12:04 p.m.

The best resource for the BMW e9 is the forum at e9

Buyer beware, there is no rust-free e9 coupe. Period. 

Beautiful car, to look at and to drive. 

Dirk de Groen, BMW Classic Car Club of America (three c's)


joeymec New Reader
4/17/22 12:08 p.m.

I had 23 2002's over a 35 year period with a few that were my favorite drivers.  I always like the 3.0 CS as it looked like an adult version of the 2002 with similar lines but much more refined.  I remember 45 years ago, I was living on the Jersey shore and saw a 74 red 3.0 CS in an ad on a dealer lot. The ad said excellent condition and a solid driver, dealer price $2995.  I was so excited, I got in my 2002 at the time and drove to the North Jersey dealership to take a look.  I had the money and knew I could get it cheaper because I knew the tactics of the new car dealers that had used vehicles on their lots. The $2995 price indicated that they probably got it for $1500 so I knew I could haggle them down.  It wasn't a BMW dealer ( better for me).  I pulled into the lot and saw the car.  It was gorgeous.  Paint and body were great.  I got out of my car and looked inside....Automatic transmission!!!   Yuk!!!   That turned me off so much, I got right back in my car and drove home.   When I saw the ad, I never even thought about the trans. Back then and even today, I am revolted at the sight of an automatic transmission in a beautiful performance car.   I don't regret not getting it as it would never be my driver.  That was as close as I got to ever getting one of the big coupes.   The next car that I sought after that looked like and performed somewhat like those old BMW coupes was the 1987 Acura Legend Coupe.  Similar  lines, top pillars and nice performance.   Alas, it was out of my price range new and never found one used that I could afford.    Oh well..........

joeymec New Reader
4/17/22 12:13 p.m.

Hi Dirk,

Bad steel in those old BMW's.   I remember that well from those days of driving my 2002's as daily drivers.   Always like the big coupes but just never acquired the right one.


shadetree30 HalfDork
8/6/22 11:38 a.m.

(Note the avatar...)

Had one. 1972 in Malaga (burgundy) with tan leather interior. Best day of my life: picking her up at Manheim BMW in Lebanon PA.

Long story short: Shoulda kept her and ditched the girlfriend.

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