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BMW E9 CSL: The Capri Beater, Part 1

Submitted by on March 27, 2024

By Marcel Hundscheid / Speed-O-Graphica

The BMW E9 is one of several machines from the South German manufacturer that have written history. Not only in the period between 1968 and 1975, when the particularly beautiful coupe was known as a fast and elegant vehicle. Even today, the E9 continues to fascinate young and old, especially in the historic motorsport scene with its potent appearance and performance.

In 1968, the BMW E9 appeared on the scene, the result of a collaboration between Wilhelm Hofmeister and the Italian coachbuilder Michelotti. The E9 was based on BMW’s series of four cylinder models, the 2000 C/2000CS. It was the coupe variant of the E3 and more than 30,000 examples were built between 1968 and 1975.

To accommodate the larger six-cylinder M30 engine, the E9 received larger bodywork, which was developed by Karmann. In order to fit the M30 six-cylinder engine up front, in addition to a larger body, the wheelbase was also increased. Additionally, the E9 offered better performance thanks to its smaller front end and lighter weight, although the rear brakes were initially drum brakes.

A compression ratio of 9.5:1 and the use of an electronic Bosch D-Jetronic injection resulted in a 200 hp for the 3.0 CSi, as a compression ratio 0f 9.0:1 and two carburetors led to 180 hp for the 3.0 CS.

In the late 1960s, BMW dominated the European Touring Car Championship in Division 3 with the 2002. However, amended regulations led to a change in the 1970s. Lighter weight helped the Capri dominate the ETCC and win the championship in 1971 and 1972. BMW looked on in agony, but far from surrendered. The answer was found in the CSL.

Based on the three-litre E9 coupe, the engineers at BMW had already started developing a lightweight version in 1970 that would be used in the European Touring Car Championship. Alpina boss Burkard Bovensiepen created a homologation version for touring car racing in Group 2 of the German Racing Championship DRM. In the fall of 1971, the first three-litre ‘Coupé Sport Lightweight Construction’ better known as the BMW 3.0 CSL, rolled off the assembly line.

At least 1000 cars were needed to achieve homologation in Group 2 and to reach that mark, BMW Motorsport GmbH was founded in 1972. Under the leadership of ex-Ford racing director Jochen Neerpasch, the CSL received an injection engine with Bosch D-Jetronic, the displacement increased to 3003 cm³ and the output to 200 hp. The price of the road car, which cost more than DM 30,000, led to only moderate sales. Just 165 of the three litre carburetor engine cars were sold. When the newly founded BMW Motorsport GmbH, nowadays BMW M, took over the development of the 3.0 CSL, this soon changed. In the end BMW managed to sell 1096 examples, enough to get the ‘Batmobile’ homologated to race in Group 2.

To make the CSL competitive, BMW had to do some development work. Competing models weighed around 900 kg, while the production version of the CS weighed no less than 1230 kg. BMW solved this problem by using tin plate and aluminium. The front bumper was replaced by an aerodynamic spoiler, and a plastic bumper was installed at the rear as well as a roof spoiler, deck lid spoiler and a large rear wing. For all rear windows Plexiglas was used, and the hood has simple quick-release fasteners instead of the complicated locking linkage. Harder dampers and progressive springs were mounted, including 17-inch light alloy wheels.

The result of saving on insulation mats and carpet coverings was the grumbling of the three-litre six-cylinder engine equipped with its two Zenith twin carburettors. The grumbling of the three-litre six-cylinder engine with its two Zenith twin carburettors penetrates the cabin a little louder because there were also savings on insulation mats and carpet coverings.

Let’s take a little break here, and return for a second episode continuing our story of the remarkable Batmobile.

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