BMW 3.0CS - Buyer's Guide
Buyer's Guide BMW 2800/3.0CS COUPE (1968-75)
Beauty may well be subject to beholder perception, but there are few who would not be impressed by the shape and
elegance of BMW's early 1970s coupes...
Originally printed in Unique Cars issue #273 / Words: Cliff Chambers / Pics: Stuart Grant
Emerging from an era renowned for some strikingly-handsome cars, the Karmann-bodied CS was a stand-out. The
first one I saw was on the cover of a motoring magazine - silver in colour and hunkered down with rear wheels splayed
under hard acceleration.
Those who could do more than dream of owning a CS certainly took notice as well. The 2800CS that appeared in
1968 sold just a handful in Australia but managed worldwide sales of 9400 cars. Its predecessor - the bluff-fronted
2000CS - had taken almost twice as long to achieve similar numbers.
Looks alone weren't the defining factor in the 2800's success. Its in-line six-cylinder engine with twin Zenith
carburettors delivered 128kW and a top speed of 200km/h. Pre-1971 cars suffered the limitation of rear drum brakes
but late 1969 saw automatic transmission supplement the standard four-speed manual gearbox.
The 2800CS took until 1971 to make its Australian debut and local specification included automatic transmission,
power steering and electric windows. Cars fitting that description were priced at $14,450 - $2000 dearer than a
Mercedes-Benz 280SL - and were basically superseded before they arrived.
Mid-1971 brought a 3.0-litre version of the engine; available in CS form or as a CSi with Bosch fuel injection and
149kW of power. The CSL version announced a few months earlier was initially fitted with a carburettor engine before
switching to the Bosch-injected CSi unit.
This upgrade also replaced the rear drum brakes with a pair of 272mm discs. Revised power steering reduced turns
lock-to-lock from 4.0 to 3.7 and an uprated manual gearbox addressed some synchromesh problems reported by
The body with its waspish roof pillars might have appeared flimsy but 3.0-litre cars weighed 1370kg - up 80kg on the
2800CS. CS-suffix cars were all steel, while the lightweight CSL used aluminium panels for the doors, bootlid and
BMW contracted construction to the Karmann coachbuilding works - most famed for its Volkswagen-based coupes -
however attention to detail and rust proofing were indifferent and CS BMWs gained a reputation as rust-traps.
In carburettor form and most frequently fitted with three-speed Borg-Warner automatic transmission, 3.0CS versions
contributed 11,063 sales during four years of production, while the injected CSi added a further 8199 cars.
ON THE ROAD - Cars with a high proportion of window glass in their design can create a misleading impression of
interior space. However, in the case of these CS BMWs, they are actually as roomy as they look.
The front seats are generously proportioned, well-shaped and fully adjustable. The rear compartment looks spacious
as well, then someone lanky hops into the driver's seat and all but 15cm of the available legroom disappears.
The most frequent test-car grumble centred around the size and impracticality of the enormous CS steering wheel. All
of these cars have power steering and simply don't need a tiller that looks like it was lifted from an ocean-going tug.
Replacing it with a wheel from the 2002 or an aftermarket item makes sense.
Engines with carburettors can be grumpy when cold, while injected versions will idle rapidly for a few minutes before
settling down so allow a little pre-test time for everything to warm to its task. Response to the heavyish throttle should
then be smooth and immediate, although kickdown in auto cars can be hesitant.
Performance from the CSi engine is strong and usable, with 271Nm of torque peaking at 3700rpm. The four-speed,
fuel-injected car was credited with a top speed 223km/h while a US-market CS without injection was 20km/h slower.
Due to relatively low gearing, mid-range performance was sprightlier than could normally be expected from a German
car of this class and size. The 0-100km/h sprint in a CSi took less than 8.0secs while a carburettor-equipped CS ran
from 80-110km/h in under 7.0secs.
Mark Johnson has owned his 3.0CSi since 2003 and has nothing but praise for the car's continued ability to impress.
"It's just a lovely, reliable car - starts first go even after a month of not being used and is so nice to drive on the open
road it's hard to believe it's almost 35-years old," Johnson enthused.
Johnson first saw his Polaris Silver car - one of 12 BMW 3.0CSis reputedly sold new in Australia - two years before he
eventually bought it.
"I was admiring the car in the street when the owner came up and asked if I wanted to buy it. A week later when I got
back to him it had been sold to somebody in NSW, so when it came up for sale again I didn't hesitate and grabbed it
immediately," Johnson recalled.
Big BMWs of all ages are known for tail-happy handling but most owners won't be perturbed by this trait unless the
car is being pushed hard on a wet road or the suspension bushings and shock absorbers have been allowed to
Brake locking is a problem but can be minimised by fitting uprated springs and shock absorbers - Mark
Johnson's car runs a set of Bilsteins - to counteract weight transfer while stopping. His car also sports 14x7inch
CSL-replica wheels which are 1.0-inch wider than the standard units and allow 205/60 section tyres to be used.
BUYING - Locating a very good 3.0CS or CSi isn't easy, while 2800CS versions of any quality are downright scarce.
Joining your state's BMW club might represent your best chance at snaring a suitable car and will certainly be a
valuable source of technical information.
A tidy 3.0-litre automatic that had reportedly been in daily use sold at auction early last year for just $13,000, while
surveying for the 2006 European & British Value Guide found a couple in the region of $10,000 and just one
better-quality car on offer at $20,000.
Authenticity is usually important to buyers of higher-priced cars, so check the cylinder head for a production date.
Cheaper ones might have been fitted with later-model 3.5-litre engines by owners seeking an alternative to rebuilding
the original motor.
Ian Burrell from IDB Automotive in Melbourne cares for several CS coupes including Mark Johnson's car and counsels
against buying a tired example.
"You can find cars for around $10,000 and quite easily spend another $50,000 sorting out the mechanical and body
problems," Burrell advised.
"Given that they are now more than 30-years old they're not really a daily driving prospect but they are still a lovely
car to look at and drive. So the $25,000-30,000 you might spend for a very good and well maintained car really isn't
really bad value."
BODY & CHASSIS - Rust in structural areas can be extensive and very costly to repair, so arranging for an expert in
BMW restoration to check an apparently-sound car will be money well spent. Basic evaluation can be made by
looking under the bonnet at the join between the inner and outer mudguards, inside the door sills, around the rear
sub-frame mountings, wheel-arches, boot floor and window surrounds. Rust or evidence of filler in more than a
couple of these spots indicates a car that may be uneconomic to properly repair. If paying top money, make sure the
toolkit that drops down from the bootlid is complete.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION - Unless authenticity is of particular concern, there isn't a lot in these areas that can't be
rectified at reasonable cost by using second-hand components from later-model BMWs. Contaminated oil most likely
signifies a cracked cylinder head - repairs starting at $1500 - while excessive blue exhaust smoke means a rebuild or
replacement engine. Make sure you test a CS for long enough to check for overheating. Oil leaks from diffs are
common, with reconditioned units worth around $600. Replacement driveshaft flex joints cost $120 each.
SUSPENSION & BRAKES - CS coupes built after 1972 feature softer, longer-travel springs that offer a better
ride/handling compromise than early cars. However, any CS that bounces noticeably on rougher surfaces is due for
replacement springs and/or shock absorbers. Power steering that feels dead or sloppy at the straight-ahead position
or squeals on full lock is due for an overhaul. New disc rotors cost less than $200 each, with rebuilt power boosters
(there are two of them) generating a bill of around $500 plus fitting. To check booster health, sit for a minute with the
engine running and your foot on the brake pedal to see if it sinks.
INTERIOR & ELECTRICS - If your chosen CS has a sunroof, look up before you look around the interior. Stained
headlining indicates water leaks and a potentially-rusted turret. Electric windows, even when working as they should,
are slow and relatively noisy. The dash timberwork wasn't of especially good quality so expect cracks and fading.
Missing pieces will need to be sourced second-hand. Seats were usually trimmed in velour which wears and suffers
sun damage, as does the vinyl dash top, so remove seat and dash covers to check. The starter motor is difficult to
replace without removing the engine but replacing the top bolt with a smaller one fixes this design flaw.
PRODUCTION: 2800CS - 9399, 3.0CS - 11,063, 3.0CSi - 8199 (1968-75)
BODY: unitary construction, all-steel, two-door coupe
ENGINE: 2.8 or 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder with single overhead camshaft and twin carburettors or fuel injection
POWER & TORQUE: 149kW @ 6000rpm; 271Nm @ 3700rpm (3.0 CSi)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h 7.8secs 0-400m 15.8secs (3.0CSi)
TRANSMISSION: four-speed manual or three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Front - independent with Macpherson struts with coil springs and anti-roll bar. Rear - independent with
semi-trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar
BRAKES: disc front/drum rear (2800CS) disc/disc (3.0CS & 3.0CSi) power assisted
WHEELS & TYRES: alloy 14 x 6 with 195/70H14 radials (3.0CSi)
PRICE RANGE: $6000-30,000
CONTACT: BMW Drivers Clubs throughout Australia bmwcsregistry.org