Feature Article from Hemmings Motor News
September, 2008 - David LaChance
Let's say you've achieved a level of financial security that allows you to spend somewhere in the vicinity of six figures
on a collector car. Let's also say that you want a car you can drive regularly without having to cash out your stock
portfolio when it needs service, and that it should be a car that radiates timeless beauty, not one that flashes "I am
having a mid-life crisis" in neon letters.
That pretty well sums up BMW's classic 3.0 CS and 3.0 CSi coupes, as legions of admirers have discovered. The
cars--simply referred to as "coupes" by BMW aficionados--were sold in the U.S. between 1971 and 1975. The 3.0 CS
features a carbureted, 3-liter straight six, while the CSi has the same engine equipped with fuel injection. Only the CS
was sold in the States, though some number of CSi's infiltrated the borders.
"I think at the moment that these cars are so hot that they're going up in price every day," said Don Dethlefsen,
co-owner of The Werk Shop, a Lake Bluff, Illinois, specialist in vintage BMWs. "Everybody wants a 3.0 CS, and
everybody wants a nice one."
But wait--why do we say a six-figure car, when the average selling price lies somewhere around $25,000? It all has to
do with the demand for these cars that's being driven by wealthy customers who want only the very best examples.
According to Dethlefsen, many customers are happy to buy a nice example for, say, $30,000, and then spend much,
much more to restore the car to as-new condition. "There is a line of people waiting to get into my shop to make their
cars into spectacular examples," he said.
Chris Keefer of La Jolla Independent, a BMW specialist in La Jolla, California, sees a similar phenomenon. "The ones
that really pull the most amount of money are the ones that are really well set-up cars," Keefer said. Typically, that
means a modified car with a 3.5-liter, fuel-injected six from a later car, a five-speed gearbox, a tweaked suspension
and 16-inch Alpina wheels. All of this is, of course, in addition to the perfect paint, chrome and interior. That's an
investment of $80,000 or more, on top of the purchase price of the car.
Of course, you have to have a good car to start with, and that's what's driven up the price of average drivers.
Dethlefsen points out that the 3.0 CS had only the most minimal protection against rust when new, and that advanced
corrosion can make a car not worth restoring. "The bulk of the cars that were sold in America have long gone to
junk," he said.
"I think the price for a nice, everyday coupe--not a restored car, but a nicely preserved car--is on either side of 30
grand right now," he said. Keefer added that decent restoration candidates that could have been had for as little as
$6,000 a few years ago now command $20,000 to $25,000. Although it is possible to find cars advertised for half that
price, he said, "They're kind of a crap shoot. Maybe 25 percent of the guys who buy into that price range really got
themselves a deal." The rest? "It can be a nightmare--filler over rust, cars restored by people who don't know what
they're doing. We almost unrestore as much as we restore."
This article originally appeared in the September, 2008 issue of Hemmings Motor News.