BMW E9 3.0 CSL: In the shed

By: Jon Faine, Photography by: Jon Faine

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The engine block with holes clean through both sides The engine block with holes clean through both sides The engine block with holes clean through both sides

Jon Faine's back in the shed, this time looking at the see-through engine block of a BMW 3.0 CSL, which threw a rod mid-cruise


BMW E9 3.0 CSL

Fire in the hole!

There is a certain type of refined enthusiast with the good sense to have fallen for the charms of the renowned and underappreciated BMW E9 coupes. You might know them as the Batmobile racer, but in normal road guise it is the 3.0 CS or, if boasting the sought-after fuel injection, it is called a CSi. It luxuriates in a pillarless coupe bodied for BMW by Karmann and produced before the oil crisis in the early 1970s.

In manual injected form it is a glorious tourer. A gentleman’s express. Even in carbie or automatic spec it is a lovely car and attracts more than its share of admirers. Optional leather for the seats, lashings of wood grain on the dash - add a Nardi steering wheel for extra elan and you have a very desirable bit of kit.

Other than a pagoda-top Benz, I reckon it is one of the most usable classics around. I have had two as a daily driver over nearly ten years. The current one, with a Getrag five-speed fitted from a slightly later saloon, makes for classic motoring with style and reliability.

Danny and Bill run a garage in Richmond that fettles a fleet of CS and CSi coupes for a growing band of enthusiasts. At any one time there will be three or four in there for anything between a service and tune through to a total restoration or engine rebuild.

Danny looks after the engines, Bill looks after the bodies.

They each run a CSL, the racetrack lightweight version with go-faster stripes. And every few months they invite customers to gather for a fang around the hills and wineries on a Sunday drive. Usually it’s uneventful, finishing with a bloke bonding session with many lies being told and an attempt at Sunday lunch.

So imagine the horror when Bill’s own car threw a rod mid-cruise last week. Clean through both sides of the slightly modified big bore 3.5 litre BMW block. No warning, he insists. No tell-tale knocking, no rumbles – just an almighty bang and the smell of Bill’s wallet being burnt.

Take a look. Clean through – holes both sides. Behold – a novelty motor with free viewing portholes, no extra charge! You can watch the crankshaft going around. Danny reckons it would still run with five cylinders working, the broken rod having kissed the bitumen on the highway and the bent valves still clicking ineffectually in rhythm.

Bmw -engine -block -658

So how has this happened? A forensic excavation of the sump reveals the broken big end bolt, mangled but telling its story. The nut is still attached. The metal has failed and split away just below the head. Yet it has only done about four thousand kays in around ten years. Inexplicable.

Having already sourced a spare motor, Bill is well on the way to getting it back on the road. The new 3.5 block is from a BMW 6 series coupe donor, the head was sent off for a severe talking to, the ancillaries are being swapped over from the old motor and the CSL will be back on the road before you can say "warranty".

After that many years, despite the low usage, no claims can be entertained. But it makes you appreciate exactly how much is going on in there when you get a genuine insight – literally – into the inner workings of a high performance motor. If it was a commercial proposition – allow for between ten and fifteen thousand dollars of damage. But as CSL prices have been going skywards, Bill is at little risk of over-capitalising.

Citroen -light -15

Which is more than can be said for my latest purchase – a 1949 Light 15 Citroen, being surrendered by the actual little old lady who, with her recently-deceased husband, has owned it since 1954! The roadworthy inspection resulted in the onerous demand that two – yes both – pedal rubbers be replaced – and nought else. I kid you not.

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