1972 BMW CSL - Reader Resto

By: Wes Young with Guy Allen - Words & Photos

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For Tasmanian Wes Young, building his own BMW homologation special was the realisation of a childhood dream

Original car: 1972 BMW CSL
Owner: Wes Young
Length of restoration: 2 years

There have been a couple of E9 BMWs pass through my shed and there’s a kind of evolution for enthusiasts of these cars. First there are the CS (coupe sports) road cars, then the CSL (or light) homologation special and then there are the very rare ‘Batmobile’ factory racers.

For me, I used to work at a BMW dealership as a kid after school. This was Bowe Sheen. Even as a kid my favourite Hot Wheels car was an Inka Orange CSL. I knew what they were and loved them. They had one in the lot at the dealership, it was a bright metallic Tiger Green and back in 1990-92 no one wanted that sort of thing.


Not a bad starting point

Fast forward, life, family, all the rest, and eventually I reckon I can stretch to indulging in a classic BMW and went hunting for an E9. I was pretty happy to get whatever was available and bought a CS. It’s a similar style to a CSL, but carburettor instead of fuel injection, lower horsepower, heavier, and all the rest. At the tail end of the restoration of that car, my bodywork expert and mate Simon Potter said, "Hey mate check this out!" It was a photo out of a forum in Western Australia that said it was a CSL, and it was on the market.

I said I needed it like a hole in the head, haemorrhaging money, but Simon kept at me about it, and I’d mentioned it to some mates in the UK who said I should at least go and have a look at it. If I wasn’t interested they might buy it and crate it back.

| Read next: 1972-73 BMW 3.0 CSL 'Batmobile'


I rang the owner, not expecting it to be the real thing – these things don’t live in barns in WA! He was adamant that it was a CSL and was a collector of period racing cars. And this didn’t fit with what he was doing and he wanted to fund some other projects.

I rang my Dad who lives there and said I might do a flying visit. It looked terrible in the photos – it was dirty and had bits hanging off it. Brown stains all over it. As we loaded into the car at my Dad’s place, I nicked a couple of magnets off his fridge. "What do you want them for? " he asked. We get out there. What looked in the photos like catastrophic rust bubbling up all over the place was just the iron-rich soil of WA.

| Read next: 1975 BMW E9 CSL review


The mechanicals on these things are robust, but the big six was given a freshen-up

The car was straight, a slight bend in the boot, and the fender boxes needed doing – they all do. I got the old man to put one of the magnets we’d brought on the bonnet. "It’s no good, must be full of bog," he said. Then we tried the doors and the boot, same thing – the magnets wouldn’t hold. I thought, we’re in business here and checked the VIN. I’d done my homework and the VIN range is quite specific. The VIN and engine numbers lined up.

It had a set of Minilite wheels on it, which didn’t suit, and I thought it’s missing the Alpina wheels, which will cost thousands. The owner said, "Oh, if you buy the car there are all these parts." He pointed me to a set of five Alpinas and sets of repair panels, spare dash. He said, "If you’re going to take it, you have to take the lot." Okay!

| Our shed: BMW E9 3.0 CSL


We did the deal, he was a really nice guy. We packed it into a container and shipped it across to Tasmania.

We had finished the gold CS, which we sold to fund this. My daughter Lola wasn’t happy to see the gold car go. She and I did the teardown, and then my body guy did the panels and the rust. The interior, dash, vinyl and boot, I did that. All the interior is original.

There’s a bit of a story behind this model. When BMW decided to get serious about motorsport, they started with the E9. Up to that point, it was companies like Alpina and Schnitzer which had been carrying the performance flag. BMW turned to factory racing and created a motorsport division, so this is the first M car to carry the tri-colour stripe.

| Read next: 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL review


Wes with daughter Lola. The latter is now a veteren of two restos

They decided they already had a good platform with tried and tested mechanicals and good handling. Stripping weight was the next mission. So gone were chrome bumpers, steel hanging panels (in favour of aluminium), carpet and even the sill covers were aluminium rather than steel. To get homologation they had to sell 1000 of them. They ended up making 1000 left- and 500 right-hookers.

However they had trouble selling them in the UK and most right-hand-drives ended up with what was called the City Pack. There was a fair bit of leeway on what the dealers could order and those cars had the bumpers, carpets, power steering, power windows and so-on fitted. They were priced at 1000 pounds or more over the E-type and Aston Martin of the time.


With this one finished, Wes is about to jump into a new project

I’ve taken all the City Pack gear out of mine and it’s sitting at home. So it’s now the spec it would have been as a left-hand-drive car.

The bonnet is aluminium, plus door skins and the boot. All of the steel in it is a thinner gauge than a standard car. I think it’s about 300 lbs difference – it’s a lot. Of the 500 built in right-hand-drive, we think about half are still kicking around in one form or another.

Another of the things they did to save weight was they left out rust-proofing. There’s an ongoing argument over who invented rust – whether it was the Germans or the Italians! Either way, Karmann, who did the body for this car, were pretty good at it.


That example was fortunate in that it got rust in the fender boxes when it was about 10 years old, was pushed off the road into a shed and was forgotten about. The rust stopped.

So when we opened it up to do the restoration, the fender boxes needed doing, but the sills, the boot, the floors, they’re all original. We’re very lucky.

Give or take, it took about two years. Every weekend for the first part of it, and then two or three nights a week as we progressed. When it moved to panel beating, I went along and helped out.


One of the things that kills you on these things is the time required. I hoovered up all the parts I thought I needed from the start and then worked with the body guy. We had all the mechanicals sorted by the time the body was ready. You do things in parallel.

So I was doing the project management and a lot of the grunt work. With the mechanic, for example, I’d do some of the assembly on a Saturday morning, and he’d come over, run a tension wrench over it and give it a tick. I wanted to learn as I went.

The online community for these was invaluable when it came to advice. Some of the members overseas are older guys who were working for BMW at the time.


Most people when they do these, they take them to concours level or beyond. It gets to the point where you lose the fabric of the car. We only replaced what we absolutely had to and hand-made some areas with the correct thin-gauge steel.

When it came to the finish, we decided it’s a 50-year-old car and there was no harm in it showing some of that. So you can see wear in some of the nickel and leather in the trim. That’s what it left BMW with – I haven’t replaced it. If I wanted a concours car, I would rather just go and buy one.


I wanted something that recognised you’re a custodian of the car. I have all the paperwork that traces back to all the owners over time. If you were to pull off the parcel shelf in the rear and pulled back the carpets, there are all the pencil marks from where it went down the line at the factory and people signed off on their work. If you took the approach some people do, where you acid-dip it and everything else, all that is gone.

Mechanically, it had been sitting so long we decided to tear it down. It’s running the original four-speed Getrag gearbox and the original M90 straight six, which sits on a 30-degree pivot. It has first-generation injection. Pretty much everything is original. I did get down to the point where you’re replacing a thermostat housing, so I’d find one that was the correct numbers for the period and repurpose it, rather than buy a new one.


Parts have come from everywhere, including Canada. One of the stars on that front was a German firm called Walloth Nesch, which delivered parts in just six days, during Covid!

It’s a car I drive occasionally. It has pride of place in the garage (or at Launceston’s motor museum when we shot it), but it does get driven.

And the next project? I’ve bought a prototype to the CSL, which is hopefully going to land early in the new year. Call me a glutton for punishment. That one is special, as it’s one of the 169 proof-of-concept cars for the CSL, which ran carburettors instead of injection. Of them, about 30 each went to Alpina and Schnitzer, while the rest were soaked up by BMW executives or gentleman racers.


A heap of them were written off, and many rusted away, so the survival rate is not good. Mine is out of South Africa and is a low VIN, about the 30th off the line, and was originally painted Gulf Yellow – they all had outrageous 1970s colours.

Calling it a project would be kind. I think if I throw a lot of time and money into it, it will become a project. They are just so rare, I decided to chase it. We’ve all heard of too many people who narrowly missed out on that mythical car and now have regrets…

The resto: 

Early days


And yep, the kids are in charge.




That looks like it’s just a little surface rust.


Rust guard


Fender boxes are a known issue.


Prime effort


Cleaned, straightened and ready.


Colour me


Now that’s looking like a car.


From Unique Cars #474, February 2023


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