1973 BMW 3.0 CSL (RHD)


  • One of only 500 British-market right-hand drive CSLs
  • Rescued from a Devon barn c.2019 and restored over two years for £80,000
  • Finished in its delightful original colour of Ceylon Gold
  • Two enormous files of history from the 1980s and 1990s

The Appeal

BMW’s E9 platform was pretty hot stuff when it first appeared in 1968. Released initially as the 2800SC, it was truly one of the best-looking coupés of its day, with sharp razor-edge styling placing it at the cutting edge of automobile design. Notably lighter than its predecessor, its combination of a powerful six-cylinder engine with light weight meant it had great potential as a competition car.

In 1971, a bored-out engine transformed it into the BMW 3.0 CS, but the real excitement started in May 1972 when the 3.0 CSL arrived on the scene as a homologation special built to allow the model entry into the European Touring Car Championship. The ‘L’ stood for leicht (light), because the car had lost an awful lot of weight through the use of thinner steel for the body, aluminium for the panels and Perspex for the side windows, and by shedding a lot of superfluous trim and soundproofing. The engine size was increased a little more, from 2986cc to 3003cc., to get it into the Over Three-Litre class.

A total of 1,265 were built in all, but the 500 exported to Britain are a little more interesting on account of the fact the importer insisted on the ‘City Package’, retaining soundproofing, electric windows, power steering, rear-window defroster and standard bumpers. It meant the British cars were a little heavier, but the result was a nice marriage of lightness and luxury which you could enjoy using for your day job without looking incongruous.

This car is one of those very rare early British-market CSLs, and it looks absolutely stunning following its recent full restoration. Its unusual original colour of Ceylon Gold looks beautiful in the extreme, and the interior represents the zenith of 1970s German design. We love everything about this car, and we’re sure you will, too.

The History and Paperwork

  • Sold new in Britain and first registered in Grimsby in June 1973
  • By 1982, the BMW 3.0 CSL was with Mr. Brian Chamberlain in Stokenham, Devon, who lavished care and attention upon it judging by the quantity of invoices he amassed over the next 18 years
  • The BMW has not been taxed for the road since 1989, although Mr. Chamberlain continued spending money on it, with the invoices running through the 1990s up to 2000
  • In recent years, Stephen Day of Days Autos in Brentwood, Essex, recovered it from the Devon barn where it had lain for many years and sold it in 2019 ‘in need of work’
  • The buyer undertook a full restoration and, that being completed, is now offering it for sale again
  • Paperwork includes the current V5, a collection of BMW Driver magazines from the 1980s, MoT certificates from 1982 and 2020, a thick collection of German-language workshop diagrams and a colossal assortment of invoices from between 1982 and 2000 which fill up the bulk of the two folders
  • A photographic record was kept of the restoration and a note on file records that it cost a total of £80,000

The Interior

  • Interior finished to exacting original specification in black vinyl with Scheel cord inserts
  • Seats, carpets and woodwork all renewed
  • Lovely light patina over the dash, centre console and door trim
  • Rare original right-hand drive with electric windows, radio, cigarette lighter, heater and defrosting rear window

Being a homologation special, one perhaps expects the 3.0 CSL to be stripped-down and Spartan, but these British-market cars retain much of the character of the luxury coupés from which they are derived. In design terms, its interior must be one of the best of the 1970s, with the spacious interior afforded a light and airy feel by the use of medium wood, a refreshing change from the all-black expanses of vinyl and plastic which were prevalent during the decade. Smooth, neat and characterised by simple curves, it represents German Modernist design at its finest.

There is much that is sporting about the British CSL’s interior, though, most obviously the Scheel bucket seats, which also happen to be extremely soft and comfortable. Also prominent is the lightweight aluminium Moto-Lita steering wheel, which no serious sports model of the period could be without.

It’s all presented in very nice condition without anything having been over-restored. The correct original material for the seats and carpets were sourced so they could be renewed, and the old woodwork was tired so it was completely renovated to factory-fresh appearance. Nothing else had suffered much over the years and has been sensitively left alone, so items like the steering wheel and most of the interior trim are extremely original and display a very nice light patina.

There is some possible room for improvement with regard to the final fit of a few items (the ashtrays in the doors, for example, are loose and the glovebox door is a little particular about the angle at which it shuts), but small things like that should be easy enough to put right over the course of an afternoon or weekend. Everything that matters – the seats, carpets, headlining, dash, centre console and door trim – is all in very nice condition.

The boot is in fine order with clean carpets and very solid floors. The spare tyre is all present and correct and the toolbox in the boot lid does contain tools, although they are not the original items.

The Exterior

  • Resprayed in two-pack version of the original Ceylon Gold
  • All the chrome has been replated
  • Alloy wheels in astonishingly good condition

Perhaps when you think of a 3.0 CSL, the first thing you picture has a ground-hugging spoiler and wild wings. That’s all well and good, but sometimes less can be more, and if you want to drive your BMW into town, or go just about anywhere that isn’t a race track, you’re probably better off driving something a little more subtle. This car gets the balance just right – it’s sporty enough to be fun when you’re in the country, but restrained enough that you could drive it to meet an important client. You’ll still turn the right heads for the right reasons.

One of the most eye-catching features is the gold paint, which is a difficult colour to get right. Too bright and it looks ostentatious, too dull and it resembles a muddy puddle. Fortunately, BMW got it spot-on with Ceylon Gold Metallic. Vibrant but not loud, it sparkles just a little under the sun. When this car was stripped to the bare metal, only minimal welding and filler was required. For improved durability, a modern two-pack paint was then applied, colour-matched to the original.

The superb paint is complemented by equally brilliant chrome, which was all replated when the BMW was restored. Chrome features more heavily than on many ‘70s cars but, again, it is just enough to give a rakish dash without going over the top. All the glass on the car, and the badges, are in excellent order.

We are perhaps most impressed by the alloy wheels which are in remarkable condition for their age, but we don’t suppose they would have incurred any damage while barn-stored. Even so, they have obviously been repainted so it is probable that they were refurbished just a couple of years ago, since when they will not have been used on the road.

As much as this car looks fantastic, on looking closer we noticed that the trim running below the doors has been attached with glue rather than clips. While most people will never notice, some of the glue is visible in places and a perfectionist may wish to tidy it up and have another go at fitting it.

The Mechanics

  • Fuel-injected straight-six produces 200bhp
  • Engine, gearbox and back axle stripped and rebuilt
  • MoTed in 2020 with no advisories

Unusually, this car is started by way of a starter button rather than by just turning the key in the ignition, which we presume is an anti-theft modification made in period. Once you’ve pushed the button, the engine bursts into life, settles into a strong idle, and you’re all ready to make for the open road.

The BMW starts, stops, steers and changes gear as it should, and delivers a very nice ride on an empty stretch of tarmac. In a straight line, it absolutely flies, and if we’d had a few good corners to try it out on, we probably would have found it even more enjoyable.

The engine, gearbox and back axle were all stripped down and fully rebuilt as part of the car’s 2019-2020 restoration, with new parts used where necessary. Of course, the suspension and brakes were overhauled, too. All the work undertaken was completed by classic BMW specialists. The result is a car that’s all ready for the open road, with an MoT issued in 2020 with no advisory points. It promises to be a lot of fun.

The Summary

Everyone knows the BMW 3.0 CSL is a contender for the title of ultimate 1970s sports coupé, but this one is a little bit different from how most people remember them. As a right-hand drive British-market car with the ‘City Package’, it really does offer the perfect blend of luxury and performance, without harming the urbane looks of the original 3.0 CS. What’s more, with only 500 such cars built, it’s one of the rarest BMWs you can buy.

This example is presented in fantastic condition following an £80,000 restoration. The paint and chrome are perhaps the best you’re likely to see away from a concours field, and mechanically it’s on top form. There are a couple of little cosmetic jobs you could attend to if you’re particular about that sort of thing, but we’d suggest you just come round to them in your own time. Our priority would be to drive it and enjoy it.

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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1973
  • Make BMW
  • Model 3.0 CSL
  • Colour Ceylon Gold
  • Odometer 33,868 Miles
  • Engine size 3003
Auction Details
  • Seller Type Trade
  • Location London
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
37 bids
  • me•••• £95,000 21/06/22
  • ts•••• £94,201 21/06/22
  • ts•••• £93,250 21/06/22
  • fr•••• £92,500 21/06/22
  • ts•••• £91,582 21/06/22
  • me•••• £90,500 21/06/22
  • ch•••• £89,000 21/06/22
  • me•••• £88,000 21/06/22
  • ch•••• £87,000 21/06/22
  • me•••• £86,000 21/06/22

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