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A Love / Hate Styling Perspective:
The BMW E9 Coupe

October 22, 2012 by Matt

BMW E9 Coupe 3.0CSL Silver Alpina Wheels Rims

Let’s cut to the chase: I love the BMW E9 coupe’s proportions, but I hate much of the detailing.

As muscular as any contemporary Italian thoroughbred, the ’68-’75 BMW E9 coupe, encompassing the 2800 CS, 3.0CS, 3.0CSi and 3.0CSL is rightfully revered as one of its automaker’s classic models. Setting the precedent for generations of BMWs to follow, its expansive greenhouse, strong character lines and perfectly balanced visual masses became a kind of standard that subsequent Bavarian coupes and sedans would emulate. There’s a kind of unaffected, deliberate athleticism about its lines, and something powerful, Teutonic and also tasteful in its proportions. The window curves look dated (more on that in a minute) and somewhat fanciful, but the E9’s shape, taken as a whole, is a definitive statement on German coupe-ness. It knows exactly where each of its lines should be, and it’s confident in their placement.

BMW E9 Coupe 3.0CSL Light Blue BBS Wheels Rims

Always one to favor proportions when it comes to design, I want to love the entirety of the E9’s styling, but the details trip me up. The three elements I take most issue with are the signature kidneys in the car’s fascia, the chrome beltline and the baroque curves of the rear glass corners. The kidneys in particular are far too tall and elongated; set them higher and integrate them better with the grilles and the E9’s nose would be much improved. The car’s waist is prominent enough without the additional splash of shiny stuff, and the backlight looks like a refugee from late ’50s American styling. It’s too bad the car’s excellent proportions are compromised by such a smattering of details.

BMW E9 Coupe 3.0CSi Engine Motor M30 L-Jetronic L-Jet

As fastidious as the styling is in places, I certainly can’t fault the rest of the car. Blessed with a 2.8l-3.2l version of BMW’s legendary M30 SOHC straight six, the E9’s performance was sparkling and well-matched to its athletic looks. At first carbureted, and later (from the 3.0CSi on) fuel-injected, the M30 grew in power from 170 to an even 200 hp in the CSi. The front strut and rear semi-trailing arm suspension gave the 3,100 lb car sure-footed handling and the whole package possessed that well-oiled fluency characteristic of BMWs in general.

BMW E9 Coupe 3.0CS Interior Inside Console Cockpit Dash Dashboard

No, to drive one, then as now, showed tremendous taste and class on the part of the owner. While the E9’s details aren’t my cup of tea, its proportions and dynamics converge in a supremely capable package.

Filed under: Aesthetics, BMW

2 Comments

  1. Alex says:

    Although this article is from 2012, Matt is still absolutely right.

    My wife and I own this car (a 1972 BMW 3.0 CS automatic fjord blue just as above) and love it. You have to accept those little flaws. Besides the oversize kidney, it’s also oversize turnsignal lights and not very creative backlights, typical for that time (it could have been even worse though). The fake air intakes left and right look great – but still, they are fake.

    Yet it is one out of about 440 E9’s left in Germany and maybe a 1,000 left worldwide. So we don’t bash design genius William Hofmeister for those issues.

    Alex, Berlin, Germany

  2. Bob says:

    I’d take an E9 with all those flaws in a heart beat. Lovely auto. Just lovely.

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