Honest Autobox: 1973 BMW 3.0CS

When visiting the team at Oxford Motorcars this week, I noticed a gorgeous BMW 3.0CS on the lift, much like this one that Barn Finds reader Dennis C sent in. The reason it was in the shop? A manual transmission swap. This exceedingly clean and honest example here on eBay is saddled with an automatic, but the $29,800 price leaves plenty of room for a conversion – or, you can simply enjoy as-is, which won’t be hard to do in its rust-free condition.

As anyone who has spent any time around these cars can attest, rust is a formidable opponent and more of an obstacle to driving enjoyment than any particular mechanical malady. The underbody shots the seller has provided reveal a very solid floorpan, indicating that this 3.0CS coupe has benefitted from a dry Texas climate and proper storage. On the rear of the car, the trim badge for the model number is missing, but perhaps the previous owner “de-badged” the coupe.

Known by the BMW faithful as an E9, the 3.0CS was available with either carbs or Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection. This automatic example sports the former, which yields about 180 b.h.p. If you decide to keep the automatic transmission, the previous owner had it rebuilt before going into storage and eventually selling it to the current owner. Cloth seats are a plus, in my opinion, as these look great (compared to leather-equipped examples, which almost always need work.)

The underbody shot shows a dry chassis and engine, along with some suspension components that could possibly be ready for an upgrade. The 3.0CS has been repainted at least once, and other cosmetic enhancements include a new headliner, windshield seal and freshly repainted wheels and center caps. Another plus for this example is its slimmer European-style chrome bumpers, as 1974 saw the arrival of the ugly “park bench” DOT-mandated assemblies. For $30K, this E9 coupe looks like a driver that can be enjoyed as-is or taken to the next level.


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  1. Woodie Man

    Hmmm….cloth seats. European import maybe? Slushbox no good. Shock towers are the really problematic area of these E 9’s. Yet another car I was too cheap to buy , at 11k, back in the nineties…sunroof, 5 speed, absolutey rust freee Cali car. I am a dumbkopf!

    One of my favorite designs…evah!

    • Horse Raddish

      Der Dummkopf

      • Woodie Man

        Ja Wohl Herr Raddidsh!

        While you are correct as always…about the smog exempt pre- 1975 cars….you are somewhat Drumphian in your characterization as California being hostile to the old car hobby.

        When you combine the every hungry maw of the taxman with the inevitable march of time and the political winds that usually blow too far in either direction, you can get some pizzpoor public policy.

        Targeting gross polluters is one thing, grouping all old cars into that category is another. There are plenty of us who want clean air AND our old cars…so fear not!

    • will

      Exactly, good observation ,all of the car’s from BMW,MB, those imports I brought in all had velour interiors seats.

  2. Woodie Man

    Should have read dealers info first! KM speedo…probably bought in Europe and shipped over here by an owner. All records “lost” is problematic. On the up side looks remarkably rust free, cant tell if it is a respray but probable. Price is on the high side for a slushbox…but on the other hand you can always drop a Gettrag 5 speed into it……….

    • Horse Raddish

      I would start scraping of the ‘rubber’ undercoating and see if there is ANY metal underneath

  3. Mr. Bond

    I imagine it would be a bit of work collecting up the parts needed to do the swap on one of these. besides the trans, flywheel, clutch and pilot bearing, you’d need the clutch pedal assembly, master, slave, hoses, mounts, likely a different driveshaft, speedo gearing, console, all the proper nuts, bolts and fasteners, wiring for reverse lights.

    Be fun to do if you know you had everything!

    • Rich

      In the process of a manual swap on my 1976 2002 and, yes, sourcing all of the parts is quite a hassle, but with all the awesome clubs and resources out there not impossible. Hardest part is not being experienced with such a project.

    • Woodie Man

      Well…..I swapped a gettrag 5 speed into an absolutely cherry sunroof a/c slushbox ’72 2002 back in the eighties.

      Another dumb move selling it as I was a serial buyer of original cars that tickled my fancy and then selling ’em for another. Today no can do!

  4. Dolphin Member

    One of the best coupe body designs ever, and even better than in the photos in the Ebay listing because for some reason the Ebay photos are distorted and make this Euro car look taller and shorter than these coupes really are.

    Google ‘BMW 3.0CS coupe photos’ and you can see the difference…..an example photo included here.

    Anyway…..this one from central Texas looks about as rust free as most of these are now, if not in a museum or restored at great expense.

    For me the Euro features are a plus, but the auto trans isn’t. I would guess that since so many of these have had such severe rust problems that the parts to do a manual conversion should be obtainable from a parted out car.

    The SCM Guide says the median auction price paid for these recently has been about $36K, so if this one runs and drives well the price looks OK. And if it actually has only 43K Kms (not miles) it’s even better.

    I have driven an auto trans example, and they drive well but are no more than cruisers on the road. I would want a std. trans. to make this car more involving and interesting to drive.

    • The Walrus

      The pics are indeed weird. So much so that when I saw the first pic when this page loaded I thought it was something else (wasn’t sure what it was but struck me as more like a 5-series coupe or something like that). These are such a great design but whatever is up with those pics make it look like a not so great design…

      • Greg Member

        Totally agree. When I first saw the pictures I thought they raised it or something! My favorite body style of the 70s/80s BMWs. And agree to a manual trans change-out. But it’s a really clean example. Love em!

    • Fred Klein

      Lovely picture of a lovely car…the object, for me, of a 30 year love/hate relationship…I bought a previously un-titled ’73 in ’74, metallic med. blue w/ 5 speed for $11k after the wife of owner of VOB dealership had driven it for a year back in Bethesda, MD. Sticker price was about $13k.

      At the time, dealers were required to take a certain # of the 3.0CS in order to receive deliveries of the much more popular 2002.

      After a dealer gratis-complete-grind-down-to-bare-metal repaint after replacement of front fenders in ’75, the German head of service explained that the ’73 3.0 body, manufactured in a completely different plant than the 2002, was made of 100% recycled steel…steel which, in the recycling process, had ALL of the zinc leached from it…none was added…and as a consequence, the ’73’s have been proverbial rust buckets.

      In about ’79, severe rusting required replacement of front suspension struts, floor pans, running boards, and assorted structural & cosmetic welding work.
      Welding repairs were particularly problematic because the welding was all done to connect to the non-zinc rusting remnants of the original body/frame.
      As I recall, a lot of structural fiberglass work was done in an effort to limit further corrosion.

      In ’86 upon moving from Chevy Chase, MD, drove to Orcas Island, WA, in total elapsed time of 72 hours including a 1.5 hr ferry ride…sold it to a restorer for a song in 2003…my dreams lay elsewhere.

  5. RayT Member

    If you made up a list of the most beautiful coupes ever created, this one would have to be in the Top Five!

    And they are even better to drive. My personal fave on the road was the late-model M6, but that suffered from bumper and interior “enhancements” and lots of associated complexities that the Feds apparently liked, but I didn’t.

    Couldn’t tolerate the automatic, though. I agree with Dolphin; having seen more than a few rotted-out E9 Coupes, I’d expect finding the parts for a trans.-formation wouldn’t be impossible to find. And it would be worth the effort.

  6. Leaf36

    … Swoon …

  7. Dennis

    What are the rules for smog in California is this car exempt due to age?

    • Greg Member

      Smog exempt. Only cars 40 years old and newer require a smog cert.

      • Horse Raddish

        not quite correct. It’s the year that counts.
        1976 and newer need smog, which means the years keep piling up on the cars that are exempt.(and the ones that just fall into the ‘smog required’ category
        There were rumors that Gov. Brown was trying to pass a bill that ALL cars 1980 and on are considered junk. My guess for the sole purpose of getting old cars off the road. (Or that you cannot claim your (f.e. 1984 Porsche 944) old car to be a classic/collector car.)
        The once ‘car-capital’ of the US is no more.
        California has become the most Classic car- hostile state there is.

  8. Steve H

    Nice car but the photos are horizontally condensed. The wheels aren’t even round! On my way! Wonders how that happens. WTF

  9. Steve H

    One wonders. Darn autocorrect!

  10. Rustytech Member

    Nice car but, The driving fun with these came from jamming gears, no gears to jam here! Not interested.

  11. DG

    Other E9 owners, help me out. Is that an original speaker grill in the dash. Also, that veneer gouge could be hard to repair. And now for a few more nits; passenger armrest/door pull is missing its cap and there is some missing weather stripping on that front door jamb. The trunk lid is missing its tool kit. The rear bumper is missing the over riders. One of the strut caps is missing as is the driver side seat release lever trim. Something else that appears to be missing are the rocker cover and chrome trim piece. The center console has been out and not replaced very well. To my eye, the hood liner replacement is an average job as is the paint. Isn’t that lots of over spray in the trunk and engine bay. Finally, I’d be suspicious of the driver A pillar area. These cars rust there and the subsequent moisture can discolor and rot the wood dash from behind. I think I see some spotting coming on.

    All minor things considering the mileage plus the apparent rust free nature of the car. Absolutely gorgeous, sexy cars.

  12. Horse Raddish

    I would say this car is a 20+ year old restoration from Germany before it was exported and transplanted to dry Texas.

    Looking under the car and under the hood gives me a little hesitation to buy this for $30k.

    You forgot the switches for the rear power windows are in the wrong place.

  13. Wagon master

    I owned a 73. Nice touring car but with the automatic it revs 4200 @ 70 mph.

    As previously stated you’ll never know where (not if) the rust hides until the undercoat is peeled.

    The wood veneers on the dash are a bugger to restore, did it!
    I had the solid walnut trim on the door panels made from a solid piece at a wood working shop.

    Lotta trouble! Most convert the drive train to a more modern Motronic system because the legacy drive train becomes a 40 year old unreliable system. Ask me how I know! !!

  14. smittydog

    Apparently you guys have already gotten your knee replacement and have the extra time and $ to throw away to replace tranny. Don’t forget, automatics are faster than sticks. Turns out those “perfectionist” krauts cars need as much work on them as ours and cost a fortune to repair!

    • Brian

      Actually not true. While newer cars with automatics are frequently faster than manuals, that was rarely the case back in the day. The E9 was almost two seconds slower from zero to 60 in slushbox form.
      If we’re honest, it shouldn’t be all about stats anyway. They are beautiful cars either way but I’m happier shifting myself.

  15. HBChris

    DG, your observations are correct. That isn’t the factory speaker cover, overspray everywhere, engine bay looks like it hasn’t been maintained in a very long time, same with suspension. Wheels are Turbine style from a later car, VIN is a euro coupe that is why it has a velour interior but having A/C is unique for these, headliner looks like it was replaced but poorly as it sags around visors, no badges on trunk, etc. And the auto is a three speed and considered a dog vs. a manual.

  16. rando

    I had a friend who collected these back in the 80s. He had 15 or more of them at one point. US and gray market cars. Including the 19th Coupe ever built as the 3.0CS. It was green with saddle interior, originally from Italy. He had one (Alpina?) with 4 buckets in it that you had to push yourself into and you were secure at that point. No lateral movement allowed. Neat. I helped him move them around as he sold them, helped run them to mechanics, cleaned them, got to drive them. Fun days for a young man. He also had a 62 Grand Prix with the 421(?), tri power, 8 lug wheels, and 4 speed. Also a 2002 tii turbo (the one with the reversed graphics on the air dam. But I always thought the coupes were the best looking cars. He offerend me a Bavaria and I passed – kinda wish I woulda taken that one.

  17. JBones

    The reader must be Dennis Collins of C.B. Jeep….

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