"Pop quiz: you have three seconds to name a wedge-shaped Lotus. Go! Okay, hands up who answered 'Esprit'? Blimey, that'll be all of you, then. Well, it is the obvious answer, isn't it? But it wasn't the first wedge-shaped Lotus. "
BMW 2000CS – Forgotten beauty?
It may be a close relation to the iconic Batmobile but the 2000CS is often overlooked by the BMW fraternity
Having been involved with BMW for nigh-on 30 years in one capacity or another (yes, I know this makes me officially old) it’s often a surprise to me how some models just don’t really seem to capture the imagination and are forgotten by all but the most dedicated enthusiasts.
The 2000CS is one such car, and I’m as guilty as the anyone for ignoring it and it’s only a couple of years ago that I came across one in the flesh. Given that it spawned the stunning E9 CS Coupé and the iconic CSL, it’s surprising that it’s been overlooked for so long.
BMW was on the brink of financial disaster at the end of the 1950s but the little 700 and the ‘Neue Klasse’ Saloon that made its debut in 1962 brought the company back from teetering on the edge of the abyss and the 2000CS was the company’s first attempt at producing an upmarket machine that was in keeping with its aspirations to bring the company back to the level it had been before the war when it had been at the top of its game.
The 2000C and CS were launched in 1965 and used the Neue Klasse’s underpinnings in a two-door body that was the work of BMW’s chief stylist Wilhelm Hofmeister – of the kink fame. While it was designed in-house BMW farmed out the construction of the CS to Karmann in Osnabrück and once the bodies were complete they were shipped to Munich to have the rest of the components fitted.
I still can’t quite make my mind up as to whether Hofmeister’s styling was successful. It’s certainly rather more rakish than the somewhat sit-up-and-beg saloon on which it’s based and does have a light and airy glasshouse and looks rather good from behind. The front end’s a bit hit and miss though with over-sized kidney grilles and heavens above, oblong headlights! Every BMW before it had round lights and virtually every one after too, so it’s probably fair to say they weren’t all that well received.
At the time it was seen as being a little quirky, interesting and enigmatic but perhaps history has been unkind to the CS as we now know that with a few tweaks to the CS’s shape the E9 Coupés that arrived in 1968 look so much better with their elongated noses, round headlights and more delicately styled kidneys.
The C and CS were the first BMWs to use the 2.0-litre version of the M10 four-cylinder engine from the Neue Klasse that would go on to find favour in the 2002 and in the C on a single carb it developed 100hp while the CS with twin Solexes could muster 120hp. Performance didn’t set the world on fire and contemporary reports suggest a 0-62mph time of around 11 seconds and a top speed of 110mph. Respectable for the day but when the car’s high price was taken into consideration it needed to offer a lot more style to make up for the somewhat lacklustre vital statistics.
Now here’s (I hope) a little known fact; BMW itself didn’t make the CS in right-hand drive form so the cars that made it to the UK were actually converted on a miniature production line set up by the BMW Concessionaires at Portslade, near Brighton. Most of the parts used in the left- to right-hand drive conversion were sourced from BMW, bar the wooden dashboard that was British made. As BMW didn’t make the (ghastly) oblong headlights with a beam pattern suitable for right-hand drive the UK concessionaires installed the quad round setup that can be seen on the red car in the pictures and I reckon these go a long way to improving the car’s looks.
Just 148 CSs were converted for UK consumption out of a total production run of 13,691 (C and CS combined) although the Portslade production line also converted a number of cars that were destined for other right-hand drive markets around the world. The low number of UK cars can be easily understood when you consider a CS cost an eye-watering £3,365 when a Jaguar E Type 2+2 was just £2,245 and the Jag offered more style and more performance.
As much as I love BMWs even I can see that you must have needed your head testing back in the mid-’60s if you’d have chosen the BMW over the E-Type!
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