Ron Perry’s name is synonymous with the best in classic vintage BMWs – his work has put him amongst the top in the realm of the restored and the period correct. Concours d’Elegance winners are commonplace in his garage, and the BMW world has built a certain level of expectation towards the quality of automobiles Mr. Perry puts out. The latest car of Ron’s to hit the auction block is this 1974 BMW E9 3.0 CSL, one of only a handful made, and even fewer that still exist.
BMW’s E9 chassis, known more formally as the “New Six CS,” was introduced in 1968 as the six-cylinder coupe-bodied counterpart to the E3 Bavaria sedan. The launch model was titled the 2800 CS, and utilized a 2.8-liter M30 that pumped out a steady 170 horsepower, fed by carburation. By 1971, the 2.8-liter motor had been upsized to a 3.0, and was offered in two variants. The carbureted version pumped out 180 horsepower at 6,000RPM, utilizing a compression ratio of 9.0:1. The fuel-injected version, labeled the “3.0 CSi,” featured a bumped-up compression ratio of 9.5:1, and Bosch D-Jetronic, which allowed the famous inline six to pump out 200 horsepower.
But it was in 1972 that the gearheads at BMW began to take the 3.0 CSi a bit more seriously. Their desire to race the car in the European Touring Car Championship meant that the car must be homologated – in other words, a road-going version of the race car must be sold to the public. Happy to oblige, BMW birthed the now-legendary “3.0 CSL,” the car that took the E9 from guaranteed classic to BMW icon.
The 3.0 CSLs came in a few different variants, but one in particular stands above the rest. The basis for the CSL as a whole was centered around it’s newfound additional consonant – “L.” The new letter represented “leicht,” translated into english as “light,” which is the ideology behind the lighter, quicker, and more powerful car. However, the final CSLs were given something special to differentiate them from their lower-model counterparts. These cars were sold with a tall front air dam, windsplits that sat atop the front fenders, a subtle roof spoiler, and an extravagant spoiler perched on the trunk lid, all of which were wrapped up and kept in the trunk, waiting to be installed by the dealers of countries in which these parts were road-legal. These trimmings earned these special coupes the title of “Batmobiles,” and rightfully so, with the spoiler’s uprights mimicking the iconic tail end of the Dark Knight’s early chariots. It’s a legendary title that has stuck for decades, and it represents the pinnacle of vintage BMW Motorsport.
To match the agressive ’70s aesthetics, the engine displacement of the Batmobile was increased to just shy of 3.2 liters, which was achieved by upping the stroke by 4 millimeters, and increasing the bore of each cylinder by a minuscule 0.01″. The changes caused an increase of 6 horsepower and bumped the torque from 204 lb-ft to 215 lb-ft; however, the power was better utilized as the “Leicht” came in to play. The 3.0 CSLs featured aluminum hoods to strip weight from the car, and most were also fitted with aluminum doors and an aluminum trunk lid. A lack of soundproofing and manual windows helped the CSL stay true to its “lightweight” name.
BMW built these “Batmobiles” in two runs – Series 1 and Series 2. The differences are minimal, but to some, they’re the most important of all. While the serial numbers and build dates can tell the whole story to any E9 know-it-all, it’s the presence of a middle stantion in the rear spoiler that is the dead giveaway from a distance. The Series 2 cars were given the extra upright for more support. Just 110 Series 1 Batmobiles were built, and only 40 or so are known to remain, which makes Ron Perry’s CSL a truly special car, his being one of the last 15 Series 1 cars built.
Perry’s CSL has had an interesting life, beginning expectedly in Germany. It was produced on October 17, 1973, and was delivered to Zurich, Switzerland on September 17, 1974. Ron tells me “it was imported to the U.S. from Switzerland around 1998, it was the first of many CSLs owned by the largest CSL collector in the world.” Such a collector has high standards, and so the then-24-year-old car was re-painted. The paint is still beautiful today, with small bits of patina – marks of age and beauty, which speak to this car’s prowess.
But when Ron took ownership of the sleek silver coupe just over a year ago, he knew that for vintage BMWs, beauty was often only skin deep. The driveline, suspension, and undercarriage needed a serious overhaul, and this was a car that truly deserved it. “Last October, we removed the engine and the entire drive train to do a sympathetic restoration on the car. Once we had the engine out, we stripped it down to the short block, inspected the piston journals and began building up from there,” Ron says. “We put all new gaskets, new chain, guides, belts, water pump, oil pump, clutch, bearings…”
His list continues endlessly – seemingly every part was replaced, overhauled, or refinished. Once the engine was complete, the suspension was tackled, including all new Bilstein struts, new upper and lower control arms, springs, half-shaft bearings, boots, and more. Everything was given a good powdercoat, and then was placed to the side until the chassiswork was complete.
“Once the suspension and engine were removed from the car, we sent the shell on a dolly to the body shop to have the engine compartment, the trunk, and the undercarriage painted. I didn’t like the look of two of the floor pans that had been repaired at one point in time, so I sent the shop four new reproduction pans to be welded in and painted.” Today Ron will tell you that the underside of the car is even better looking than the top, and a peek underneath will verify the claim. As a college-aged male, I’ve eaten off of dirtier dishes.
The interior was given an overhaul, and the Scheel seats were recovered in reproduction cloth to ensure authenticity and keep things looking exactly as they’re supposed to. The attention to detail is carried throughout every aspect of the car. “I also sent out the original 14″ Alpina wheels to be trued, powder coated, and cleared and have ordered 5 new, period correct Michelin XWX radials, which are now installed.” The correct tires, to some, may sound like frivolous details – but the $3000+ price tag on a set of 5 new tires shows that Ron takes his restorations seriously.
Everything on the car fits just as it should: “I was even able to source a new in box, factory muffler! It is a proper car and nothing is missing,” he tells me. With the mechanicals and foundation of the car settled, Ron turned to the exterior details. “The paint on the car had been done about 12 years ago, and to a very high standard, so the only thing I did to the exterior was remove the beltline trim and send it to be polished. We also had the front spoiler painted as someone had drilled holes in it to put a license plate on.” Don’t be that guy, future new car owners.
And with the final details ironed out, Ron considers the car complete. If the photos do this purebred machine any justice, it’s easy to see why Perry is more or less a legend in the BMW world. While this Batmobile is only one of 110, the car is one of many that has come, and will come from the mind and hands of Ron Perry. As this one heads to the auction block, we’ll eagerly be awaiting the next piece of BMW history he revives.