We’re big fans of the classic BMW E9, surely one of the most elegant GT coupes of all-time. While the be-winged CSL, or “Batmobile”, may be the most iconic version of this venerable platform, it’s the full-luxe, standard production models that we dream about owning. We interviewed John Tolle, owner of a highly-original and seriously gorgeous 3.0 CS. Impeccably preserved, tastefully modified and driven with enthusiasm, his is one special coupe. Thanks for the submission, John!
Q: Why a 3.0 CS?
A: I’d always wanted one, there’s just something about its style, the airy, pillar-less greenhouse. I spent a long time looking for the right car, and walked away from nearly everyone I saw—except this one. A friend of mine who’s recently passed away, Murray Fowler, who was regarded as a real authority on all things E9, helped me find it. Murray had a 2800 CS that’s generally accepted to be the highest mileage one still on the road, with something north of 400,000 miles on it.
Q: What’s it like to drive?
A: It’s absolutely wonderful. I recently drove it about 3,500 miles round trip to the Santa Fe Concorso, then within a few weeks put on another 1,500 driving to the Hilton Head Concours and back to my home in Ohio. It ran faultlessly, even up steep mountain roads and in heavy traffic.
Q: Impressive. How did you place at the Concours?
A: I placed 2nd in class (Sports & GT, 1966-75) at the Sante Fe Concorso, where my competition was a 330GT, a 330GTC, a DB6, a Mistral Spyder, a GTV 1750, and a ’73 911T, all previously restored besides my car and one of the 330’s. The DB6 took first.
Q: I was about to ask if it was original or restored.
A: It’s very original, but was resprayed about 20 years ago to a very high standard. The interior was refinished with Connolly leather around the same time. It’s also been fitted with a 3.5 liter motor that once saw duty in Murray’s 2800 CS, and that’s backed by a BMW five-speed transmission—these cars were originally fitted with four-speeds. It’s a very popular conversion, and even the purists understand its usefulness. The wheels are 16″ items also sourced from a later BMW, and in conjunction with the five-speed they enhance and complement the car’s capabilities.
Q: How do non-car people react to it?
A: Very well, they love it. It draws a lot of attention, everywhere I go people ask me what kind of car it is, if it’s old or new—that kind of thing.
Q: What’s your car’s particular history?
A: It was imported from Berlin near the beginning of its life, and then until recently spent all of its time in Central California. I don’t know many specifics, but I’m the 3rd or 4th owner.
Q: For me, the interior is the highlight of a car full of highlights. What’s your favorite feature?
A: The interior is special. I love the shape of the C pillar, the whole shape of the car is just beautiful. I love the way it drives—just love the whole car.
Q: It’s so elegant I’d almost feel the need to dress appropriately for the event of driving it! Is it used only for special occasions, or is it driven more frequently than that?
A: I drive it a lot. I like to drive, so it’s used. It’s taken good care of, I never wash it, it never sees water—I use spot detailing products to keep it clean. I’ve been caught in the rain once, but otherwise it’s never driven when it’s rainy or there’s snow or ice on the ground, but I do drive it often when the weather cooperates.
Q: Are there any special features of the car you’d like to mention?
A: It has rear window shades, one of only two cars known to be equipped as such. The community believes these are very rare factory options, as they’re quite well-engineered and intricately fitted; likely beyond what is possible for a dealer-installed option.
Q: Are there any other classics you’d like to own someday?
A: I like Ur Quattros, Alfa Montreals, and Jaguar XJC’s. The Montreal may happen sooner than later, but I really love those Jag coupes. BMW-wise, I’d like to own a Z1 and an E30 M3.