Lost on Dekalb Ave: 1973 BMW 3.0 CS

I doubt that this 1973 BMW is that much more sporty than its current descendants the 2010/11 6er coupes, but it is certainly a more exotic machine. It drew my eye from blocks away with that sullen, brooding, spectral glare. 


As I wrote about a same-year sedan version of this car, a large part of this car’s allure for me is that seems to just teeter between being reasonable aspiration and a full-fledged fantasy car. As far as gorgeous, perfectly proportioned classic European designs go, the E9 coupes are a complete bargain. If you want some top-shelf stringback glove material, you’d have to pay top dollar for a Maserati 3500 or an early 911. There are, of course, more affordable alternatives, like old Datsun Bluebirds or Porsche 914s, but a 3.0CS seems to display a finer breeding than anything quite so bargain basement. However, as they rust away and their prices rise, these BMWs undergo a particular transformation that replaces that rust on their sheetmetal with youthful fresh steel and aluminum, that tightens down their sagging suspensions, and sews back up the scratches and tears of their interiors.

Cars do not grow old with any sense of linearity; ever younger automobiles can be classified with the term “classic cars”, and at a certain point, any car built before a certain year becomes indiscriminately viewed as an antique. With twenty first century eyes, a car from the 1920s doesn’t looks much different from a horseless carriage from the turn of the century. The frame of reference used to distinguish cars fades away and all cars approach a like obsolescence. This 1973 3.0 CS, with its lofty reputation as one of the finest postwar BMWs, already exists withing the same historical fold as its more baroque predecessors, the 503 and the 507. It will not be long before this car on Dekalb Ave. will be lumped together with BMW 328s, Alfa Romeo 1500s, and with enough time, the likes of early sports racers like a 1907 FIAT.


What a joy it is to see what will become a refined classic parked out on a Brooklyn thoroughfare! To see that the ageless American longing for European refinement can be played out in middle-class neighborhoods with roaring engines and oversteering chassis. I once dreamed of gliding through the Sierras in a straight six BMW coupe like this, maybe transform the small Central Valley towns intersected by the highway into street circuits like I was in Rendezvous. How swiftly this 3.0 CS brought those dreams back to mind.

I used to think to myself – someday I’ll escape this all, this small town – as I biked past a 2000CS automatic that sat with a flat tire on some West Davis street. I might get out of here with success and charm and culture.

These were silly aspirations, but as I long for a track-prepped Rambler American or  ’61 Dart from my desk in Manhattan, I know that all my automotive fantasies are equally silly, equally real. Few, though, are as beautifully manifested as this silver ghost.

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8 Responses to Lost on Dekalb Ave: 1973 BMW 3.0 CS

  1. Ben Orlove says:

    Great pictures. I like the sextet of details which highlight so well the complementarity of materials; the larger shots with out-of-focus framing details; the odd angles. The second photo though strikes me as a little over-exposed, perhaps it would have benefited from a little work in Photoshop?

    • Raphael Orlove says:

      Actually, that picture went through some photoshopping to make it a little overexposed. It was a really bright, hot day and I wanted a picture to look like it was a little too hot, too sunny.

  2. shorty says:

    did you just see this on the street or do you know the owner. I’m a fellow coupe owner and would love to meet the owner of this car. thanks

    • Raphael Orlove says:

      just saw it on the street, but if the owner happens to read this, I’d love to ask some more questions and do something a bit more in depth. Much as i can love the cars from the outside, the intentions of the owner are something that’s almost impossible to predict. Just what this car is like to drive, what it’s like to own, and what the owner went through to buy and restore it to its current condition are some things I have on my mind.

    • Raphael Orlove says:

      Wait a second – you’re that guy who got his 3.0 CS serviced over on Lafayette all the time! I’ve seen your BMW a million times – I used to live around the corner from that garage. I loved your car and I loved seeing you drive around in the whole outfit, string back gloves and all – you know, it’d be great to feature your car on this site, too, if you’re interested. You’e got great style, man, and a great ride to seal the deal.

      • shorty says:

        yes thats me. Glad I made a good impression on you .i also have a 69 MB 280sl s as well as classic 60’s vespas and the bmw that you know. . would love to do a piece with you.. send me your info at sirshorty@rcn.com and we can set it up.

  3. Knickerbocker says:

    That’s a 1973 and not a 74 model. They only made the bumper guards on the front bumper in that shape for one year.

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