CSL-spec rally-service 1972 BMW E9 Kombi
Despite its suburban lines, this BMW E3 Kombi is the lone survivor of three built by BMW Motorsport, designed to keep up with speeding rally cars. Words Sam Dawson. Photography Jordan Butters.
RAPID RESPONSE Meet the sole survivor of three CSL-spec rally-service E9 Kombis
Meet the CSL engined BMW Motorsport estate originally built to chase after works rally cars
What you’re looking at here is quite possibly BMW’s most unlikely ‘M-car’. It wasn’t built to race or sire a line of fast road cars, but it was a genuine creation of BMW Motorsport.
As BMW’s profile escalated in the Seventies, the firm’s fleet of 2000-based estates struggled to support on international rallies. Problem was, unlike its domestic rivals, BMW didn’t make vans. The solution? A trio of bespoke E3 estates, rear quarters devised to carry entire gearboxes among other replacement parts.
To compensate for the extra weight, under the bonnet was the same twin-Zenith-carburetted engine as found in early CSLs. The Kombis supported BMW Motorsport’s rally 2002s in international competition until 1973, when the reality that Peugeot 504 estates were better suited to the job finally sank in.
There is a CSL rallying secret, however. In 1972, one former CSL press car with a 300bhp Alpina engine was sold to a Motorsport-supported rally team based in Ludwigshafen. CSLs weren’t homologated for rallying, so the team passed the car off as a 2800CS. Before FISA caught up with it, the car contested six rounds of the German Rally Championship with Gerd Raschig and Achim Warmbold, before being reworked for the track and raced at the Nürburgring circuit, then going to the US.
This Kombi survived thanks to a Motorsport engineer, who bought it from BMW in 1973 to transport his racing motorbike, garaging it before selling it to a former colleague, who restored the bodywork but retained its patina.
These novel service barges saw active service on the Monte Restoration addressed body and mechanicals but kept patina Carburettor-fed six-cylinder meant the Kombis were pacy as well as practical Generous load bay versatile enough to take spare parts or snoozing engineers In service on the 1973 Acropolis with works 2002s Motorsport had a fleet of three E3 Kombis built.
‘They served until 1973, when the reality that Peugeot 504s were better-suited finally sank in’