The design and finished bodies for the successor to the BMW 503 were the work of no lesser hand than Bertone, the legendary Italian coachbuilder. The new BMW 3200 CS was a wonderfully elegant touring coupe with a superb engine under the bonnet and an interior that was downright luxurious. It also offered a glimpse of the bright future packed with fascinating new technology to which the worlds of fashion and design appeared irresistibly drawn.
Giorgio Giugiaro. He was young and immensely talented. He studied art in Turin, where he discovered his love for car styling. At the tender age of 21, he took over as head of the Bertone Styling Centre. Then in 1960, when he was just 22, came the BMW 3200 CS. Harm Lagaay, the man behind the BMW Z1, regards him as the most influential car designer of the 20th century and is by no means alone in thinking so.
Living in the future.
The 1960s heralded a radical departure from the recent past to a degree beyond pretty much any other decade before or since. Everything that had been all the rage moments ago – the likes of tailfins and candy colours, curved mouldings and extravagant metal-framed bays with small coronets – in a trice appeared old-fashioned and passé. A new wave of young designers put the cat among the pigeons, bringing cool functionality to the fore and creating sculptures of a world in the throes of upheaval. The surging popularity of science fiction fuelled the hunger for new worlds, and all of a sudden nothing seemed impossible.
A new take on the touring coupe.
Although the BMW 3200 CS was based on the engineering of the outgoing 503, it turned its back comprehensively on its predecessor’s bulky dimensions, which evoked memories of sports cars from the pre-war era. The first BMW to bear the initials CS had a far lighter and airier feel to it, its roof sitting high atop large windows that projected a self-assured aura. There were no B-pillars to disrupt the car’s profile, and at the rear the C-pillars sported the famous “Hofmeister kink” that was to become a signature feature of all BMWs. It was also the first model to come with circular rear lights, a detail that lived on until 1973 in the 02 Series launched in 1966.
In September 1961, the new BMW 3200 CS was exhibited at the Frankfurt Motor Show, although it was somewhat overshadowed by the eagerly anticipated BMW 1500 “New Class” model. As with any car that dared to be different at the time, some observers deemed it too plain, yet it was this very paring-down that made the newcomer so elegant.
A sophisticated engine.
The 3.2-litre light-alloy eight-cylinder engine was the same unit fitted in the 3200 S sedan. It generated a brawny 160 hp and propelled the coupe to a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph), an other-worldly figure in those days. The 14-second sprint from rest to 100 km/h (62 mph), however, was no quicker than in the sedan, which was actually a few kilograms lighter than the coupe. The car’s luxurious specification, including four power windows for the first time, and the body’s super-solid construction took their toll in this regard. The aluminium of its predecessor was now conspicuous only by its absence.
An Italian body.
The Bertone-produced bodies were transported from Italy to Munich by rail and finished in the Bavarian city. Too few were made for this to be considered a genuine large-scale production project, but the handcrafted build quality earned high praise from the outset, which was exactly what the factory had hoped to achieve.
Its price tag of 30,000 marks meant that it cost the same as a small house and placed it firmly in the luxury segment, where it locked horns with the world’s best. Not only was it one of motoring’s most exclusive gems, it was one of the rarest too, with no more than around 600 examples built up to 1965.
A car for connoisseurs.
The BMW 3200 CS remains a car for the connoisseur and the enthusiast. Its pure elegance, its superb build quality and the high level of comfort it offers make it the ideal tourer, even now. Never a hype magnet, its value has nevertheless stuck to a constant upward curve. Prospective buyers will need patience more than anything though, as this first, simply exquisite CS is an automotive rarity and opportunities to buy one are few and far between.