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Classic Velocity Blog

Beginning With An Ending

Classic Velocity

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The BMW 3200CS of the early 1960s was the last of the postwar BMW V8 cars. It was a successor to the very limited 503, and ended a proud era of producing big sporting sedans, coupes, and sportscars with this engine configuration. It was built on the same chassis as the 503, and also inherited many of its' features. There was a lapse of 3 years between the end of the 503 and the introduction of the 3200CS which roughly corresponded to the near death experience of the company and the ultimate rescue by the Quandt family. Inside BMW a new direction was being set in many directions, and in-house vs contracted design was one of them. Marketing manager Helmut Bonsch wanted to attach a Pininfarina designed Lancia Flamina with a facelift to a BMW chassis. This idea was not approved, but instead a coupe from Bertone was commissioned for a perimeter chassis. That coupe became the 3200CS.

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The result was a handsome luxurious coupe, and a prototype cabriolet. BMW decided against producing the cabriolet, although one was built for Herbert Quandt. They did give the green light to the coupe. It was formally introduced at the 1961 Frankfurt show, along with the 1500 Neue Klasse sedan (see Birth of the Bavarian Sports Sedan). The first production models followed in early 1962. The coupe featured an all alloy 3.1 litre V8 producing 160hp and 177 ft/lbs of torque. It was a four speed manual with twin Zenith carbs which could propel the car to a top speed of 124mph. The suspension featured wishbones and torsion bars up front, with a live axle and torsion bars in the rear. Brakes were disc up front and drums out back. As mentioned, the body was steel on a tubular steel chassis weighing in at 3300 lbs. With this combination of numbers, the 3200CS, like the 503 before it, was more GT than sports car.

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The coupe represented many "lasts" for BMW. The last postwar V8, the last pushrod motor, the last live axle car, etc. However, it also began a new era. More than the numbers, it is the influence of the car that makes it important. A host of styling and engineering decisions lived on in future models. The engine being placed low to allow for a low nose, the generous greenhouse, the round tail lights with turn signals in the center, the elimination of the B pillar, gearbox to engine mating, rear kink, belt line crease. The 3200CS lost the studebaker-like styling (IMHO) of the 503 and ushered in the modern BMW coupe. It only lasted 3 years, from 1962 to 1965, and only 603 were produced, but it is a very short evolutionary step from the 3200CS to the 2000CS, the 2800CS, and the iconic 3.0CS that followed within just a few years.