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BMW CS Colors

To review the paint colours used on the E9, we can break down into 3 groups, as follows.

2800CS Colours 1969-71
The 2800CS that went on sale in UK in October 1969 inherited the basic colour line-up from the older 2000CS model, as both models were painted and assembled at Karmann’s factory in Osnabrück. 14 colours were offered on this new CS coupe, including 4 metallic colours: Tundra Green 068, Baikal Blue 042, Nachtblau 040 and Polaris Silver 060.

In fact, BMW were early pioneers of bright acrylic metallic paints as developed by BASF and used them very strategically as way of promoting the image of BMW as a modern, fresh, technical company - particularly in the UK. Although Jaguar and Aston Martin had toyed with Dupont metallic paint in the late 1950s, the top laquer coat tended to deteriorate very quickly and was the source of numerous warranty issues for dealers throughout the 1960s. By 1970, most luxury brands such as Jaguar, Triumph, Rover, Volvo – even Mercedes - were only offering solid paint colours, mainly in dark, sombre colours or tones of grey and beiges, so the crisp metallic paints of BMW were a key feature that set the cars apart from their rivals.

One metallic colour in particular became hugely popular as an ‘image colour’ for BMW: Polaris Silver 060. Up to that point, most silver paints were actually quite dirty pale greys but Polaris 060 was the first ‘clean’ white silver colour offered in Europe and looked fabulous on the new CS in combination with the standard navy blue velour interior. It was subsequently much copied by rival makers as a neutral silver colour target right into the 1980s. Indeed, when I was a designer at Honda in the 1990s, we still used BMW Polaris Silver 060 as the benchmark target whenever we developed new silver paint colours.

Other BMW ‘staple colours’ that lasted throughout the E9 production life were Chamonix solid white 085 and Nachtblau metallic 040, which was the E9 launch colour and remained a unique colour for the CS coupe model painted in Karmann’s paint shop, complimenting the other 3 blue offered – indeed a wide range of blues was always a notable feature of the E9 colour palette.

There was also the Swedish car colour/accident research from the late 1960’s which showed that bright colours were safer than the (Ford) black, (British) racing green and a few other full colours which encouraged BMW to introduce “Inka”, “Fjord Metallic”, “Golf Yellow” and “Taiga Metallic” – and others.;

3 velour fabric interior colours were offered on the 2800CS: black S51/92, navy blue S48/39 and beige S19/20. Beige interiors were standard with Tundra 068 and Agave 071 dark greens, plus Baikal blue 042, Riviera blue 036, Sahara beige 006 and Nevada grey 001.

3.0 CS colours 1972-74
For the 1972 model year and the revised 3.0 CS range, BMW introduced a series of much brighter BASF paint colours, together with revised velvet velour seat fabrics in 4 colourways: black S91/92, navy blue S42/39, beige S28/31and silver-grey S55/92.

Fjord ice blue 037, Taiga green 072, Ceylon gold 008 and Verona red 024 replaced the older 2800CS colours, while two very bright ‘Hi Visibility’ solid colours were offered for the first time: Inka orange 022 & Golf yellow 070. These were part of a Swedish and German colour trend in early ‘70s, pioneered by Volvo, Mercedes and VW safety research programs, whereby yellow and orange colours were deemed easier to detect in poor visibility, hence a rash of violent orange and yellow colours on rather dreary Volvos, VW Beetles and Mercedes W112s. They still look wonderful these days on CSLs however! Fjord ice blue 037 with blue interior was always a popular CS choice, as was Baikal mid blue metallic 042. Turkis 065 (Turquoise) replaced the old Tundra green metallic and was subsequently used as the launch ‘image’ colour for the new E12 5-series in July 1972.

The silver-grey velour interiors complimented several darker colours offered such as Nachtblau 040, Atlantic blue 041, Riviera blue 036, Black 086 and Malaga red 021. (They looked fabulous when new but quickly became scruffy and few have survived in decent condition today, with many being retrimmed in alternative colours and fabrics). In total, 17 colours were offered on the 3.0 CS range, with leather available as a special interior option.

The CSL in the UK was available in 8 colours and it’s interesting to look at the CSL colours on the register today to gauge the popularity of each colour. Looking at the 2285 series CSL, it is clear that the cars were painted in small batches of 4-5 consecutive VINs in a similar colour. This was standard paintshop practice at the time, in order to avoid the paint operators having to reload and purge the spray guns for each body, wasting time and excessive paint. (These days with fully robotised paintshops this is less of an issue: the guns are briefly purged after each body and – remarkably - every colour can be fed through to just 1 spray head). Given that the cars were built over a very short period of a few months in late ‘72, BMW UK must have had to order the entire colour stock before they’d got any dealer commitments, hence it must have been a nightmare to estimate customer colour preferences and manage the subsequent stock amongst a tiny dealer network. That 500 car order was extraordinary really, given that in 1971 just 200 CS Coupes were shifted in the UK, and yet this was a special lightweight version, with compromised equipment and racing seats. It’s hard to imagine BMW UK doing that today!

Looking at the subsequent CSL registration dates, it’s obvious that some colours sold quickly, while others took much longer, with cars being stored in Belgium awaiting dealer orders. The majority of the 500 cars were painted in Polaris silver 060 or Fjord blue 037, with Verona red 024 proving a popular choice for initial orders - probably a result of the red car featured in the brochure. By contrast, the other bright colours were produced in much smaller quantities yet sold surprisingly quickly: quite late VIN numbers of Taiga green, Inka orange and Golf yellow CSLs were all sold out by July 1973.

Meanwhile, Ceylon gold 008 cars seemed hard to shift and the CSL ‘image’ colour of Chamonix white 085 proved not as popular as anticipated. Solid Black 086 was also offered as a special order - at least 1 black 2285 CSL was offered for sale new in Autocar in 1974, for instance.


3.0 CS colours 1974-75
With the revised 433/435 E9 chassis numbers in November ’73, the colour palette was increased to 18 colours and freshened in line with the new E12 5-series. Thus, Siena brown metallic 009 replaced Ceylon gold, Arktis blue metallic 045 was a reformulated version of the popular Baikal blue, Anthracit grey metallic 055 replaced Turkis, Amazonas green 076 replaced the old Agave solid dark green colour and Granat burgundy red metallic 025 was introduced.

Finally, the E9 was facelifted in May ‘74 for the runout year. These cars are distinguished by the 4-spoke E12-style adjustable steering wheel, lateral rather than longitudinal seat pleats, revised suspension settings with stiffer anti-roll bars and a larger 15.8 gal fuel tank. From this date, the external bonnet and wing grilles were now finished in matt black, as were the wiper blades. A contrasting vinyl roof was also fitted as standard, although many surviving examples have had this deleted during subsequent rebuilds. At this stage, the E9 was briefly listed with 3 of the new E6 2002 solid paint colours too: Jade green 078, Mint green 079 and Pastel blue 044, although whether any were actually sold in the UK remains doubtful – we have no records of any surviving cars in these colours. Unless you can prove us wrong, that is!

Current surviving cars records we have: 14 Polaris silver, 12 Chamonix white, 11 Fjord blue, 10 Verona red, 6 Taiga green, 2 Golf, 2 Inka, 2 Ceylon gold. Also 1 Nachtblau (John Wilkinson), 1 black (aftermkt?)

Blue and silver were definitely the image cols for this car, as featured in adverts, brochures and launch material, Blue remains most popular colour of surviving examples, with 43 examples shared over 5 original colours offered - Fjord, Baikal, Nachtblau, Riviera and Atlantic dark blue.
Also listed are 27 Polaris silver, 10 Verona red, 5 Turkis, 5 Black, 5 Inka, 4 Taiga met green, 4 Golf, 4 Granat red, 4 Ceylon gold, 4 Chamonix white, 3 Tundra green, 2 Anthracite grey, just 1 example of Amazonas green, 1 Siena brown.


Credits: Nick Hull


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