The amazing art and racing history of the BMW 3.0 CSL

While there are many cars with significant race histories, there are few, if any with significant race histories in art history as the BMW 3.0 CSL; specifically Alexander Calder’s BMW 3.0 CSL

BMW has had a long and storied history in automotive motorsports going back several decades.  The BMW 3.0 CSL was amongst the first BMWs to lay the groundwork for the motorsports success that was to come.  In addition to having a successful racing history, the BMW E9 CSL also has several firsts to its name, including the first car designed by BMW’s fabled “M” division, and the first BMW Art Car.

At the intersection of modern art and the automobile are the BMW Art Cars. However, the idea for the Art Cars came from outside the company. The idea was first proposed by Herve Poulain, a young French auctioneer, to merge his two interests – art and speed. Poulain was one of the first auctioneers to handle vintage and collectible automobile auctions. In 1973, he also released L’Art et l’Automobile, a landmark work.

What are the BMW Art Cars?

Poulain proposed his Art Car concept in early 1975 and received backing from Jochen Neerpasch, the head of BMW Motorsport. Poulain proposed that BMW provide him with an automobile that he could have customized by a prominent modern artist. The high-speed example of contemporary art would next be raced at the Le Mans 24 Hours to gain maximum publicity.

Poulain was promised an E9 CSL if he could develop a viable concept. BMW’s PR department got behind the idea.

BMW art car

What is the history of Alexander Calder’s BMW E9 CSL?

Hervé Poulain inspired Alexander Calder to create the first BMW Art Car. The American artist solely utilized primary colors and applied them in large swaths across the BMW 3.0 CSL’s paintwork. The employment of various colors inside the separate elements of the car’s structure contributes to the overall illusion of movement in the image.

The mere fact that a car might be displayed as a work of art was news at the time. However, the bigger shock came when an identical 480 horsepower BMW entered the LeMans 24-hour race. Unfortunately, Calder died the same year the world’s first BMW Art Car was unveiled, making it one of his final works of art.

BMW 3.0 CSL Calder art car 02

What is the significance of Calder’s BMW E9 CSL?

Alexander Calder’s BMW CSL was significant because it was the first of several BMW art cars to follow. A representation of his art also raced competitively. The BMW E9 CSL was also important from an automotive racing perspective.

Calder BMW CSL

What was the BMW 3.0 CSL?

The BMW 3.0 CSL is a racing variant of the BMW 3.0 CS that helped the Bavarian automaker establish itself as a sports car brand in the 1970s by winning numerous races worldwide. Between 1973 and 1979, it was exceptionally successful in the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC), winning six championship titles.

It also succeeded in some of the world’s most prestigious endurance events, winning overall at the Sebring 12 Hour (1975), Daytona 24 Hour (1976), and three classes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1977). (1973, 1974, 1977).

BMW CSL cutaway

What is the significance of the BMW CSL in BMW’s M History?

The 3.0 CSL is widely regarded as the first M Series car because BMW’s competition division designed it, formally founded in 1972 as BMW Motorsport GmbH (later renamed BMW M GmbH). The 3.0 CSL would later be produced with the tri-color stripes that would become the M division’s icon, even though it did not have an “M” badge.

On what car was the BMW CSL based?

The BMW New Six CS was a two-door coupe produced by Karmann for BMW in 1968 as a replacement for the BMW 2000 CS. Powered by a 3.0-liter straight-6 engine M30, the 3.0 CSL homologation special was introduced in May 1972, allowing it to compete in the European Touring Car Championship.

The letter “L” stood for “light”, as in lightweight. The unit-body was made lighter by utilizing thinner steel, removing the trim and soundproofing, and using aluminum alloy doors, bonnet, boot lid, and Perspex side windows.

BMW 2000 CS

Changing the engine in the BMW CSL

The displacement of the M30 engine was 2,986cc. To get the BMW CSL the next racing class, engine displacement was increased by a quarter of a millimeter to 3,003cc.

The engine displacement of the M30 powering the 3.0 CSL increased in 1973 to 3,153cc. That same year, the 3.0 CSL was homologated with an aerodynamic package that included a massive air dam, short fins running along the front fenders, a spoiler above and behind the roof’s trailing edge, and a tall rear wing. Because wings on vehicles in Germany were banned, the BMW 3.0 CSL left the factory with the rear wing stowed in the trunk. Additionally, racing CSLs were given the “batmobile” nickname because of their unique look in full aero garb.

BMW 3.0 CSL Racing engine

BMW 3.0 CSL Specifications

Chassis/body Unitary steel chassis with aluminum panels
Length 4,630 mm
Width 1,730 mm
Height 1,370 mm
Wheelbase 2,624 mm
Weight 1,050 kg
Engine 3,153cc 6-cylinder inline
Power/torque 206 hp/291 Nm
Gearbox Getrag 4-speed manual
Transmission rear wheel drive
Suspension MacPherson strut/semi-trailing arm design
Brakes 10.7-inch discs all round
Wheels/tires Alpina 7×14 alloy wheels, 195/70VR14 Michelin

Lauda and Muir win their first race.

The BMW 3.0 CSL made its début in the European Touring Car Championship’s first round at Monza in March 1973. The first race was won by Niki Lauda and Brian Muir, who drove the #6 car to victory against four Ford Capri RS 2600s. Hans-Joachim Stuck, Chris Amon, Toine Hezemans, Dieter Quester, Ernesto Brambilla, Walter Brun, Vittorio Brambilla, and Bob Wollek were all noteworthy BMW drivers.

BMW 3.0 CSL jump by Muir

A championship in its first year of racing

The 3.0 CSL was the championship-winning vehicle in its first year. Toine Hezemans won three times in the 1973 ETCC, including a triumph at the 24 Hours of Spa with Dieter Quester.

Brian Muir was Toine’s other co-driver for a year. In addition, James Hunt and Jacky Ickx made cameo appearances in the BMW 3.0 CSL for the year.

The BMW CSL wins its class at the 1973 Le Mans 24 Hours.

In the #51 BMW 3.0 CSL, Hezemans and Quester won the class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 1973. They came in 11th overall and first in the T5.0 class. That race included three BMW 3.0 CSLs in total.

BMW won 1-2-3 at the 6 Hours of Nürburgring, or German Touring Grand Prix, eligible for ETCC and the German Racing Championship (DRM), with Amon/Stuck winning first and Hezemans/Quester second. Niki Lauda and Hans-Peter Joisten finished third and fourth, respectively. At the end of the 1973 German Racing Championship, Harald Menzel, the best-placed BMW driver, finished fourth.

Second place in the ETCC season of 1974

The 1974 ETCC began similarly to the previous year, with a triumph at the 4 Hours of Monza. Alain Peltier and Jean-Louis Lafosse were the victors in the #1 BMW. In that race, the BMW 3.0 CSL took the first four places.

Peltier/Lafosse won again in Vallelunga later, although they fell short of a championship. Alain Peltier came in second in the championship, behind Hans Heyer of Ford.

Another class win at the 1974 Le Mans.

Another important outcome in 1974 was Hans-Joachim Stuck and Jacky Ickx’s triumph at the 4h Salzburgring. The #86 BMW of Jean-Claude Aubrieta and Jean-Claude Depince was one of three cars in the Touring class at the 1974 Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing 15th overall and winning the class. In 1974, the car competed in the IMSA championship across the Atlantic, but with no remarkable results.

1974 LeMans BMW CSL 02

1975 – Daytona debut, Sebring triumph

The BMW 3.0 CSL made its début in the 24 Hours of Daytona in January 1975. Sam Posey/Hans-Joachim Stuck (#24) and Ronnie Peterson/Brian Redman (#25) represented BMW of America in the event. Unfortunately, things did not end well as both cars retired as a result of engine failure.

Two months later, at the Sebring 12 Hour, the #25 vehicle not only won the GTO class, but it won the entire race. Again, Redman, Posey, Stuck, and Allan Moffat were the drivers. Stuck and Dieter Quester drove the #25 to another victory at Riverside in May. Stuck went on to win two more races, the Daytona 250 Miles and the Talladega Superspeedway.

Peltier and Muller won the ETCC title in 1975.

Alain Peltier and Siegfried Muller won the first race of the 1975 European Touring Car Championship at Monza in the #6 Fatz-Alpina Essen car. Later in the season, they won again in Grand Prix Brno, claiming the second ETCC title for the BMW 3.0 CSL.

With six straight ETCC titles for BMW 3.0 CSL, a car won five ETCC races in a season, kicking off long-standing domination of the series.

BMW 3.0 CSL Group 5

Victory at the 1976 Daytona 24 Hours

BMW of North America returned to the Daytona 24 Hour in January 1976 with three cars, #59, driven by Peter Gregg, Brian Redman, and John Fitzpatrick, won the race overall, beating out four Porsche 911 Carrera RSRs. David Hobbs, Benny Parsons, and Tom Walkinshaw were the drivers of the other two BMWs.

It was BMW’s only victory in the Daytona 500 as a manufacturer. However, they went on to win two more times as engine suppliers after that.

Le Mans winning BMW 3.0 CSL

Longstanding domination of the ETCC

BMW won the season-opening race at Monza in the 1976 European Touring Car Championship. The #1 Luigi Team BMW won with Belgian drivers Jean Xhenceval and Pierre Dieudonne. They were the most successful throughout the rest of the season, capturing the third ETCC title for the BMW 3.0 CSL.

Dieter Quester was the most successful driver in 1977, winning the fourth title. It was his third ETCC title, having won the first two in a BMW 2002. Umberto Grano, an Italian, was a champion in 1978. Martino Finotto and Carlo Facetti won the sixth ETCC title for BMW 3.0 CSL in 1979, with Martino Finotto and Carlo Facetti topping the final standings.

BMW 3.0 CSLU Luigi

Both the BMW 3.0 CSL and 3.5 CSL racing together

The BMW 3.5 CSL was released in 1976, redesigned to meet Group 5 regulations for the World Manufacturer’s Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Both the 3.5 CSL and 3.0 CSL were on the starting grid at Le Mans.

Harald Grohs, Sam Posey, and Hughes de Fierlandt finished 10th overall and fourth in Group 5 in the factory-entered 3.5 CSL. Three French drivers drove the privately entered 3.0 CSL to 24th place overall.

BMW wins the IMSA class at the 1977 Le Mans 24 Hours

Several private BMW 3.0 CSLs competed in the IMSA class at the 1977 Le Mans 24 hours. Luigi Racing’s #71 car, driven by Jean Xhenceval, Pierre Dieudonne, and Spartaco Dini, placed eighth overall and first in class, ahead of several other BMWs and Porsches and Ferraris.

It was BMW 3.0 CSL’s final LeMans appearance. In the following years, a few cars raced at Daytona and Sebring, but without much success.

What was the replacement for the BMW 3.0 CSL

The BMW 3.0 CSL was replaced by the BMW 320 for the 1980 ETCC season, followed by the BMW 635 CSi in 1981. BMW continued to win championships with these two cars. However, the BMW CSL continued to compete. Between 1981 and 1985, it ran in a few additional IMSA races without much success.

1975 BMW 3.5 CSL IMSA

How did Calder’s BMW E9 CSL do?

An exact copy of Calder’s stunning CSLwas entered for the 1975 Le Mans 24 Hours by Herve Poulain, Sam Posey, and Jean Guichet. With Calder present during the premiere of his work, the CSL was a sensation when it raced in the Touring class.

Posey qualified the CSL (insured for DM1m or $430,000) in tenth place, powered by a 3.2-liter DOHC straight-six with four-valve heads and 480bhp. It was easily the fastest Touring vehicle on the track, and it was also faster than any of the GT cars.

Posey had climbed to sixth at the end of the first lap, but he was forced to pit due to a clogged fuel valve.

Posey returned to the track after losing a lap, and the BMW was seventh after two hours.

After three hours, Posey had climbed to sixth place, and the CSL had climbed to fifth by 8 p.m.

A CV joint collapsed just before 9 p.m., leaving the CSL stranded on the course.

At the end of its brief battle, the BMW was returned to Munich and used as an exhibition vehicle.

Calder BMW CSL at Le Mans

Concluding thoughts

Few, if any vehicles, have a significant racing history and hold a place in the history of modern art as Alexander Calder’s BMW E9 CSL. Of significance is the fact that it was his last work before his untimely death. It is unlikely that we will ever see another vehicle of such importance in more than one historical realmYour perfectly optimized content goes here!

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