The BMW 3.0 CSL is an icon of my youth. When my brother and I saw it in traffic, we felt like we were at a racetrack. It was the only road car at the time to have a rear wing, a typical feature of a racing car. And those incomparable massive fender flares were really wonderful. And if the BMW also came in the typical white color with the red and blue stripes, our illusion was perfect.
I haven’t seen many of these beautiful race cars at historic motorsport events for a long time. If there was one, I was happy. At this year’s PeterAuto Spa Classic, however, six of these iconic touring cars from the 1970s were at the start. It was a treat for the eyes and ears.
BMW struggled with racing dominance from the Ford factory with their no less iconic Ford Capri RS 3100.
The new BMW E9 series formed the basis for the 3.0 CSL.
The abbreviation CSL stood for coupé, sport and lightweight construction. This racing car served as a homologation model for use in the major touring car races of the time.
With the new CEO Bob Lutz, BMW finally returned to motor racing with a vengeance. The manager of the Ford works, Jochen Neerpasch, was hired and finally the BMW Motorsport GmbH was founded.
The BMW 3.0 CSL from 1973 was the most powerful street version of the series. In the third expansion stage, the engineers achieved their striving for even more performance through a larger displacement and extremely lightweight construction and a striking aerodynamics package with the aforementioned rear wing. Some BMW enthusiasts nicknamed the 3.0 CSL the “Batmobile”.
In hardly any other BMW is a motto of all designers more visible than in the 3.0 CSL. Form follows function. The fins on the front fenders provided more stability in fast corners. The fenders, which are two centimeters wider, made room for the seven-inch wide alloy wheels. The front spoiler brought more downforce to the front axle and the massive rear wing generated more traction for the rear wheels.
The iconic design, the countless successes in motorsport and the small production number of the last expansion stage make the BMW 3.0 CSL a sought-after classic with absolute rarity value. Only 167 units left the factory premises from 1973 to 1975. It was amazing for me to experience so many of them at one racing event.
The touring car races of that time were characterized by the fight between Ford and BMW. It was about trophies, but above all it was about prestige and a certain supremacy in German automobile construction, and of course also about sales figures. Win on Sunday – sell on Monday was the goal even then. To this end, prominent drivers were also engaged for individual races: Emerson Fitiipaldi for BMW and Sir Jackie Stewart for Ford. But Niki Lauda, who was still very young at the time, also got the chance to drive a BMW 3.0 CSL. In the six-hour race on the legendary Nürburgring, which was won by Hans-Joachim Stuck and Chris Amon, Lauda in the second 3.0 CSL used by Alpina set a new lap record of 8 minutes 21.3 seconds for a lap on the up and down curves of the Nordschleife .
Enjoy the images of this iconic racing car that embodies the spirit of the mid 1970s.
A nice fact beside is that the bodywork of the icon inspired several great artist to create some special versions of the BMW 3.0 CSL called BMW Art Car Collection. Alexander Calder and Frank Stella were creating the first examples. Find out more about our photographer Ralph Lüker.