BMW Batmobiles at 2014 Amelia Concours

BMW CSL Batmobiles at Daytona
BMW 3.0 CSL Batmobiles at 24 Hours of Daytona (photo: Bill Warner)

A special class for the epic BMW CSL ‘Batmobiles’ will be featured at the 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, to be held March 7-9 in Amelia Island, Florida. Among the BMW racing coupe entrants scheduled to appear at the 19th annual Concours will be the 1975 Sebring 12 Hour and 1976 Daytona 24 winners, in addition to Alexander Calder’s 1975 Le Mans 3.0 CSL ‘Art Car’ with his trademark signature on the left rear fender.

The BMW CSL ‘Batmobile’ racers arrived from Europe wearing a frosting of giant wings, huge fender boxes and big spoilers, all powered by a 430 hp straight-six engine that made a glorious noise and propelled BMW’s coupe to over 180 mph. American road racing fans took one look and fell in love.

“BMW’s ‘Batmobiles’ introduced American road racing fans to a new and different style of driving,” said Bill Warner, Founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “BMW factory driver Hans Stuck led the charge with wild exhibitions of flat-out, wheel lifting, sideways, ‘eleven-tenths’ ‘Batmobile’ racing that had nothing to do with the traditional smooth techniques of the grand masters of the ‘50s and ‘60s. It was wild and mad, but it was frantic, fast and fun to watch.”

The ‘Batmobiles’ debut came at the 1973 Six Hours of the Nurburgring in a corporate war between the be-winged BMW 3.0 CSLs and Ford’s Capri. Ford brought Grand Prix stars Jackie Stewart and Emerson Fittipaldi, plus the Amelia’s 2014 honoree Jochen Mass. They led the blue-oval’s fight against BMW’s F1 stars Chris Amon, Hans Stuck and future World Formula 1 Champion Niki Lauda. The BMWs won the most important race on the European Championship calendar that weekend and the ‘Batmobile’ legend was born.

The American high water mark for BMW’s CSL was the 1975 12 Hours of Sebring, where Alan Moffat and the Amelia’s 2013 Honoree Sam Posey and 2000 Honoree Brian Redman scored the Bavarian coupe’s first major international victory. In 1976, the German team followed up with another win in the grinding 24 Hours of Daytona. There were more victories In America: Laguna Seca, Daytona’s Paul Revere in July, Riverside and two consecutive wins at Talladega. The American victories fit well with the BMW’s string of European Touring Car Championships that would ultimately stretch from 1973 through 1979.

In the summer of 1975 BMW entered a very special version of the 3.0 CSL ‘Batmobile’ coupe at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; BMW’s first ‘Art Car’ was rendered by Alexander Calder, an American artist known for his giant mobiles. He was enticed into the BMW Art Car project by racer and art auctioneer Herve Poulain who raced the Calder BMW Art Car at Le Mans in 1975 with Sam Posey and 1964 Le Mans winner Jean Guichet. It didn’t finish, but Calder’s application of bold, primary colors and strong geometric shapes to the contours of BMW’s winged grand touring coupe captivated fans in both the art and the automotive worlds.

Alexander Calder’s 3.0 CSL was the first in a line of BMW Art Cars that spanned three decades. It set off a series of BMW’s racers rendered by famous artists. Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein interpretations of the 3.0 CSL followed Calder’s Le Mans ‘Batmobile’.

The 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will be held March 7-9th on the 10th and 18th fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. The show’s Foundation has donated over $2.2 million to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Inc. and other charities on Florida’s First Coast since its inception in 1996.

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[Source: Amelia Island Concours; photo: Bill Warner]

Show Comments (6)

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  1. Erm…. the CSL story is actually not as fantastic as presented. First, it was hatched into the ETCC series in mid-season in a completely one-sided homologation by the FIA. Second, BMW never did the requisite homologation in time for the debut. Third, it wasn’t quite as dominant even as a cheater car, with a number of non-factory teams running the car to pad the factory team. Jochen Mass drove the 1973 Ford werkes Capri without any aero devices as a result of BMW’s subterfuge with the FIA, and he drove heroically, giving a brave account of his skills. If BMW had to play by the same rules, the Capri would have won its third straight ETCC title in 1973. When Ford’s aero-Capri debuted in 1974, it largely squashed the CSL with the mighty GAA Cosworth 3.4L and revised bodywork. The season was spoiled by the OPEC race schedule cut-backs, and both BMW and Ford essentially backed-off racing for “conspicuous consumption” political reasons and raced a reduced schedule. Pity, but Ford then closed it German racing operation, and the CSL essentially raced against itself, “winning” a lot of hollow victories against underfunded non-factory teams. Including at Sebring and Daytona. Not that huge a deal actually.

    1. Hmmm. Multiple LeMans class wins, Spa 24 hours, Sebring, and five consecutive ETCC championships, among dozens of other significant wins. And a successful racing history for the car without appreciable change from 1972 to 1978 and you have the makings of a true legend. Bravo to Amelia Island for this special class recognition.

      Try as you might to minimize this record, in favor of a Ford Capri, supported by a MUCH bigger budget, the facts are the facts. The CSL was the greatest car of its era and remains among the most beloved car at Historic races around the world. I have had the privilege to have raced many of them. They are, without a doubt, the easiest car to race fast that I have every driven!

      1. No, no, no. The facts, as you say are the facts, and after 1974, the ETCC got very dull and uncompetitive, with mostly privateer teams. BMW didn’t do squat. I refer you to this esteemed ETCC site, wherein the years of “CSL domination” are referred to as the “Dull Years”: The fact is the CSL only had one year (1974) where it faced equivalent competition under the same regulations, and the Ford Capri RS3100 with the Cosworth Essex V6 dominated it in most contests. For the rest of its career, the CSL teams were largely competing amongst each other rather than against anyone else. Big fish, in a small bowl, like at Daytona. Ho hum. At LeMans, BMW’s factory team won exactly once with its CSL (1973 – the year it pulled the rules stunt in mid-season), just as Ford won once (1972 – with the rules the same for everybody). And finally, may I remind you that BMW M-Sport was founded by a staff of Ford Racing Team hired away from Ford. Without Ford Racing, there might have been no M-Sport, hahaha. Ask Jochen Neerpasch, whose family owned a Ford dealership, and who founded BOTH the Ford German Racing Department, as well as M-Sport! Facts, as you say!

  2. I’d love to see beautiful examples of the Capris at Amelia, but where are they? The CSLs are such recognizable icons from that era. What a great time regardless of your take on it !