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.