The BMW 3.0 CSL “Batmobile” race car painted by Alexander Calder will be featured at the 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, scheduled for March 7-9 in Amelia Island, Florida. The first BMW Art Car will headline the event’s BMW “Batmobile” class.
BMW’s “Art Cars” debuted to the public at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs at the Louvre in May 1975. It was a creative alliance of racer and art auctioneer Herve Poulain and American sculptor Alexander Calder mixed with the foresight of BMW Motorsport chief Jochen Neerpasch.
Calder started with a scale model of the CSL “Batmobile”, cloaking it in broad swaths of red, blue and yellow while ignoring the car’s structure and shape.
“Calder’s genius was to use primary colors,” said Sam Posey, the American artist and racer who drove Calder’s Art Car “Batmobile” at Le Mans in 1975.
In Munich, BMW’s international headquarters, the Calder Le Mans 3.0 CSL “Batmobile” was painted accurately to the smallest detail, including Calder’s signature on the left rear fender. BMW motorsport produced not only a 3.0 CSL “Batmobile” as the artist’s canvas, but one with an entry in the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was a stroke of marketing genius as potent as BMW’s freshly minted “Ultimate Driving Machine” marketing campaign.
“Neerpasch had the Calder Art Car insured for $1 million as a work of art,” continued Posey. “It was brilliant. The whole art world picked up on that.”
Poulain got to live his fantasy at the 1975 Le Mans, sharing driving duties with American BMW factory racer and 2013 Amelia Honoree Sam Posey and Ferrari’s 1964 Le Mans winner Jean Guichet. The Calder BMW “Batmobile” was a standout in qualifying. Posey proved BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” claim was no frothy ad slogan, qualifying first in class and 11th overall in a 55-car field. In the race he led the GT class while Calder watched. A broken drive line component ended the first Art Car’s noble run during Le Mans’ ninth hour.
“In the final 15 minutes of qualifying Thursday night, just before midnight, I got a perfect lap,” said Posey. “I got the esses and Tetre Rouge just right. The BMW was really fast, but I caught a draft from a prototype going all the way down Mulsanne. That was probably the best lap of my life.”
Despite the retirement, a motorsport tradition had been born. The fans adored Poulain’s Art Car concept, Calder’s vivid work and the BMW’s fast “Batmobiles”. BMW Art Cars from Americans Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol followed Calder’s seminal creation. It was one of Calder’s final major works. He died in 1976.
“BMW gave me a chance to drive with Brian Redman at Mosport or do Le Mans that weekend,” said Posey. “We had an extraordinary race. Calder flew in about an hour before the start. His studio was about 60 miles south of Le Mans. I think he was aiming for something playful. But imagine that; he ended up with a serious artist at the wheel.”
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.