The 1973 BMW 3.0CSL looked funky but its improved aerodynamics made it a winner on the track
The BMW 3.0 CSL "Batmobile" was one of the most outrageously brutal road-going homologation specials ever conceived, designed to exploit several loopholes and bring to BMW a German Saloon Car Championship. In order to homologate a more competitive racing car, the monocoque was formed from thinner-gauge steel, and aluminum was employed to skin the hood and trunk. An array of luxuries were deleted, such as the front bumper (the rear bumper was now formed of polyester), power steering, electric windows, thick carpets, comfortable seats, and sound deadening; in total, 250 kgs (approx. 551 lbs) were shaved off the curb weight.
Despite this, Ford managed to keep the Capri ahead of the CSL on the track, thanks largely to the supreme efforts of engineers Jochen Neerspach and Martin Braungart. However, in 1972, BMW adopted the attitude that "to beat them you have to buy them,"
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and thus Neerspach and Braungart joined BMW, becoming catalysts for the formation of BMW Motorsport Gmbh. To improve downforce, Neerspach and Braungart added a deep front air dam, the fenders grew pronounced air guides, and a trunk-lip spoiler was added. Though not able to be supplied fitted by the dealers in Germany, the dynamic beast also came with a roof-mounted deflector and a huge rear wing (so large and heavy that BMW had to revert back to a steel trunk panel to support the weight of it under load). Whilst still badged as a 3.0 CSL, the engine's stroke was increased, raising the engine capacity to 3,153 cc.
The menacingly staunch profile of the new CSL earned the nickname "Batmobile," in direct comparison to the Caped Crusader's own mode of transport. Only 110 such road-going examples were produced in this 3.2-liter form in 1973, with a mere 57 more cars leaving the factory until production ceased in December 1975.
The homologated improvements allowed BMW to beat Ford in style during the 1973 European Touring Car Championship and made for some of the best racing battles of the era. At the end of the 1974 season, BMW and Ford both withdrew from the series, but in private hands, the Batmobile remained a winner.
This particular example has been confirmed by BMW Mobile Tradition as having been finished on September 10, 1973, and delivered two weeks later to BMW dealer Autohaus Vincentz in Kempen, Germany. Acquired by Maurice Gierst, owner of a BMW dealership in Brussels, in the early 1980s, the car was treated to a comprehensive yet highly sympathetic restoration, which included a full engine rebuild with new Mahle pistons and a lead-free cylinder head conversion. Once completed, it remained in the showroom on display and was only rarely taken out.
The SCM Analysis
This car sold for $153,718 at Christie's London sale on June 26, 2006.
The car that the CSL begs comparison to is the Porsche 911 2.7 RS. Both were available in several flavors"touring" and "lightweight" for the 911, and the "city package" (with metal bumpers and front spoiler only) and 3.2-liter "Batmobile" for the BMW. Both were built as homologation specials that resulted in significant production. While the 911 has been a sought-after A-list collectible for quite some time, the CSL has yet to achieve flavor-of-the-month status. The most likely reason is that in street trim, the CSL just isn't as exciting as its looks suggest it should be.
In touring form, the 2.7-liter 911 RS made around 210 hp, compared to a 190-hp 2.4-liter 911 S. The extra 20 hp plus tuning differences made for a significantly better-performing car. The CSL, on the other hand, put out 206 hp, just a 6-hp difference over the normal 3.0 CSi. Street CSLs were clocked to 60 in around 7.0 to 7.5 seconds (compared to around 8.0 seconds for a 3.0 CSi). Decent performance for the time to be sure, but nothing spectacular.
And then there were the looks. The E9 coupe, upon which the CSL was based, was one of the cleanest and most elegant coupes ever. Unlike the subtle flares and the clever ducktail of a 911 RS (both of which look so right on the car), the Batmobile wing, air splitters, and bizarre tacked-on chrome wheel arch extensions of the CSL (which look more at home on a Florida 560SL with gold accents) do nothing positive for the BMW. Undeniably effective in providing downforce on the track, the aerodynamic add-ons have a juvenile "boy racer" look compared to the 911 RS, which looks purposeful and well executed.
In any event, this is an important piece of BMW history. The CSL was the first product of the Motorsport division, and as such was the progenitor of the famous "M" cars. The competition provenance of the vastly fiercer track versions is impeccable, and they remained competitive in the hands of privateers long after the E9 coupe had gone out of production.
While somewhat of a paper tiger, Batmobile CSL production numbers were low, and the car does have a considerable amount of cachet as a result of this and its track success. It would be welcome at events like the Tour Auto and Modena Cento Ore. For the price paid, and in comparison to other homologation specials from the '70s like the RS and even the Plymouth Superbird (sporting an even more garish wing), it represents good value. But because it lacks the performance to match its looks, it will never appreciate at the forefront of the market.
Years Produced: 1971–72
Number Produced: 1,039
Original List Price: $13,500 (Never sold in the U.S.)
SCM Valuation: $19,000–$28,000 (at time of print)
Tune-up Cost: $600
Distributor Caps: $19.95
Chassis # Location: Plate right side of engine compartment behind shock tower
Engine # Location: Left side of block above oil filter housing
Club Info: BMW CS Registry, 5341 Gibson Hill, Edinboro, PA 16412
Web Site: http://www.bmwcsregistry.org
Alternatives: 1973 Porsche Carrera 2.7 RS, 1970–74 Ford Capri RS 2600, 1963–77 Alpine A110