BMW has a warehouse full of classics and concepts tucked away in the museum adjoining the BMW Munich HQ. Every now and again, the company dips into this archive to sate a small but vociferous customer base of collectors and enthusiasts.
This is the anniversary year of BMW’s ‘M’ subdivision, the racing and tuning specialists that have transformed the company’s saloons, estates, and SUVs into performance icons. One of the best-known fast BMWs of all time was the 3.0 CSL, launched as a racing car in 1972, with an accompanying road-going version to ensure it was eligible for the European Touring Car Championship.
The model was hugely successful on the track and highly prized on the road, with just 1,265 examples of the ultra-light version of the 3.0 CS (‘Coupé Sport’) coupé being built. The ’L’ stood for light (‘leicht’), with thinner grade steel, aluminium body parts, and the reduction of soundproofing and luxuries like electric windows. A wider body with a dramatic rear spoiler gave the 3.0 CSL the nickname of ‘Batmobile’.
BMW 3.0 CSL: an edition of 50, fit for 21st century
Now the BMW 3.0 CSL is back. In place of skinny steel there’s plenty of carbon fibre, and where the original mustered a couple of hundred horsepower, the new model makes around 552hp from its six-cylinder engine. Just 50 examples of this model will be made, building on the existing BMW M4 but offering almost entirely new bodywork. It’s also a strict two-seater, with racing seats and a place to store a couple of helmets in place of the rear seats.
Decorating this bodywork is a unique race-styled paint job, strongly influenced by the livery of the original championship winner’s sponsor, Martini, which in turn used the three colours that signified BMW Motorsport. BMW’s M cars are already highly bespoke, certainly when compared to the mass-produced models that make up the majority of the range.
The new 3.0 CSL goes a step further, with an arduous production process at BMW Group’s Dingolfing factory in Moosthenning, Lower Bavaria. Interior elements have to be handmade and each of the new CSLs will take a total of ten days to build, with the paint job requiring 134 separate processes.
While not quite as outlandish as its Batmobile forebear, the new edition is still a striking machine, with a big rear spoiler, gold wheels, and other accoutrements that appear to be taken straight from the 1970s design sourcebook.
Modern cars are no match for their featherlight predecessors, regardless of how much high material goes into their construction. Whereas the original CSL was a brawny, analogue machine, its 21st-century namesake deploys electronic trickery, from an active rear differential to aid with steering and balance, to adaptive suspension, carbon ceramic brakes and a traction control system with ten degrees of intensity.
After 50 years, the list of classic M cars is long and distinguished. In recent years, however, the division has started to bestow the badge on pure electric cars – appropriately enough, given their capacity for intense acceleration. Although the BMW 3.0 CSL probably isn’t the final petrol-powered BMW M to be built, the internal combustion engine is almost certainly on its last lap.
BMW M, BMW-M.com (opens in new tab)
Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.
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