Scheduled to appear in the 19th Annual Amelia Concours’ BMW 3.0 CSL “batmobile class” are not only the 1975 Sebring 12 Hour and ’76 Daytona 24 winners, but Alexander Calder’s 1975 Le Mans 3.0 CSL with his trademark signature on the left rear fender.
BMW’s “Batmobile” racers were glorious mutants. They 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 luxury coupe to over 180 mph.
American road racing fans took one look and fell in love. They also gave the new BMW racing coupes their nickname; “the batmobiles”.
“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 Fifties and Sixties. 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 “batmobiles” was the 1975 12 Hours of Sebring where Amelia Honorees Sam Posey (2013) and Brian Redman (2000) with Hans Stuck and Alan Moffat scored the Bavarian coupe’s first major international victory. In 1976 the German team followed up with another “batmobile” win in the grinding 24 Hours of Daytona. There were more “batmobile” 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 “batmobile’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 ’75 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”.
On March 9, 2014 the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will host a special class for BMW’s rare “batmobiles” at the 19th annual edition of the spring show that opens the international concours season.
“BMW’s Art Cars were an entirely new style of motorsport marketing,” said Warner, “In an era when most racing cars were little more than moving billboards, BMW’s art cars broke with commercial stereotypes and enhanced the identity of the BMW brand through art rather than typical advertising. It was a brilliant move. It worked then, and it’s still working.”