The BMW 3.0 CSL is a car that has earned its place in motorsport and automotive design history. It was a homologation special that allowed BMW to compete in the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) in the 1970s, and it also became the first-ever BMW Art Car, painted by American artist Alexander Calder. But what makes this car so special, and why is it celebrated on Batman Day, the unofficial holiday that honors one of the world’s most iconic superheroes?
The Origins of the 3.0 CSL
The BMW 3.0 CSL was born out of a need to make the BMW 2800 CS, a luxurious and elegant coupe, more competitive on the racetrack. The 2800 CS had a 2.8-liter six-cylinder engine that produced 170 horsepower but was also heavy and not very aerodynamic. In 1971, BMW decided to create a lighter and more powerful version of the car called the 3.0 CSL, which stood for Coupe Sport Leichtbau (Coupe Sport Lightweight).
The 3.0 CSL had a 3.0-liter fuel-injected engine that delivered 200 horsepower, and it also underwent extensive weight reduction measures, such as using aluminum for the hood, trunk lid, doors, fenders, and thinner glass and plastic bumpers. The sports car weighed only 1,270 kilograms (2,800 pounds), compared to the 1,485 kilograms (3,274 pounds) of the 2800 CS.
The 3.0 CSL also received some cosmetic changes, such as a black-painted grille, chrome trim deletion, and distinctive stripes along the sides and on the hood. The car was initially offered in four colors: Chamonix White, Polaris Silver, Fjord Blue, and Taiga Green.
The Batmobile on the Track
The 3.0 CSL proved to be a formidable contender in the ETCC, winning six European titles between 1973 and 1979. The car was driven by some of the best drivers of the era, such as Hans-Joachim Stuck, Dieter Quester, Toine Hezemans, Brian Redman, Ronnie Peterson, and Niki Lauda.
However, the car faced stiff competition from other manufacturers, such as Ford, Alfa Romeo, and Porsche, who also developed their own lightweight and aerodynamic models. To keep up with the rivals, BMW decided to further improve the performance and handling of the 3.0 CSL by adding a series of aerodynamic enhancements that gave the car its nickname: the Batmobile.
The Batmobile package included:
- A large rear wing.
- A front spoiler with fins.
- Air deflectors on the front fenders.
- A roof spoiler.
These elements increased downforce and stability at high speeds, but they also made the car look like something out of a comic book. In fact, some of these features were so radical that they were not street-legal in Germany at the time, and they had to be delivered separately to be installed by the owners.
The Batmobile also received a larger engine displacement of 3.2 liters (later 3.5 liters), which boosted the power output to 340 horsepower (later 440 horsepower). The car could reach a top speed of over 260 kilometers per hour (160 miles per hour), making it one of the fastest cars of its time.