1973-74 BMW 3.0 CSL 'Batmobile' - BMW coupe evolution pt.2

By: Guy Allen, Photography by: Nathan Jacobs

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While the first iteration of the 3.0CSL was a serious candidate for conversion into a race car, BMW decided to go just that one step further with the second-gen of the coupe, popularly known as the Batmobile

While previous versions had slowly grown front air dams and mini strakes down the outer bonnet lines, plus some stripes, the Batmobile went the full biscuit.

Now we had a rear wing that could be seen from the moon, a roof-mounted foil and plumage that left anyone in sight in absolutely no doubt what this was all about – we’re going racing. And yes, you could buy one for the road, as the company was obliged to produce homologations versions.

| Read next: 1975 BMW E9 CSL review

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Pukka examples of the latter are now worth a small fortune and are mostly jealously guarded by their owners. Over the years, the race versions went on far longer than the road cars and out-lived what most would think were their usefulness. Batmobiles were still running around and causing trouble well into the 1980s, long after the E9 road cars had been pensioned off and replaced with the E24 series.

The Batmobile proved to be a very useful test bed for BMW, and was the first car to host the then new 24-valve six that was to power the M1 road car plus the M6 variant of the E24 and of course M5 saloons, along with numerous touring cars over the years. It was also used as a platform to help develop the ABS which saw its first use on the road in a 7-series.

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Engine development in the race cars went in all sorts of directions over the years, including the use of turbos in some wild 700-800hp examples. By way of contrast, the shape was the first to appear in the long-running BMW Art Cars series with Alexander Calder and Frank Stella doing the honours.

| Read next: BMW 2000CS + 3.0CSL review

However the real target was the racetrack and in this environment the Batmobile was enormously successful. Early success went to Dutch driver Toine Hezemans, who won the 1973 European Touring Car Championship with one. The car then won the series from 1975 to 1979 (Ford got the trophy in 1974 with an RS1600 Escort) and was a force to be reckoned with in countless endurance races.

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It’s funny how certain cars effectively become cult icons and you can’t help but wonder what the recipe might be. Certainly there must be times when automotive designers lay awake at night wondering what it takes. In any case, the Batmobile earned that status.

(Ed’s note: Thanks to Clive Massel of Makulu Car Services and Keith ‘Jimmy’ Olsen of Southern BM for their generous assistance with the story.)

From Unique Cars #441, June 2020

 

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