1974 BMW 3.0 CSL Batmobile Coupe

In the early 1970s, a war was raging between two top players in touring car racing. On one side, there was the might of Ford of Europe. Ford had enjoyed a great deal of success in European and British “tin-top” racing and was the established king of the category. Ford’s Total Performance edict encompassed worldwide programs that ranged from Nascar and Drag Racing to Indy, with European programs for LeMans, Formula 1, Rallying and Touring Cars. Ford of Germany, based in Cologne, was put in charge of the Touring Car program which evolved from running Cortinas and Escorts to the bigger, V6 powered Capri in the late 1960s. Under the guidance of Jochen Neerpasch, Ford developed the Capri into a fire-breathing monster – a dry-sumped, fuel-injected beast that weighed just 950 kilos and could nearly hold its own against the Formula 1 based 3-liter prototypes of the same era! Meanwhile, just a few hours across Germany in Munich, BMW was struggling to compete. Their Karmann built 2800CS coupe was being run by the great Alpina and Schnitzer squads, but it suffered from a massive weight handicap that rendered it little more than a moving chicane against the might of the Fords – who won 13 out of 16 races of the 1972 season.

Determined to be not embarrassed again, BMW responded with the only reasonable option: Money. They poached Neerpasch to run their own Motorsport division. With what we assume is a fat signing bonus in hand, Herr Neerpasch wasted no time improving the CS coupe. Displacement was increased to just over 3-liters, and a massive amount of development work went in to honing the car’s aerodynamic performance and saving weight. The resulting car was homologated at great expense, with a limited run of 1,265 road cars built to satisfy regulations. The CS went on a massive weight loss program, gaining alloy doors and deck lids, stripped out interior trimmings, thinner glass and most notably- an aero kit that consisted of a big rear spoiler, roof spoiler, front air dam and go-fast stripes. At the time, the German government frowned upon such audacious displays of power, so BMW put the parts in the trunk of that last run of CSLs, and left it up to the dealers and owners to install the parts. The wings and spoilers earned the CSL the nickname “Batmobile” and today, full Batmobile CSLs are true blue-chip collector cars. When they hit the showroom, the CSL was extremely expensive, but the gamble paid off on track, with the CSLs (often piloted by off-duty F1 drivers) trounced the Capri RS3100 and took the European Saloon Car Championship from the clutches of their rivals in Cologne. The CSL has since gone on to become an almost mythical beast, with collectors scrambling to get their hands on a genuine example.

Our featured car is a 1974 CSL finished in Polaris Silver with a black interior and black stripes, this is a genuine Batmobile CSL that presents in fabulous condition. Starting with the notoriously complex Karmann bodyshell, this exhibits precise panel fit and beautifully straight reflections. It is highly correct, with the full factory aero kit (including the rare roof spoiler and front wing splitters), correct CSL stripes and 14” Alpina alloy wheels wrapped with period correct Michelin XWX radials. This early car is denoted by the lack of a central support for the rear spoiler. Even the C-pillar badges are the correct original Cloisonné type. Brightwork is limited to a few flashes of anodized alloy and stainless around the windows and the wheel arches. However limited, it presents in very good condition. The front bumper-delete and blacked out rear bumper are correct for the CSL.

As part of the weight savings, BMW deleted electric windows (on most early cars) and fitted lightweight, form hugging Scheel sport seats. This example still wears these highly desirable seats and the entire cabin has been correctly trimmed in black vinyl with black cloth inserts. The original three-spoke sports steering wheel remains and the correct but somewhat incongruous wood trim has been restored to a high standard. The original tool kit is intact and in excellent order.

Engine bay detailing is done to a high standard with everything appearing neat and tidy while remaining very usable. Inner front wheel arches appear flawless, a known trouble spot on any CS coupe. This being a 1974 model, the inline six is slightly stroked to 3,153 cc. Kugelfischer-Bosch injection helps it make over 200 reliable horsepower with great masses of torque and a sonorous soundtrack.

The 3.0CSL is a true motoring icon and this example is ideally suited for collectors and petrolhead drivers alike. It is beautifully finished, yet is approachable and ready to be enjoyed on the road. The CSL is a proper driver’s car, and one of the truly great original homologation specials.

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