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Classic Ride: BMW 3.0 CSL Proves Engineering Can Be Beautiful

Previously, we brought you the BMW Art Cars, a stunning collection that represents the intersection of engineering and creativity. It is worth noting that among the first of these iconic race cars was BMW 3.0 CSL, which is kind of funny because if there is any car that deserves to bare its sheet metal to the world, unmolested, its the 3.0. The E60 5 Series on the other hand? Cover it in fuchsia and marigold until I can’t recognize it anymore!

The 3.0 CSL though? Outside of some obvious choices, (like the pre-war 328, 507, and Z8), the eventual 6 Series predecessor is perhaps one of the most captivating BMW designs ever crafted. And true to BMW form, it was created out of function rather than a need for style and passion. A beautiful car built for winning.

Classic Ride: BMW 3.0 CSL Proves Engineering Can Be Beautiful

PHOTOS: See more of the 1972 BMW 3.0 CSL

In 1965, the world was introduced to a strange bird, the 2000C and 2000CS. Designed by Karmann (of Karmann-Ghia fame) and based on the New Class platform that would eventually underpin the 2002, the 2000CS had styling that could be best described as “polarizing”. With one year left in the production life of the 2000CS, BMW unleashed a new coupe based on a modified version of the strange looking 2-door. This successor would be known as “The New Six Coupe” and internally as the E9. To the rest of the world, it was the 2800CS.

By 1972 BMW had enough of losing to Mercedes-Benz in the German Touring Car Championships. Committed to unseating their German rivals, BMW created a homologation special, based on the E9. By 1971, the engine had already been bored to 2986cc, and the name had changed to 3.0CS. From there, the fellows at BMW Motorsport used thinner steel in body panels, aluminum doors, aluminum hood, synthetic side windows, and less interior trim. It was called the CSL, with the L standing for “leicht” or “light”.

BMW 30 CSL 01

RELATED: See photos of the 1976 BMW 3.0 CSL Frank Stella Art Car

The M boys went a step further, by further enlarging the displacement to 3,003cc, thus allowing it to race in the +3-Liter category. Because of the entry into this category, BMW could continue to increase the engine size, and did so one last time, improving the displacement to 3,153 in 1973. The ’73 model also featured considerable body modifications for aerodynamics. The massive air dam and fins running from headlight-to-windshield earned the ’73-and-later 3.0CSL the nickname “Batmobile”.

With the homologated vehicle fully realized, the 3.0CSL dominated roadcar racing throughout Europe, winning the European Touring Car Championship from 1975 to 1979, without interruption. It also won the Germain Touring Car Championship at the Nurburgring in 1973. To say the least, the boys from Munich got their wish in trouncing Mercedes.

01-BMW 30 CSL

RELATED: See photos of the 1959 BMW 507

Today, the 3.0CSL is one of the most sought-after BMW’s from the period. Many people opt for the lovable 2002, but the 3.0 blended the best attributes of a touring coupe and a race-proven wunderkind- and the CSL is the most coveted of them all. The 1972 models, without the aero mods are some of the most valuable non-raced examples.

One of the 252 built in 1972 is housed at BMW’s Spartanburg Museum. With less than 22,000 miles on the odometer, it is valued at about $300,000!