Hard as it may be to imagine now, BMWs weren’t a fixture on American roads in the 1970s. Since then, the German cars have become nearly ubiquitous, and a big part of that shift is due to the success of the company’s racing division. Now, a 1974 BMW 3.5 CSL IMSA, one of the cars most responsible for helping BMW break through to the North American market, is going up for auction.
In late 1974, just as BMW was starting to incorporate in North America, the Bavarian automaker set up its first factory race team in the US to compete in the IMSA Camel GT Championship and endurance races. That team would go on to have an incredibly successful first season, with Brian Redman, Sam Posey and Hans-Joachim Stuck driving 3.5 CSLs to victories at Laguna Seca, Riverside, Daytona, Talladega and, perhaps most notably at all, Sebring.
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The 3.5 CSL (chassis no. 2275987) that finished first overall at the 12 Hours of Sebring will be auctioned off by RM Sotheby’s at Monterey Car Week later this month. One of just five built—only four of which were raced—the car is based on the 3.0 CSL but has had its Karmann-designed bodywork extended. It has also undergone several racing upgrades, including the addition of a period-correct 3.5-liter upright M49/3 engine. The car is covered in a bold white, blue and red paint job and is finished in the proper Sebring-winning livery, with the number 25 on its hood and doors. It also features flares, under-door exhausts and a giant, removable rear wing.
Currently owned by Henry Schmitt, the principal of BMW of San Francisco, the car comes with extensive documentation. Along with its FIA papers, service invoices and vintage racing logbook, the buyer will get period photographs and press clippings following the BMW racing team’s successful 1975 IMSA GT campaign.
In addition to its important win at Sebring, the car is just one of just three IMSA CSLs still in private ownership, making this an extremely rare opportunity to buy a piece of BMW racing history. Because of that, RM Sotheby’s has high hopes for the car, estimating it will go for somewhere between $1.5 million and $2.2 million when it goes up for sale on August 16. Check out more photos of the car below: