1972 BMW 3.0 CSL

Scott Nidermaier, courtesy of Bonhams
Scott Nidermaier, courtesy of Bonhams

The early 1970s were landmark years for BMW, for not only did the German manufacturer power Jean-Pierre Jarier to the European Formula 2 Championship, it also captured the European Touring Car Championship using one of the most iconic racing saloons of modern times: the 3.0 CSL, known popularly as the Batmobile.

BMW had returned to 6-cylinder power for its range-topping models in 1968 with the launch of the 2500 and 2800 saloons. Also new was the 3.0 CSL’s forerunner, the 2800 CS coupe, although the latter’s running gear had more in common with the existing 4-cylinder 2000

C/CS. The introduction of the similarly styled 3.0-liter CS in 1971 brought with it numerous improvements, including 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes, and with 180 bhp on tap, the model was good for around 130 mph. For racing purposes there was the lightweight 3.0 CSL.

Visually indistinguishable from its more run-of-the-mill relations, the CS and CSi, the 3.0 CSL (Coupe Sport Leicht) was creative homologation at its best. The BMW engineers’ solution to the marketing department’s requirements was to develop a limited-production-run homologation special to meet the constrictive framework of the Group 2 racing class regulations. By removing the trim; using thinner steel for the main body shell; aluminum alloy for the doors, bonnet and boot lid; and Perspex for the side windows, a valuable 300 pounds (136 kg) in weight was saved.

Homologated initially with a fractionally over-bored 3,003-cc engine (enabling it to compete in the over 3-liter class), the 3.0 CSL came with 206 bhp for road use and well over 300 horsepower for the track. In 1973, the engine’s stroke was increased, upping capacity to 3,153 cc (nominally 3.2 liters), and from midseason onwards the racing CSLs used the so-called Batmobile aerodynamic package, developed at Stuttgart University, which consisted of a front chin spoiler, large rear wing and various other devices. Illegal for road use in Germany, the wings were left in the boot for final installation after purchase.

Completed at the Munich-based Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) plant in 1972, this rare, homologation-special CSL was finished in Polaris Silver over a black interior, and was the 24th CSL completed in the sequence. The car is believed to have been delivered new to Italy, and was here purchased by Bronx, NY-based collector Mr. Franciamore more than three decades ago. Franciamore retained the car until recently, using it sparingly, as the kilometer reading of just over 66,500 kilometers is believed to be genuine.

This sporting BMW coupe displays a wonderful, light patina throughout, and has the feeling of a car that has never been taken apart.

The original CSL trim is in place, as are the iconic alloy wheels these cars came with, shod on old Michelin XWX tires. Once inside, original finishes are present, and a lovely period — possibly original — Becker Grand Prix radio adorns the dashboard. Power windows and the classic CSL sports seats are in place.

B. Mitchell Carlson

SCM Senior Auction Analyst

Brian wrote his first auction report for Old Cars Weekly in 1990 and has contributed his colorful commentary in Sports Car Market since 1998. His work appears regularly in Kelley Blue Book, and also in a handful of marque-specific publications. Carlson shuns what he calls “single-marque tunnel vision” and takes great pride in his “vehicular diversity.” He attends about two dozen auctions per year, but he broke away to roar around Oregon with Paul Hardiman in SCM’s Dodge Viper and Porsche 911 Turbo in the 2015 Northwest Passage.

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