In 1968, BMW launched the 2500 saloon, and it was this car that gave birth to a string of elegant coupes that peaked with the CSL “Batmobile.”

The first such model was the 2800CS, and with independent suspension, taut chassis and a 170-horsepower engine, it was an attractive candidate for circuit racing. While the factory did not take the CS to the track at first, renowned performance tuning company Alpina—among others, including Schnitzer—did.

The first major victory came in 1970, when a BMW CS won the prestigious 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium. Ford was still dominating on the track with the Capri, but BMW got seriously involved in 1971 and introduced the CSL (Coupe Sports Lightweight) derivative. In BMW’s drastic efforts to homologate a more competitive racing car, the monocoque was formed from thinner-gauge steel and aluminum was employed to skin the hood and trunk. An array of luxuries were also deleted, such as the front bumper, along with the extraction of power steering, electric windows, thick carpets, comfortable seats and sound deadening.

To improve downforce, the front gained a deep air dam, the fenders grew pronounced air guides and a trunk lid lip spoiler was added. The dynamic beast also came with a roof-mounted deflector and a huge, two-part rear wing. The rear wing was so large and heavy that BMW had to revert back to a steel trunk panel in order to support the weight of it under load.

While it was still badged as a 3.0 CSL, the engine’s capacity rose to 3,153cc. The menacingly staunch profile of the new CSL soon earned the nickname “Batmobile,” which was a direct comparison to the Caped Crusader’s own mode of transport. A total of 110 first-series cars and 57 second-series cars left the factory until production ceased in December of 1975.

This car is number 46 of the 57 second-series Batmobiles built. About one-third of the cars still survive. These cars were all assembled in BMW’s Motorsport Department. Unlike the first series, a wide variety of options could be specified, so each is slightly different. Given such rarity and the sheer importance to BMW’s racing tradition, this car would form a valuable addition to any high-quality collection.

Originally finished in Polaris Silver, this 3.0 CSL was delivered new in May 1975 to BMW dealer Helmut Hackl in Korntal, DEU. The BMW Museum bought the car in December 1998. Starting in the spring of 1999, the car was totally dismantled and restored to concours standard. This painstaking task took until July 2001 to complete. In the process, the factory decided that the car was to be refinished in Chamonix White with red/blue stripes, which was the livery of the factory racers.

Often mimicked by standard CSLs with bolt-on visuals, the BMW CSL Batmobile, the first of the now legendary BMW Motorsport creations, is an archetypal vehicle deserved of a place in any high-profile collection for use in concours events or rallies. The car should be classed as the ultimate expression and appreciation of one of the finest models ever built by the makers of the “Ultimate Driving Machine.”

SCM Analysis


Years Produced:1972-1975
Number Produced:57
Original List Price:$13,500
SCM Valuation:$150,000-$200,000
Tune Up Cost:$800
Chassis Number Location:Plate on right side of engine behind shock tower
Engine Number Location:Left side of block behind oil filter housing
Club Info:BMW Registry; BMW Car Club of America, 640 South Main Street, Suite 201, Greenville, SC 29601
Alternatives:1973 Porsche 911RS, 1970-74 Ford Capri RS, 1965-67 Alfa Romeo 1600 GTA

This car, Lot 63, sold for $218,400, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Dubai auction on October 11, 2010.

Bulletproof provenance and extreme rarity can create a big result on the auction block.

There is a lot to be said for an auction company that creates a perfect storm of success with a particular car. On this day in Dubai, this BMW 3.0 CSL Batmobile—part of the factory BMW Museum’s Reserve Collection—was that perfect storm.

The infamous gangster John Dillinger said he robbed banks because “That’s where the money is.” Kudos to Bonhams for being clever enough to have taken a handful of cars to Dubai for a similar reason.

The other car from the BMW factory collection—a spectacular 1979 M1—was equally as desirable. Maybe someone should organize an auction devoted to factory-restored classics. That would be exciting on a number of levels. It would be interesting to see which factory restoration team is best. From what I’ve seen, BMW is tough to beat in this arena.

Usually found battered—if at all

Not surprisingly, 3.0 CSL Batmobiles are often found in typical old race car condition—beaten and battered. That is too bad, as these beautiful cars—when well-prepared and restored—are real art of the 1970s. Alexander Calder and Frank Stella sure thought so. Log onto Google and search for BMW art cars. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Sadly, the art of these cars wasn’t always appreciated. Many Batmobiles were simply put in the back alley after the racing lives were wrung out of them. Metaphorically or literally, being left out in the rain when they became obsolete by the next-generation, faster BMW was truly an indignity for such triumphant cars.

Many believe that only one-third of the 57 cars built still exist. If that is true, our subject car may be virtually impossible to replicate. How many of the 20-odd surviving cars can brag about being in better shape than this one?

Embracing blasphemy

I personally like that the color of this car was changed to Chamonix White from Polaris Silver. Oh blasphemy! Can’t you just feel the nouveau collectors bristling at the thought of the color change? I also like that the period stripes were added. But then I’ve often been accused of favoring flash over substance, and people have questioned my taste in cars as well….

This car was not as widely popular as the Porsche 911RS or the Ford Capri, which was relatively unknown in the United States. But this car was a force in European racing during the 1970s, and it is one of the true BMW historic collectibles.

This very late-model example, with the spectacular combination of a BMW factory restoration and BMW Museum pedigree, surely upped the ante on this day in the desert.

I’m sure that BMW spent an exorbitant amount of time to restore this, as they are not easy cars to get right. This car could be the poster child for the mantra of “Buy the restoration and the car will be free!” The last CSL that SCM featured was a 1973 3.0CSL street model that Christie’s sold for $153,718 at its London sale on June 26, 2006.

Given that our car is limited production, in race trim, and restored by the factory, I’d have to call it well bought.

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