As for how it came to be there… Not all manufacturers take their heritage seriously, but BMW isn’t one of them. At its base in Farnborough, the UK operation maintains a fleet of classics, including an E30-generation M3, E34-gen M5, an immaculate E39 M5, and an M3 CSL.
Each is glorious, but there are the two jewels in the crown. One is an off-white 507 from the 1950s that’s insured for more than £2,000,000 and is just pure Grace Kelly, and t’other is the silver 3.0 CSL Batmobile I managed to borrow for a day or two. It’s the one you see here.
The back story of the 3.0 CSL is well known, but to very briefly recap, the car was developed from Alpina’s 3.0-litre CS racing car in 1971, to take on Ford in the ETCC.
Success didn’t come immediately, but improvements in power and aero eventually tipped the balance against the Capri. And, of course, the BMW looked just as extraterrestrial then as it does now. Some of the most evocative motorsport images ever produced feature the CSL – often airborne, perhaps banking slightly, and wearing premier cru livery. Heaven.
As for where this example comes in, the biggest racing-related upgrade for the CSL came midway through 1973, which was when the ‘Batmobile’ was born. At first, it was only an unsettling paddock rumour that BMW was testing wings on its cars, but then came the lightning-fast reality, and the capacity of the CSL's straight six was enlarged to 3153cc for good measure. It was all, one imagines, quite wild.
Ford, I’ve read, couldn’t afford to homologate a wing, but then again neither could BMW. For the first 110 Batmobile road cars, the spoiler arrived in the boot. It hadn’t actually been type approved for use on the autobahn, and so owners had to screw it on themselves, although you probably already knew that.
In the end, not only did the CSLs hammer the Capris on track in 1973, but they were also, by all accounts, much nicer to drive. The steering was light and accurate and the chassis was super-progressive in its oversteer balance compared to long-snouted Fords, which understeered horribly, according to the works drivers. It won the ETCC again in 1974, then in ’75, ’76, ’77, ’78 and ’79. I think people forget how dominant the CSL became.