BMW 3.0 CSL – 1971

In order to participate in Group 2 European Touring car racing, BMW had to homologate the big six-cylinder CS coupes for track use, and therefore created the 3.0 CSL series, with the L standing for ‘lightweight’. The high-performance road-going version made no concession to comfort. The car was based on the pillarless steel body shell built by Karmann. But the 3.0CSL had thinner body panels, Plexiglas side windows, alloy-skinned doors and bonnet, no front bumper and a fibreglass rear bumper. The interior was very basic, the suspension was stiff and the car had fat alloy wheels with chrome wheel-arch extensions to keep them street-legal. Black go-faster stripes distinguished the CSL from the 3.0CS/Csi models.

An uprating after a year saw the engine size increased slightly, with Bosch fuel injection replacing the twin Zenith carburettors. A further engine enlargement took place in 1973 to homologate the engine used in the works racing coupe. The 3.2 litre CSL had a prominent spoiler and most cars were supplied with the positively decadent Town & Country option pack that included electric windows made of real glass, Bilstein gas-pressure shocks plus genuine metal bumpers front and back.

Exactly one thousand BMW 3.0CSL Coupes were made, 500 each in left-hand and right-hand drive. Perhaps the most famous version was that which was equipped with aerodynamic spoilers and prominent tail fins, causing it to be swiftly nicknamed the ‘Batmobile’. It is generally accepted that just 37 of these famous cars were built, all left-hand drive examples.

The BMW 3.0CSL was certainly in the superhero category when it came to performance — this was a phenomenally successful track performer, winning six European Touring Car Championships during the 1970s, remaining competitive and winning races long after the road-going version had served its purpose and been discontinued.




1971 (until 1975)


2,985 cc, 3,003 cc or 3,153 cc Straight Six


Top speed of 134 mph (216 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.8 secs


German buyers who fancied a Batmobile found their racing kit coyly hiding in the boot when their new car was delivered, as the spectacular appendages were not actually legal for road use in Germany.


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