One little letter can make so much difference. In this case it is the L at the end of the name tag that makes the BMW 3.0CSL so special.
The BMW CS pillarless coupes of the late Sixties and early Seventies were elegant and goodlooking tourers. But add that L, and you have a legend. The letter actually stands for “Leichtmetall,” and when tacked to the rump of the BMW it amounts to warpaint. The original CSL of 1974 had a 2985cc engine developing 180 bhp, no front bumper, and a mixture of aluminum and thin steel body panels.
In August 1972, a cylinder-bore increase took the CSL’s capacity to 3003cc with 200 bhp and allowed it into Group 2 for competition purposes. But it is the wild-winged, so-called “Batmobile” homologation special that really boils the blood of boy racers. An ultimate road car, great racer, rare, short-lived and high-priced, this charismatic, pared-down Beemer has got classic credentials.
Even mild rather than wild and winged, the CSL is certainly one of the best-looking cars of its generation. With its pillarless look, the cabin is light and airy, despite the black interior. But all that glass made it hot; air vents behind the BMW rear-pillar badge helped a little.
Standard tires were 195/70 14 Michelin XWXs.
Ventilated discs were necessary to counter the CSL’s immense power.
For homologation purposes, at least 500 road cars had to be equipped with a massive rear spoiler—it was considered so outrageous that most were supplied for owners to attach at their discretion.
Optional air guide for rear end of roof was available, along with seven other aerodynamic aids.
“Leichtmetall” meant body panels were made of aluminum and thinner-thanstandard steel.
The first CSLs came with aluminum trunk, hood, and doors.
Large script leaves no one in any doubt about what has just passed them.
British-spec CSLs, like this car, retained Scheel lightweight bucket seats, but had carpets, electric windows (front and rear), power steering, and a sliver of wood.
Steering wheel was straight out of the CS/Csi.
In genuine racing trim, the Batmobile’s 3.2-liter straight-six engine gave nearly 400 bhp and, for 1976, nearly 500 bhp with turbocharging. But road cars like this British-spec 3003cc 3.0CSL gave around 200 bhp on fuel injection.
Early CSLs had a carburetor-fed 2985cc engine developing 180 bhp; after 1972, capacity increased to 3003cc for homologation purposes.
The CSLs were the first BMWs developed under the company’s new Motorsport department which was set up in 1972. The model produced immediate success for BMW, initially in Europe and then on tracks in the United States. The CSL won all but one of the European Touring Car Championships between 1973 and 1979.
German-market CSLs had no front bumper and a fiberglass bumper; this car’s metal items show it to be a British-spec model.
500 fuel-injected versions of the CSL were offered in Britain.
Just after the 1973 fuel crisis, you could pick up a CSL for very little money.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL BMW 3.0CSL (1971–74)
PRODUCTION 1,208 (all versions)
BODY STYLE Four-seater coupe.
CONSTRUCTION Steel monocoque, steel and aluminum body.
ENGINES 2985cc, 3003cc, or 3153cc in-line six.
POWER OUTPUT 200 bhp at 5500 rpm (3003cc).
TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual.
SUSPENSION Front: MacPherson struts and antiroll bar; Rear: semitrailing swinging arms, coil springs, and antiroll bar.
BRAKES Servo-assisted ventilated discs front and rear.
MAXIMUM SPEED 135 mph (217 km/h) (3003cc)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 7.3 sec (3003cc)
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 21 sec (3003cc)
A.F.C. 22–25 mpg (7.8–8.8 km/l)