Thursday, November 9, 2017

Track Vigilante

1973 BMW 3.0 CSL

US Vintage National Championship
November 4, 2017
Circuit of the Americas
Austin, TX



The 3.0 CSL has endeared the hearts of racing fans during its time, as well as the hearts of modern racing fans who yearn for the nostalgia-inducing vintage machineries. To those who either grew up in the 70's or to those who wish they were adolescents back in that era, the term "Batmobile" could either mean that thing that the world's most famous vigilante rides around Gotham or that thing that BMW AG introduced into BMW's lineup in 1972. Both of which are rightfully intimidating and menacing in their own ways, may it be on the crime-ridden streets or on the race track where the only crime one can commit is to not push a car to its limits.


The current Batmobile from the movies is a mechanically and technically advanced piece of equipment perfectly designed to tackle whatever Batman encounters in his crimefighting sprees. It looks scary, brute, and wicked all at the same time while screaming the fact that it also looks like a hideous hodgepodge of geometric shapes covered in black. But you'd be surprised that the Batmobiles back in the early days of Batman were pretty ho-hum. Depending on the comic or TV series in 1973, the dark knight's steed appeared in the form of either a Corvette, a Mustang, or some other consumer-grade vehicle. The most badass of the cars during that year was that from the original Superfriends cartoon series, which was based on the Lincoln Futura Batmobile. That car is arguably the most iconic of all the Batmobiles. 


This fine example of the 3.0 CSL could easily rival the more generic Batmobiles of that era, and only fall short of trumping the Futura Batmobile. Based on BMW's E9 platform, the 3.0 CSL has leicht (light) written all over it. Thinner steel was hammered to form the unit body, while aluminum was the material of choice for the hood, doors, and trunk lid. To further achieve lightness BMW skipped all the luxury appointments by deleting the trim and soundproofing, and then by going the extra mile of utilizing acrylic glass on the windows. 


What made the CSL such an iconic car is the aero package that transformed the elegant E9's appearance, which eventually earned it the nickname "Batmobile." In the final iteration of the street-going CSL,  it came off the manufacturing line with an optional racing kit that consisted of large air dams, shirt fins that line the top of the front half of the front fenders, a spoiler on the trailing edge of the roof, and a massive rear wing in the trunk. Why in the trunk, you may ask. Because the rear wing was freakishly huge, it was not legal for use on German roads. So, the owners would have to install the rear wing themselves after delivery of the car.




The 3.0 CSL was originally introduced to BMW's lineup as a homologation special, but it turned out proving itself to be the car that cemented BMW's status as a sport luxury automaker. During its stint at the European Touring Car Championship, the 3.0 CSL won in 1973 and yearly from 1975 to 1979. It was also successful in winning some races at the 1973 German Touring Car Grand Prix at Nürburgring and the 1975 IMSA GT Championship. Seeing one in real life is akin to seeing a Batmobile in the wild, especially when there were only 1,265 of these built and none of which were originally sold in the USA. 


Now, would you rather be that guy in black spandex or that guy in white Nomex? Would you rather sweep the streets off crime or sweep past competing drivers on the race track? Would you rather own a non-functional mock-up of a fantasy vehicle or a functional speed weapon? Would you rather have the Batmobile or the "Batmobile" in your garage? Choose wisely and stay classy, friends!

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