The BMW 3.0 CSL is one of those cars coming from the past of the Bavarian brand that is still stunning, to this day. Its design pays homage to a past that was filled with motorsport endeavors that ultimately led to the reputation the Munich-based company has today. It was with the Neue Klasse that the tide started to turn for BMW and the 3.0 CSL Coupe derived from the new class of cars is probably the one that contributed most to this change in pace.
Today, such models, in good condition, are sold for six figures easily so the price tag this one had at the Bonhams auction held at Goodwood this weekend shouldn’t surprise anyone. As a matter of fact, it is a bit low but considering it’s a right-hand drive model and that it also needs some work, the $137,000 price tag does start to make sense.
This particular BMW 3.0 CSL is one of the so-called ‘Drive Back’ cars that were collected directly from the Munich factory by UK distributors in October 1972 and driven back to this country for sale. It was a sort of European Delivery, if you will. In September 1989 the BMW was offered for sale and it was purchased after being restored over a three-year period. When bought in 1989, ‘LMB 4L’ had covered fewer than 300 miles since the restoration’s completion. In August 2015 the Verona Red car was sold once again and kept mostly intact, with regular maintenance but without covering too much ground until it was sold this weekend to a new owner.
As for the model itself, it marked a return to six-cylinder engines after BMW struggled with four-pots. Visually indistinguishable from its more ‘run of the mill’ relations, the CS and CSi, the 3.0 CSL (Coupé Sport Leicht) was creative homologation at its best. The BMW engineers’ solution to the marketing department’s requirements was to develop a limited production run ‘homologation special’ to meet the constrictive framework of the Group 2 racing class regulations. By removing the trim; using thinner steel for the main body shell; aluminum alloy for the doors, bonnet and boot lid; and Perspex for the side windows a valuable 300lbs (136kgs) in weight was saved.
Homologated initially with a fractionally over-bored (3,003cc) engine (enabling it to compete in the over 3-litre class) the 3.0 CSL came with 206 HP for road use and well over 300 HP for the track. In 1973 the engine’s stroke was increased, upping capacity to 3,153cc (nominally 3.2-litres) and from mid-season onward the racing CSLs used the so-called ‘Batmobile’ aerodynamic package, developed at Stuttgart University, which consisted of a front chin spoiler, large rear wing and various other devices. Illegal for road use in Germany, the wings were left in the boot for final installation after purchase, thus creating a huge following.