Alongside a bevy of special cars like the Z3 M Coupe and X5 4.6is, BMW brought another extraordinary car to Amelia Island. A BMW 3.0 CSL, known as the Batmobile to many enthusiasts, was prominently displayed. Fitting, since 2023 marks 50 years since the aggressively-winged street version of the E9 CSL debuted. Standing for “Coupe Sport Lightweight” and the brainchild of Jochen Neerpasch, the 3.0 CSL was a radical departure from previous roadgoing BMWs and lived up to its moniker of the homologation special.

Roadgoing Renegade 

1973 BMW 3.0 CSL at Amelia Island

The BMW 3.0 CSL debuted in 1972 with one goal: to allow the 3.0 CSL racecar to compete. More or less a modified version of the existing 3.0 CS and CSi models, it added racy elements like fixed Perspex rear side windows and lighter glass and extensive use of aluminum body panels. In the relentless hunt for weight savings, BMW removed soundproofing and pulled off trim pieces.

Despite the 3.0 CSL arriving in 1972, 1973 was a particularly meaningful year. It’s when the iconic body kit that earned it the Batmobile title showed up, coinciding with the vehicle’s increased displacement (3,003 cc to 3,153 cc). The marginal increase in power included the addition of an aerodynamic kit consisting of a massive rear wing, air fins along the front fender, a roof-mounted spoiler, and more. This, of course, more closely reflects the appearance of the 3.0 CSL that the world would come to know well throughout various races in the remainder of the decade. BMW achieved homologation in 1973 with a production run of just over 1,200 units.

Racing Pedigree of the BMW 3.0 CSL

BMW 3.0 CSL on the track

Beginning in 1973, the 3.0 CSL began attacking race series around the globe. It claimed six European Touring Car Championship titles between 1973 and 1979. It took home class victories in 1973 and 1974 at 24 Hours of Le Mans, then in 1975 won 12 Hours of Sebring – both overall and in-class. Its racing accolades didn’t slow as the vehicle aged, landing a victory at 24 Hours of Daytona in 1976 and earning three of its ETCC titles from 1977 to 1979.

Of course, with the 3.0 CSL’s illustrious accomplishments comes a veritable who’s-who of recognizable names in motorsport. Famed drivers like Niki Lauda and Hans Stuck piloted the 3.0 CSL, with names like Peter Gregg (Harvard alumnus and Trans-Am series legend) and Sam Posey (racer-turned-Indy 500 announcer) also getting time behind the wheel.

It’s only fitting that BMW dedicates some time and space to what is an undeniably unique vehicle. Technically, it’s the first BMW M vehicle – as M GmbH was founded during the car’s development. It’s good to see BMW M hasn’t completely forgotten its origins.