Here’s something a bit special: a model car but also a work of art in some way. This is a replica of the design created by American artist Alexander Calder back in the early 70’s. It is part of BMW’s famous “Art Car” collection and currently on exhibit in the Museum of the German brand in Munich.
This car was created not only for display: it was entered in the 1975 Le Mans 24-hour as a Group 2 car by French privateer Hervé Poulain, an art dealer and keen racer. Poulain convinced his friend, Alexander Calder, to paint it. It was not the first “art car” as that honor probably corresponds to Porsche, which raced the “psychodelic” Martini 917 in 1970 and the “Pink Pig” in 1971, but it was the first of many BMW Art Cars. For Le Mans, BMW insured the car for 1,000,000 DM (around $430,000) and Poulain got 1964 winner Jean Guichet and IMSA-BMW driver Sam Posey as co-drivers.
The car achieved a remarkable 11th position in practice (4’06″0), significantly faster than the Group 4 GTs. Seven hours after the start and with 73 laps completed, it was forced to retire due to a damaged drive shaft, when it was running an outstanding 6th overall position. This was the first and only occasion on which this automobile was to take part in a race, and has been an exhibit ever since.
The base car, a BMW 3.0 CSL, was introduced in 1972 as a homologation special to make it eligible for racing in the European Touring Car Championship. 1,265 units were built in total. By 1975, the six cilynder inline engine displaced 3.2L (3,210cc), allowing the car to be raced in the “above 3L” category. With 4 valves per cilynder and twin overhead camshafts, the engine delivered 480 HP at 5,600 rpm, pushing the car up to 291 km/h. The final version of the 3.0 CSL was homologated in July 1973 along with an aerodynamic package including a large air dam, short fins running along the front fenders, a spoiler above and behind the trailing edge of the roof, and a tall rear wing. The full aero package earned the racing CSLs the nickname “Batmobile”.
About the Model
The 1/18 scale die-cast model car was produced by Minichamps around 2003 as a limited edition (although the exact number of units built is unknown), and sold mainly at the BMW Museum in Munich. It is a BMW exclusive model, part number 126.96.36.199.918. The model is currently sold-out and the scarce units for sale command hefty prices.