Chapter 6: The CSL Art Cars
Season 2012 is coming to an end here in Finland. Because of the climate, many sports cars are driven only in the summer. I don’t even have winter tires for my CSL, so driving the car in winter would not only be stupid but also illegal.
To be able to appreciate the car even better, I wanted to get familiar with its heritage. So far, BMW has produced only two CSL models. The first one was the legendary BMW (E9) 3.0 CSL. These cars are very rare, so when I heard there was an opportunity to see two examples at the same time, I was thrilled. The BMW Art Cars were coming to town.
The world-famous Art Cars had been on display at the London Olympics, all 16 of them. (Yes I know there are actually 17 but the frozen one is so difficult to maintain that I am counting it out.) And from there, six of them were transported straight to the Port of Helsinki, here in Finland, and among the six were the two most interesting ones, the CSLs!
Those of you who have read this entire thread already know that I am a bit crazy. And the rest will soon learn it as well. Just visiting the museum where the cars were going to be on display was obviously not enough for me. I literally waited in the bushes like paparazzi, and when the fancy transportation truck arrived, I took the first pictures of the cars, as BMW staff – all wearing white gloves - were pushing the cars into the museum.
Well, to tell the whole truth, I did contact the museum days in advance and got press accreditation. So I had the right to be there. I immediately sold the pictures to a leading tabloid magazine, and it was the first to publish the scoop that the cars had arrived – with my pictures as proof.
I ended up visiting the museum four times – all before the exhibition was even opened for the general public. BMW Finland and the EMMA museum staff were very nice and cooperative and I got some great pictures of the cars, pictures that were then published in many magazines here. It was really nice to be surrounded by people who not only understand BMWs and art, but also appreciate what a photographer can do for their business. Thank you!
For me, this was an unforgettable experience, as I was able to get much more familiar with the cars than regular museum visitors. The cars on display here were (and are, until the end of this month)
BMW 3.0 CSL (E9), Alexander Calder (1975)
BMW 3.0 CSL (E9), Frank Stella (1976)
BMW M1 (E26), Andy Warhol (1979)
BMW M3 (E30), Michael Jagamara Nelson (1989)
BMW M3 (E30), Ken Done (1989)
BMW M3 (E36), Sandro Chia (1992)
Even if the cars didn’t have any art on them, the exhibition would still have been worth a visit. I mean, how many times have I seen an M1 before? And was it even the same year I saw an E9 CSL? Well, here they both are side-by-side. It is great that the whole concept started from racing. These cars are not everyday cars. These cars are hard-core race cars. And THEN they were painted to become something even more.
Have you tuned up your BMW to be very fast? I mean VERY fast? Compare it to this small piece of art from the year 1976, the Frank Stella CSL. It has 750hp and a top speed of 341km/h (212mph). Just looking at the insanely wide slick racing tires, I can easily imagine this car would destroy any modern street-legal BMW on the racetrack. This is art!
The guys in white gloves, i.e. the BMW staff responsible for the transportation of the vehicles, told that the company policy is that the cars are not started anymore. The engines are still in there, but BMW does not plan on running them ever again. I really hope I misunderstood what they were saying. Because to me, this really takes away from the experience. It reduces these fearsome racers into just metal canvases without purpose. Of course they are still legends, but the thought of these very capable cars still being able to do laps on the racetrack is what makes them special. Watching old video footage is somehow not the same.
Witnessing the brutal performance-oriented design of these classic CSL racers made me think about the E46 CSL. How much do these cars have in common? To be honest, my first feeling was that very little. In this thread I have been telling how fast, raw and uncomfortable the E46 CSL is. Well that is nothing compared to these race cars. Looks like my CSL has some very strong and healthy relatives!
BMW 3.0 CSL (E9), artist Frank Stella (1976).
The Frank Stella car sports some very intimidating wheels and tires. How much wheel lip is enough to make a car hot?
BMW 3.0 CSL (E9), artist Alexander Calder (1975). This is the first Art Car.
The CEO of BMW Finland had brought his son’s scale model Art Car with him. He was kind enough to let me photograph it, standing next to the real thing. I really like the way these pictures turned out.
The museum staff was very helpful and they even let me do a private midnight shoot, so that I could play with the lights a bit more. And I did.
BMW (E26) M1, artist Andy Warhol (1979). Yes I know this is not a CSL, but it was such a thrill to see this car that I had to include a picture of it here.
BMW (E46) M3 CSL. Inspired by the awesome “official BMW car art”, I took my own car for a spin and painted a work of art myself! The car is light-painted with LED lights and the pattern reveals the wonderful shape of the engine hood, fenders and mirrors. Enjoy!
The winter is long and there will be plenty of time to share more stories and pictures of the 2012 season. You are welcome to post any CSL-related questions, comments and picture requests in this thread! (I will be posting more M3 CSL interior pictures, as many people have been asking for those.)
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Because I admire the work that Earl Shepherd did to his Z4 M Coupe, I want to include a link here:
This car is simply amazing. BMW should accept this car as the official Art Car #18. At Bimmerfest you can learn more about it here: