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BMW Art Cars: The Beauty of High Design

Joe Hurley


The new BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage evokes the essential qualities of the legendary BMW 3.0 CSL, which inspired a whole new school of design. BMW Art Cars represent the most exclusive and exciting image of the German brand.


The concept was born from a unique design in a particular context. Today— four decades after the launch of the original BMW 3.0 CSL— the BMW Art Cars project stands as a symbol of the most exclusive and expressive image of the German firm.

BMW Art Cars
BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage.

The year was 1975 when the famous racing driver and great art enthusiast Hervé Poulain asked his friend, the artist Alexander Calder, to imprint his wit and inspiration on a racing car. The choice was a BMW 3.0 CSL, which eventually achieved high success several times in the newborn ETCC (European Touring Car Championship). The fabled car had already left its mark at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1975.

The letter “L” in its name represents “lightness”, a decisive quality in its sporting success. Many elements of that model were modified to eliminate up to 440 lbs. of the total weight of the vehicle. These alterations improved the benefits and the performance of the 200 horsepower in its 3.2-liter and six cylinders engine.

BMW Art Cars
BMW Art Cars

Without knowing it, Calder and the then BMW Motorsport Director Jochen Neerpasch had laid the foundations for a design school unique to BMW. This initiative would later attract other world-renowned artists such as David Hockney, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons or Andy Warhol. Each artist expressed his vision in a competition BMW model, thus projecting a brand image that still fascinates car design enthusiasts worldwide.

In total, 17 vehicles became “moving sculptures” as the BMW Art Cars have been called since the first 3.0 CLS made its debut in 1975. Most of these vehicles are exhibited in the company’s museum in Munich. Today, forty years later, BMW wanted to celebrate the anniversary with a program of exhibitions featuring some of the BMW Art Cars in different parts of the world.

BMW Art Cars
1. Alexander Carlder, Art Car, 1975. BMW 3.0 CSL
2. Roy Lichtentein, Art Car, 1977. BMW 320i
5. Robert Rauschenberg, Art Car, 1986. BMW 635 CSi. BMW M3
4. Ken Done, Art Car, 1989. BMW M3
5. Esther Mahlangu, Art Car, 1991. BMW 525i
6. David Hockney, Art Car, 1995. BMW 850 CSi

Without a doubt, the main celebration of the 40th anniversary has been the presentation—suspense included—of the new BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage in the latest edition of the prestigious Concours d’Elegance Villa d’Este held in Cernobbio, Italy. The prototype evokes the spirit and essence of the original 3.0 CSL, which gave rise to a school of design that has been continuously improved by the latest technology employed and developed by the firm.

This concept —made of carbon fiber— highlights its lightness. However, we still do not know much more about it. We’ll have to wait for BMW to unveil their plans to see if this is a new racing car, a future street sports car or just a mere homage to a legendary icon.


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