In 1968, BMW launched the relatively sleek and sexy E9 class. The four-seater coupe featured longer lines and a wider wheelbase compared to the New Class it replaced. Driving enthusiasts loved it so much that BMW decided to develop the instantly popular classic car as one that was race ready, and thus evolved the 1972 BMW E9 3.0 CSL.

A Sport Coupe Crafted for the Track

While the lesser 1971 BMW E9 3.0 CS offered a spirited six-cylinder engine and a nicely designed rear suspension, it was built as a daily driver. The engineers at BMW massaged that basic design to create the 3.0 CSL, where the “L” stood for “light.”

For the 1972 launch, they carved out a few more cc in the engine to bump up the total displacement to 3003, allowing it to enter the “over 3.0L” class in the European Tour Car Championship. The inline-six produced 200 horsepower and 204 lb-ft of torque.

It could reach a top speed of 135 mph and rip off a 0 to 60 mph run in 6.7 seconds. That was 1.3 seconds faster than the more pedestrian CS model.

Enthusiasts found it gratuitously responsive and fun to drive, which meant everyone wanted to get their hands on it.

Sculpting the Sheet Metal for Performance

The Light in the moniker of the CSL earned its place in the interior trimmings and its sheet metal. Glass windows were replaced by plexiglass. Aluminum doors, hood, and trunk replaced steel. A lightweight sports seat provided support to the driver. They eliminated power steering. When the designers were done, the interior looked as barren as many dedicated racing machines, tipping the scales at just 1,165 kg–over 200 kg less than the street version.

Once BMW was prepared to enter a severe competition, the 1973 model added a rear roof spoiler, fins, a stanchion wing, and a front air scoop to improve its aerodynamic capabilities. This version became known as the Batmobile in enthusiast circles.

Racking Up the Trophies

While BMW only manufactured 1,208 of the 3.0 CSL over four years, the ride certainly made every vehicle count. It won the 1973 European Tour Car Championship and the 1973 24 Hours of Le Mans. It sat on the first and second-place podiums at the 1973 German Touring Car Grand Prix. In later years, the CSL stood up against the Porsche 911 and Ford Capri.

If there was a touring car race, the CSL could be found near the front nearly every week.

A Collector Car that Improves with Age

The BMW E9 3.0 CSL remains one of the most popular classic cars in today’s market. Its slightly longer and broader stance sets it apart from earlier BMWs. At the same time, its suspension geometry, lightweight design, and six-speed manual gearbox are still a delight to muscle around the road course. It is a piece of racing history, and low production numbers make it difficult to find.

A well-worn CSL may sell for as low as $100,000. But one that has been fully restored can earn a bid in the mid $300,000 range. This is a true gem.

Is there a new BMW 3.0 CSL coming soon?

That 1972 BMW E9 3.0 CSL made such a massive splash in automotive history, the manufacturer is planning to release 50 Homage vehicles celebrating the 50th anniversary of M.

Based on the modern M4, designers are including the familiar retro aero package of the Batmobile. However, it leaves the comparison to the original CSL behind as it will churn out up to 600 hp and potentially leave the 300 km/h barrier in the dust. Just how much will this future classic car sell for? Rumours say you should expect to spend around $700,000.

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