Bavarian Motor Works has been an engineering force since its beginnings nearly 100 years ago. Their first major successes were in the design and construction of the inline six-cylinder aircraft engine. Following the First World War, the company transitioned its efforts to motorbikes, releasing a revolutionary twin-cylinder-engined R32 motorbike in 1923. With the acquisition of the Automobilewerk Eisenach company in 1928, BMW began its venture into the automobile world with the BMW Dixi, a tiny 15-horsepower passenger car and the first car to be produced by BMW.
They began producing sports cars in the mid-1930s with the elegant 1935 315/1, capable of reaching a top speed of 75 mph—a very respectable figure at the time. The 328 further refined the capabilities of the 315 by improving the suspension and handling characteristics along with a higher-displacement engine. The 328 had proven itself in competition, taking victory in its class at the famed Mille Miglia in 1938 and later winning overall in 1940. Following the Second World War, BMW’s efforts returned to the automobile with the roomy 501 model and the 502, featuring the first light alloy V-8 engine. BMW continued its motorsport conquest through 1959 with the 700 RS, a lightweight, aerodynamic racer. The 02 series, which would arrive in 1966 with the 1600-2 and which would evolve into the 2002, provided a great basis for tuning and outperformed most other small touring cars of the period. At this point, BMW’s motorsport pedigree was a key part of the brand’s identity, further bolstered by several victories in Formula Two and two touring car championships in 1968 and 1969.
By 1972 BMW formed its official motorsport division, BMW Motorsport GmbH, with the intention to bring racing efforts in-house. The M division began with just a few dozen employees to facilitate their motorsport program and would eventually grow to be an integral part of BMW’s success both on and off the track. Offered here from the BMW Motorsport Collection of Henry Schmitt are four examples of BMW’s most storied race cars, undoubtedly the most significant grouping of its type to come to market in recent memory.
The 3.0 CSL was among the M division’s first projects. The homologation road car was never offered for sale in the U.S.; nevertheless the model’s styling, racing heritage, and performance made it famous worldwide. The distinctive aerodynamic Karmann-built coachwork would lead the final-version CSLs to become affectionately known as “the Batmobile,” with its long, angular nose and aggressive air dam accentuated by a roof-mounted mid wing and soaring rear spoiler mounted atop the trunk lid. This example is one of only 169 first-series CS lightweights featuring carbureted induction. During the early 1990s, this chassis underwent a comprehensive restoration and is presented today with “Batmobile” features such as the iconic trunk spoiler. During the restoration it received a Weber carbureted replacement engine and new five-speed manual gearbox. The exterior was repainted in brilliant Black paint, and the iconic BMW Motorsport triple-colored stripe was applied.
Despite the success of BMW’s entries in the European Touring Car championship, BMW struggled to establish a brand identity in the United States. BMW Motorsport director Jochen Neerpasch was placed in charge of developing a factory team for the IMSA Camel GT races. He assembled a team of legendary drivers, including Brian Redman, Sam Posey, and Hans-Joachim Stuck, all of whom would bring BMW to victory at some of the most significant and challenging tracks in North America. Five examples of the 3.0 CSL race car were built for the 1975 IMSA GT championship, four of which competed during the season. This example, chassis 987, was one of two cars to debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona in February 1975. Engine troubles would force both vehicles to retire from the race early, but BMW would return a month later for redemption at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Brian Redman drove for more than seven of the twelve hours, overcoming both a failed wheel bearing and alternator. After 12 consecutive hours of racing, chassis 987 finished in 1st place ahead of a field of Porsche Carrera RSRs. Chassis no. 987 went on to a racing career in Europe, contesting the 1976 World Championship of Makes and racking up many more impressive finishes, including an overall win at the 1976 6 Hours of Silverstone. After being retired from racing, chassis 987 was obtained by well-known California race team owner Vasek Polak and remained in his collection until his passing in 1997. It has since been in the possession of Henry Schmitt and regularly run in a number of vintage events, all documented in a detailed logbook and regularly serviced at his dealership—BMW of San Francisco. It is currently fitted with a correct 3.5-liter M49/3 engine and wears its Sebring-winning #25 livery.
After the success of the IMSA GT series CSL racing program, BMW approved a new racing program based on the E21 series 320i, the aim being to develop a new turbocharged engine for future Formula 1 use. BMW selected McLaren engines to develop and tune the new M12/9 engine, capable of developing 600 horsepower. This chassis, number 003, was built as a lightweight example that shaved nearly 300 pounds off the preceding examples. This example was driven to victory at the 1979 Road America 500 by David Hobbs and Derek Bell and went on to rack up a total of eight top-three podium finishes during the 1978 and 1979 IMSA racing seasons. It is presented today in period-correct Turbo configuration and has been regularly raced in vintage competition, including most recently at the 2019 Sonoma Speed Festival.
BMW’s dedication to motorsport did not waver into the 1980s, much to the delight of their dedicated fans. The introduction of the M3 and M5 models offered enthusiasts an agile and powerful sport sedan with motorsport roots evident throughout while still being suitable for the street. The E30 M3 proved to be a superior force in the touring-car class and brought BMW to victory in the DTM in both 1987 and 1989. This example was extensively modified as a tribute to the 1989 Schnitzer M3 Evo. The interior has been stripped of its original carpeting and paneling in favor of a complete roll cage with gussets, lightweight glass has been fitted, and a fuel cell has been fitted in place of the stock unit. To further reduce weight, a lightweight racing hood has been fitted, with fiberglass doors and trunk lid, as well as an Evo front splitter and adjustable rear wing. The 2.5-liter racing engine has been rebuilt by Terry Tinney and converted to a dry-sump lubrication system at the hands of vintage technician Donald Duncan. At a fraction of the price of one of the original M3 Evo race cars, this example offers enthusiasts the opportunity to compete in historic racing series with nearly identical performance with the successful Schnitzer-Warsteiner race cars.