Evocative Engineering

Unveiled at Villa d’Este, the fourth car in BMW’s Hommage series pays exuberant tribute to the legendary CSL racers of 1975.

July 16, 2015
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Go back 40 years, to 1975. The CSL coupes arrive in North America, ready to take on all comers in IMSA racing. These CSLs aren’t like their predecessors in the European Touring Car Championship, however. They’re wilder, with bigger spoilers front and rear and gigantic fender flares to accommodate enormous tires and ultra-wide wheel tracks. These IMSA CSLs prove enormously successful on the track, but they owe their popularity as much to their outrageous appearance as their speed.

In exuberant tribute to those racing CSLs, the latest car in BMW’s “Hommage” series—BMW uses the French spelling, so we’ll play along with the extra “m”—casts in carbon fiber a modern update of the Coupe Sport Lightweight on the 40th anniversary of its legendary IMSA season. Like its three predecessors, which honored the 328 roadster, the Touring-bodied 328 coupe and the M1, the CSL Hommage offers a fresh interpretation of a great car from BMW’s past. The Hommage cars don’t chart a path to production, necessarily. These are the most conceptual of all BMW concepts, built to create evocative links between BMW’s history and its future.

“Our Hommage cars not only demonstrate how proud we are of our heritage, but also how important the past can be in determining our future,” says Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group Design. “The BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage represents a nod to the engineering achievement exemplified by the 3.0 CSL in its lightweight design and performance. With intelligent lightweight construction and modern materials, the Hommage brings the character of that earlier model into the 21st century, showing it in a new and exciting guise.”

Additions as the starting point

Speaking with Bimmer at Villa d’Este, BMW’s head of automotive design Karim Habib explained the car’s origin.

“We basically took the race car and tried to integrate everything that was added on into the design from the get-go,” he said. “That three-quarter rear, that rear wheel arch with the wing, was there on the original sketch, and it really set the tone for this car. In essence, it’s four bolt-on wheel arches that we integrated into the design from the get-go.”

Wong Kyu Kang drew the first sketch for the CSL Hommage in 2014, and design team veteran Joji Nagashima updated it updated earlier this year. (Kang’s prior credits include the 4 Series Concept Coupe; Nagashima designed the Z3, the E39 5 Series and the E90 3 Series sedan.) In Kang’s sketch as well as the finished CSL Hommage, the rear melds traditional aerodynamic elements—including the original CSL’s trademark roof wing—with the “negative space” around the taillights associated with the i8.

Also from Issue 133

  • 2015 228i Coupe THP road test
  • 2014 M6 Gran Coupe ZCP road test
  • Buyer's Guide: Big BMW Coupes
  • Gerhard Richter's paintings for BMW
  • Mike Dietel’s turbocharged “345i”
  • Alan Rich's S14-powered 2002
  • 328s at Amelia Island
  • The BMW Event in So. Florida
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