Before it went into the trailer, we spent a good long time just looking at one of the most intriguing cars ever to have raced at the Nürburgring, restored to period-correct glory. It still looks extraordinary, even standing still, a strange mixture of brute force and almost ethereal beauty. The gigantic wing in the back, the oversized fenders straining to cover those huge tires, the 345/35-15s in the back, 235/40-15s in front…utterly captivating.
Given the chance to get behind the wheel, I fire up the engine and hear the Martini Bat roar to life with throaty abandon, a sound that must have woken up the entire town of Duarte. It’s a sharp, barking bellow that rattles your vertebrae and sends big dogs scurrying to hide in corners. At higher revs, it changes from an aggressive rumble into a shrieking banshee howl. The sound is almost painful, but sometimes pain can be fun.
Grown men emerge from garages and workshops to stare at the thing that made their workbenches quiver. Smartphones pop as I maneuver the car into position for photos. To turn those enormous front wheels takes all the strength I can muster, and by the time I drive maybe sixty feet I’m bathed in sweat. Michael Martini must have been one fit dude.
The clutch is one of those old-fashioned German race clutches that has zero “spiel” and embarrasses you by thwarting every attempt to get the monster rolling. At some point, I remember the racing clutches of my younger days, when you couldn’t just “let her come,” when you didn’t have electronic launch control but had to rely on the seat of your pants, the feeling in both of your feet, and your guts. To drive this car around the Nordschleife—for hours!—you had to have been crazy and courageous, and probably deaf, as well.
Oh, how I would love to drive this thing over the Schwedenkreuz!
As Perry says, this car is special, carrying with it the story of Willi Martini—who died in 2001 at the age of 76—and his vital contribution to the history of BMW.
The Martini Renngemeinschaft never had much money, even in its heyday. Without it, Martini was forced to improvise, and he did so more adventurously than most. Yet because Martini’s success was limited almost exclusively to the Nürburgring, his team never received the widespread recognition afforded an Alpina or a Schnitzer. (Not surprisingly, the Martini family remains involved with the track to this day, Michael driving the ’Ring Taxi for more than 15 years and Oliver working as a race announcer.)
Martini remained an Adenauer legend, never really making it across the Atlantic.
“The car belongs in Europe,” says Kincaid. “It really has no history in the U.S. One day, I would just love to bring it to Spa, say, or the Nürburgring. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
Indeed it would.
Cars like this should be driven, Simonds says, mounting the enormous rear wing to the trunk.
“And Bill’s gonna drive it.”