Oceanside Auto Repair

BMW Art Cars- Beginnings, Alexander Calder & Frank Stella

Remember when “The Hire” went viral back in 2002 when folks were still calling it “the web”? Those eight viral videos produced by BMW featuring Clive Owen, with cinematic giants John Woo, Tony Scott, Frankenheimer and Wong Kar-Wai at the helm. I thought it would set by128kb modem on fire. Here’s a refresher…

BMW has a lasting tradition of incorporating business with the arts going back to 1975 when the Bavarian automaker produced it’s first “art car.” In a series of posts of the next few weeks, we’re going to feature some of these cars at the intersection of innovation and BMW’s evolving cross-branding strategy meets Today, the Art Car is a public relations effort for BMW to distinguish itself in a crowded market during tough economic times. In the first decade though, art cars, including contributions by Lichtenstein, Warhol and Rauschenberg weren’t meant for any kind of long-last media campaign. We’ll discuss how BMW has developed these designer models from their humble origins as racecar in the 24-hour Le Mans to a object for a huge multi-platform PR

The first “art car” was a 3.0 CSL, commissioned by BMW for for French racecar driver Herve Poulain. The idea was simple: an artist would paint the design on BMW car that would then race in the Le Mans. The purpose: to promote BMW’s support of the arts, while taking a photo-op to show BMW flying out of the gate in front of Ferraris. And they were made strictly for the track, not becoming available as production models until 1982.

The first so-called “art car” by Alexander Calder

Painter Frank Stella, who was to go on to create the second remembers, “that car I did was a nice introduction to racing, and a relief from the art world.” He goes on to tell how the his reward for the art car was a two year lease on a BMW, which gave him a taste for speed and racing. He’d see dozens of Grand Prix and Formula Two races after that, and made friends with Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson who drove his af at Le Mans before his death in 1978.

Stella’s “shaped canvas’ was a BMW CSL 3.0, first introduced in 1972 and built on the E9 platform, the weight having been reduced (L for “light”) to compete in the European Touring Car Championship. This was achieved by using less steel to in the body and soundproofing, replaced by aluminium alloy throughout. The bored-out engine could achieve 180hp at 6k RPM and 200 hp at 5500 RPM.

In 1973, with Toine Hezemans at the wheel, the CSL 3.0 took first place at European Touring Car Championship. The CSL would continue to outmuscle all other cars in its class at the race for the next six years. BMW made only small adjustments, adding very small increases in displacement.

In a word, the experience working with the CSL 3.0 was transformative. Stella would even spend in night in jail for repeatedly breaking the speed limit after he’d seen what racing cars were capable of.

The product was one of the most stunning art cars, and in some opinions the best to emphasize the design already apparent in the design. Using graph paper and geometric shapes as his medium, Stellas otherwise flat, rigid design in black-and-white emphasized the contours unique to the design of the BMW CSL 3.0


BMW Service
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