BMW Art Cars #Alexander-Calder
: 3.0CSL. In the first of a new series looking at BMW’s Art Cars we delve back in the history books to unearth the story behind the first such machine… #BMW-E9
BMW is rightly proud of its collection of #Art-Cars
and they’re regularly exhibited around the world in art galleries, but while it is happy to take the plaudits for the range of artists it’s commissioned over the years the first Art Car wasn’t actually a #BMW
creation after all. The car you see here was actually commissioned by a wealthy French art dealer and part-time racing driver, Hérve Poulain, after he purchased a Group 2 racing #CSL
from BMW Motorsport to compete at Le Mans. He then persuaded his friend, sculptor Alexander Calder, to paint the car in order for it to be a moving work of art at the #1975
Born in 1898 in Philadelphia, the legendary artist Alexander-Calder began his career as an engineer, but art soon won out over engineering and he developed a unique style of sculpture. His often large-scale pieces had a buoyant appeal and were often painted in cheery primary colours. His forte was creating mobile sculptures, combining Calder’s love of art with his knowledge of engineering and, despite the fact that he was primarily a sculptor, Poulain commissioned him to paint the CSL that he was to race at Le Mans.
It wasn’t Calder’s first foray into painting a machine; in #1973
he painted a passenger jet owned by Braniff South American Airlines and from the experience garnered from this exercise Calder felt he was able to put his own stamp on the CSL. Instead of trying to work with the shape of the car, Calder subjected it to his bold use of colour – bright red, blue and yellow – that didn’t attempt to use the car’s streamlining or overall shape to constrain his view of how it should look. He created a bold design that looks stunning.
The fact that the car has the mechanical backing and aerodynamic addenda to carry off the colour scheme was the icing on the cake. Under the bonnet was a 3210cc version of the legendary ‘six, it boasted twin overhead cams and four-valves per cylinder and was rated at around 480hp with a top speed, according to BMW, of 180mph.
Poulain entered the car under his own name and employed the services of well-known endurance racers Sam Posey and Jean Guiche. Perhaps thanks to the depleted field at Le Mans the car qualified well, taking pole position for its class and tenth spot overall on the grid. Strictly speaking the class win should have been a formality for the Calder CSL as its main competition came from another CSL, a brace of Ford Capri 2600s and a Heidegger 2002. However, when it comes to endurance racing there are no such things as certainties. Initially the car ran well and was in fifth position overall but sadly suffered a driveshaft failure after seven hours and was forced to retire leaving the Heidegger 2002 to take the Group 2 class win.
Despite the car showing promise at #Le-Mans
it never raced again as #BMW
purchased the car from Poulain and it became the first machine in its #BMW-Art-Car
collection. It wasn’t the end for Poulain though, but we’ll come onto that when we look at some of the other #Art-Cars
that followed in the ensuing years…