It’s good to be a German car fan. Aside from pumping out some incredible enthusiast cars, the German automotive industry wholeheartedly embraces most of its history, giving rise to sprawling modernist museums to house its extensive collection. We’ve already seen what’s behind the doors at Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, so we were excited to check out the BMW museum when we had a stopover in Munich. As usual, we picked a handful of favorites.
1975 BMW 3.0 CSL
As far as vintage Bimmers go, it doesn’t really get better than this. As part of BMW’s continued success in the motorsports arena, the then-new E9-generation saloon was homologated with the wild CSL special. This rare package added a wing and fender package, and wasn’t delivered completely assembled, thanks to stringent German safety laws.
When the CSL passed homologation, a fleet of heavily modified CSLs descended on the international racing stage, claiming numerous wins and championships, particularly in the European Touring Car Championship. It also won the hearts of race fans, who dubbed the swollen and angular CSL “Batmobile.”
For BMW, this is genesis. The diminutive 3/15 was the first production car to wear the BMW roundel, though it didn’t start life out as a Bimmer. Underneath the skin, it’s a poorly disguised Austin 7, originally built under license by Dixi, an automaker eventually purchased by BMW.
The small and nimble 3/15 was a moderate hit, with nearly 19,000 produced between 1929 and 1932. Many were used for utility, like this delivery van.
1964 BMW 700
BMW wasn’t always the sales powerhouse it is today. There was a time in the 1960s when it almost closed up shop, and the little 700 was one of the models that saved the company before the Neue Klasse 1600 and 2002 solidified the foundation for good.
In place of the 2002’s front-mounted, water-cooled four-cylinder, the 700 is powered by a rear-mounted air-cooled flat-two engine plucked from the contemporary BMW Motorrad bikes. It sold well, ending production after five years with 188,000 produced.
1968 BMW 2002ti
Speaking of Neue Klasse, we were big fans of this orange 2002. The 2002 is often referenced as the origin point for BMW’s heritage of driving excellence and handling-first approach to sport saloons. It set the stage for the later 3 Series and 5 Series, along with the current 2 Series.
1939 BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupe
This elegant Touring-bodied BMW 328 is one of only two non-Italian cars to take the overall victory at Mille Miglia, the other being the legendary 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR that won a the hands of Sir Stirling Moss. This also holds the distinction of winning the modern interpretation of the Mille Miglia, taking the laurels at the 2010 running.
BMW Art Cars
Of all the thousands of race liveries, BMW’s individual art cars are some of the most intriguing. Starting with Alexander Calder’s 1975 3.0 CSL, artists along the lines of Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol put their brush to fender on a series of race cars. The museum had a collection of the most well-known examples, including Stella’s excellent grid-patterned CSL.
Here’s one of the best bits of forbidden fruit we found. In 2004, 1,383 E46 M3s were sold with the hardcore CSL package, cutting weight and boosting power of the already potent sports sedan. Thanks to heavy use of carbon fiber, glass-reinforced plastic, thinner glass, and a lack of insulation, weight drops by an impressive 243 pounds over the standard car.
Power is up by 17 hp and 4 lb-ft from upgraded camshafts, carbon-fiber manifold, and updated exhaust. The chassis was reworked as well, including a tighter steering ratio, stiff springs and dampers, and beefier braking system compared to the regular car.