The History of BMW Art Cars – Part One!

BMW Art Cars were initially introduced in 1975 by french driver Herve Poulain and many artists tried their hand at designing an BMW art car. All of the BMW art cars are still on display at several exhibitions and museums and depict how the BMW design has evolved over the years.

BMW 3.0 CSL – 1975

The BMW art car collection was started way back in 1975. Alexander Calder, a sculptor started working on a 3.0 CSL and it went on to become the first BMW art car. This car was driven in the 24-hour race at Le Mans by the American Sam Posey and French drivers Jean Guichet and Herve Poulain. After seven hours the car had to give up due to a defective prop shaft. 3.0 CSL- six-cylinder inline engine, power output: 480 bhp, top speed: 291 km/h.

When everything is perfect, there is no fulfilment.

BMW 3.0 CSL – 1976

Frank Stella designed the BMW 3.0 CSL, which had black and white square grids. The graph paper pattern ran across the entire length of the car. In 1976, the second BMW art coupe car took part in the 24-hour race at Le Mans. 3.0 CSL- six-cylinder inline engine, power output: 750 bhp, top speed: 341 km/h.

My design is like a blueprint transferred onto the bodywork.

BMW 320i – 1977

Roy Lichtenstein, the artist who painted the lines on the 320i wanted them to be a depiction of the road and those lines showed the car where to go. The “Benday dots” which are seen on the car are characteristic and analogical to the comic strip paintings of Roy Lichtenstein. He went on say that the design depicted is the journey experienced by the car on the roads it had been. It can be seen as a passing landscape. The Le Mans in 1977 saw the 320i driven by Frenchmen Herve Poulain and Marcel Mignot who then achieved a ninth place finish. 320i- four-cylinder inline engine, power output: 300 bhp ,top speed: 257 km/h.

I pondered on it for a long time and put as much into it as I possibly could.

BMW M1 – 1979

Andy Warhol, a pop art legend of the twentieth century painted this M1 by himself from scratch till the end. He started working on the car immediately without any scale model for referencing. The M1 portrayed the speed of the car. The reason for the M1 being depicted in blurred outfits is that the contours and colors become obscure at high speeds. M1- six-cylinder inline engine, power output: 470 bhp, top speed: 307 km/h.

I love that car. It has turned out better than the artwork.

BMW 635 CSi – 1982

Designed by Ernst Fuchs, the 635 CSi was the first Art Car based on a production car. He called it as a “Fire Fox on a Hare Hunt”. This is based on the dream of Fuchs were a hare is seen running across the “autobahn” and leaping over a burning car. 635 CSi- six-cylinder inline engine, power output: 218 bhp, top speed: 229 km/h.

A machine should not be made to look better. It has its own aesthetics.

BMW 635 CSi, 1986

Rauschenberg projected the work of other artists on the car. A portrait of a young man can be seen on the sides and it also had trees and swampy grasses on the other side that portrayed the environmental problems arising from the usage of fuel. 635 CSi- six-cylinder inline engine, power output: 211 bhp, top speed: 220 km/h.

I think mobile museums would be a good idea. This car is the fulfilment of my dream.

BMW M3 – 1989

The M3 art car by Michael Nelson had abstract geometric shapes. A close look would reveal kangaroos and emus. The car also had Papunya drawings, which are dreams of inspiration that formed a great part of the Aborigines. M3- four-cylinder inline engine, power output: 300 bhp, top speed: 281 km/h.

A car is a landscape as it would be seen from a plane – I have included water, the kangaroo and the opossum.

BMW M3 – 1989

Ken Done depicted the exotic colors of parrots and parrot fish which symbolized beauty and speed. M3- four-cylinder inline engine, power output: 300 bhp, top speed: 281 km/h.

I have painted parrots and parrot fish. Both are beautiful and move at an incredible speed. I wanted my BMW Art Car to express the same thing.

BMW 535i – 1990

Japanese artist Matazo Kayama wanted to showcase the BMW technology and modern Japan through the paintings on the 535i. This was developed by airbrush technique and the theme “Snow, Moon and Flowers”. 535i- six-cylinder inline engine, power output: 211 bhp, top speed: 227 km/h.

I did not become fully aware of the BMW’s distinctive contours until after the car had been fully dressed in color.

Most of the BMW art cars competed at Le Mans series and were driven by famous drivers of that period. The second article on BMW art cars will have the information on the latest art cars.

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