An excellent car is a work of art. But sometimes, an excess touch from someone outside the design and engineering departments can make it something much better.
Since 1975, BMW has been working with notable artists to change its vehicles to masterpieces. French auctioneer and racing car driver Hervé Poulain, created this idea, which has featured artists such as Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, and Roy Lichtenstein. The process was initiated with functional, aggressive racing cars–Poulain wanted to meld the two things he loved, racing and art, but it evolved to encompass road cars. When completed, each art work is owned and considered to be prestige , collectable models by BMW, displayed frequently around the world and handled with utmost caution. To celebrate 40 years of the art car program, BMW is displaying the vehicles around the world, in places like New York, Shanghai, Miami, Hong Kong, Lake Como, and Italy. When you have any interest in racing or art, go see them, when you can. (Most of the vehicles in question do not get out much, and you can only see them in images.)
In the grand scheme of things, the Art Cars have not accomplished much. You could trot out the usual stuff about “moving artwork in the right direction,” or “bridging two worlds,” but actually, they exist because they are cool–and sometimes, that is enough. They are evidence that neat stuff can sometimes trump bureaucracy, corporate operation, humanity’s to induce censor itself for public consumption. Seventeen art cars have been built. And while art is subjective, if you ask us, there is not a bad one in this entire group. Below is a list of only a select few from the artistic cars.
1975 BMW 3.0CSL: The first automobile in BMW’s series, and among the last things artist Alexander Calder did before his death. This 3.2-liter, 480-hp, 180-mph CSL was entered at the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it was driven by American legend Sam Posey and Frenchmen Jean Guichet and Hervé Poulain. After seven hours on track, it retired because of a busted driveshaft and never raced again. Calder’s “AC” signature is hand-painted on the left rear flank. Your writer is lucky enough to have touched this specific car–I helped push it around a museum after, for a photo shoot, after being advised to do so by a high-ranking BMW worker. Sounds weird, right? You would not go groping the Mona Lisa, but how else could you go something like this? That’s the wonderful thing about art, on a vehicle. Sometimes, you just have to treat it like a car. Which makes you get near it, smell it, and enjoy it even more. Beautiful curves, wonderful proportions, delicate in all the proper places — even the ironman suspension was wonderful. Calder was wonderful.
1976 BMW 3.0CSL: BMW’s next Art Car, another CSL with leather car seats as an interior, was decorated by the celebrated American artist Frank Stella. Like the company’s first Art Car, it ran at Le Mans, now in 1976. Stella was a passionate race enthusiast, and the car’s gridwork references chart paper and specialized glory. The curves in addition to that remember drafting tools. In accordance with one of BMW’s in-house publications on the Art Cars, Stella was contrary to “over-interpretation” of his job.
1977 BMW 320i Group 5: Roy Lichtenstein is generally considered the father of American pop art. The paint work and layout also reveals the scenery as it moves. The sky and the sunlight should be seen … you can list all of the things a car experiences–the only difference is that this car mirrors all of these things even before it takes to the street. And so there is a stylized sunrise–or maybe sunset–about the BMW’s flanks. There is Lichtenstein’s signature style, with Ben-Day dots and simple shapes. Additionally, a sixteen-valve, 2.0-liter, 300-hp turbo four known as M12, which appears to include 4wd equipment. This automobile proved as a work of art in the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1977, then ran at Le Mans the exact same year. It finished 9th overall and first in class.
1979 BMW M1 Group 4: Andy Warhol’s Group 4 M1 conducted at Le Mans in 1979, finishing second in its class. The famed pop artist developed the car’s appearance on a scale model, then had supporters transfer it into the actual thing with broad-bristle brushes. After that, he dragged a tool over the car’s surface, scrawling down to the primer in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. In person, the strokes and scrawls have visible feel, like the car was carved out of giant lumps of Play-Doh. The 3.5-liter, twin-cam straight six generates 470 hp and will take the car to 190 mph. I drove a full-race Group 4 M1 once; this engine is undoubtedly the car’s greatest part. It rips and snorts and cries this hard-edged creature yowl–nearly Italian, but profoundly German.