BMW’s 3.0 CSL Hommage deconstructed | CAR Magazine

BMW’s 3.0 CSL Hommage deconstructed

Published: 23 May 2015

 BMW head of design talks CAR around the 3.0 CSL Hommage
Sensational concept revealed at Villa d’Este show
 ‘I think we could build a car like this,’ he tells us

Following the full reveal of the dramatic BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage concept at the Villa d’Este show, CAR pinned down BMW’s head of design Karim Habib for the inside story on the retro-inspired show car:

‘The best stuff comes when you understand the past and use that to develop the future’

BMW’s latest Hommage is a jaw-dropping reboot of the brutally beautiful CSL racers of the mid-1970s. It’s all there, from the broad-hipped, Coke-bottle proportions through the signature curved wooden dash to the wildy jutting rear wing. But designer Karim Habib insists the CSL is as much about looking forward as it is retrospection.

‘The original car is such an iconic design of course there was some pressure,’ says Habib. ‘Fortunately the M1 Hommage worked out, so we were not afraid of doing the same with the CSL. We tried to quote certain elements, like the wing, the vertical kidneys, the wood in the dash, but we didn’t try to imitate anything. I think if we were to do something wholly retro it would make no sense. This concept is about motorsport and it’s about light weight – that was the spirit of the car, the framework if you like. To that we added visual clues to link it to the original. Then we did what we wanted.’

Original BMW 3.0 CSL with the new Hommage concept

‘We’re having fun communicating lightweight through design’

i8 and i3 saw a radical evolution of BMW’s established design language, one that seeks to divide a car’s volume into myriad interlinked forms for a lighter, more progressive look. The same thinking is evident all over the CSL Hommage, and it’s here to stay.

‘Take the rear three-quarter,’ says Habib, ‘an angle of this car that I am in love with. You have this very classic sport muscle about the rear wheel, which folds into the wing, and then below that you have this layer detached from the main body of the car. There’s a little bit of i8 in there. Instead of making one whole thing you divide the volumes. You create negative space between them and right away that communicates lightness.’

Happily the material that helps brings this lightness – carbonfibre-reinforced plastic – brings with it a design freedom Habib and his team are relishing. ‘Carbonfibre is a very BMW material. We use it on i8 and i3 and on some elements of certain M cars, the M3’s roof for example. For designers it gives us a lot of freedom. It allows for very tight radii and undercuts. You can certainly sculpt more, in terms of form. And on a car like this, which could be a very exclusive opportunity, we could use it. In time the material will trickle down to mainstream models built in bigger numbers.’

‘Calm, uncluttered interiors are a part of our future’

‘In the beginning this project was more about the exterior,’ explains Habib. ‘The interior was in the background. But it developed into this very pure, very race-orientated interior. I love it. A BMW interior needs to be ultra-high quality, in the materials, in the fit and finish, in the displays, in the information that you communicate. But if the car’s about driving then the interior shouldn’t be a distraction. My favourite details are the DTM quotes, like the detachable steering wheel, the fire extinguisher and sprinklers and the M colours on the ends of the wooded section of the dash. It’s like you’ve milled through to the M soul inside. That’s something I’d really like to see on our M cars.’

BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage interior

‘Wheels? They’re just about going all-out’

As you’d expect of a car 12 months in the making, one taken from sketch to reality by a team that, to man, grew up worshipping the original CSL as a hero machine, the detailing on the CSL Hommage is as spectacular as its period-correct Gulf Yellow paint. Impossible to miss are the wheels which, with admirable honesty, Habib admits are less about brake-cooling aero or painstaking weight-saving and more about just letting rip.

‘There’s no special functionality to their design,’ he laughs. ‘The wheels are honestly about going all-out because we could, because they’re one-offs. We could mill them from the front, from behind, we could add pieces with different finishes… We just went crazy.’

‘I think we could build a car like this’

‘Right now the CSL Hommage is a concept car, but I think we could build a car like this, one with elements that look to the past,’ continues Habib. ‘BMW motorcycles has gone through an interesting change. They used to be very rational, not so much emotional, but now they are producing modern bikes with an emotional connection to the past, and nobody sees what they’ve done as somehow not authentic. BMW cars could do that as well. As much as, as I designer, I like to think that I don’t need the past, if there’s just this little thread from the past to the present then it brings much more of an emotional charge to the product. And we have such a rich history to work with.’

Click here to read more about the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three