American painter and sculptor Alexander Calder is famous for having created the mobile (which is now seen the most often hanging above baby cribs), but he also lent his artistic talents to the luxury automobile realm by creating a one-of-a-kind car for BMW back in 1975. The 3.0 CSL "Batmobile" GT racer helped launch the auto brand's "Ultimate Driving Machine" campaign message and will soon be able to be seen at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.
The colorful auto debuted to the public in May 1975 at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs at the Louvre. "It was an elegant creative alliance of racer and art auctioneer Herve Poulain and American sculptor Alexander Calder, mixed with the foresight of BMW Motorsport chief Jochen Neerpasch," says the Amelia Island Concours.
Calder apparently started with a scale model of the "Batmobile," ignoring the car's structure and shape, and instead covered it in bold strokes of red, blue, and yellow. BMW actually made two cars depicting Calder's design, the second made with an entry to be driven at 1975s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Calder’s genius was to use primary colors," said Sam Posey, the American BMW factory racer who drove the Art Car at Le Mans. “Neerpasch had the Calder Art Car insured for $1 million as a work of art,” said Sam Posey. “It was brilliant. The whole art world picked up on that.”
During its Le Mans debut, the car was also driven by Ferrari's 1964 Le Mans winner Jean Guichet and Poulain himself. Posey qualifyed first in class and 11th overall in a 55 car field, which Calder got to see in person. “In the final 15 minutes of qualifying Thursday night, just before midnight, I got a perfect lap,” said Posey. “I got the esses and Tetre Rouge just right. The BMW was really fast, but I caught a draft from a prototype going all the way down Mulsanne. That was probably the best lap of my life.”
Though the car didn't race again, the auto world (and art world) latched onto the beautiful machine and the Art Car concept. Calder's creative vision was continued, with BMW going on to partner with several other American artists for new Art Cars (including Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol).
Don't miss your chance to see this mobile artwork in person at the Amelia Island Concours, which runs March 7-9, 2014.