10 December 2020
BMW Group Classic presents: anniversary stories in 2021. Model premieres sporting highlights and record-breaking innovations – the history of the BMW Group is packed with milestones that have shaped the development of the company for the past 105 years. BMW Group Classic presents four very special anniversary stories in this newsletter as highlights among the plethora of significant historical events.
Three letters placed sports-car fans on cloud nine in 1971: CSL. The abbreviation stands for “Coupé Sport Leichtbau” or “Coupé Sports Lightweight”. And the name was emblematic. The BMW 3.0 CSL was a pioneer for intelligent lightweight construction in series automobiles, with a weight of just 1,145 kilograms, but packing power of 132 kW/180 hp under the bonnet. In the same year, another premiere created a sensation: The model range of the big coupés was expanded by a version powered by a 147 kW/200 hp fuel-injection engine in the form of the BMW 3.0 CSi. After only 169 examples of the BMW 3.0 CSL had been built with a carburettor engine, the lightweight coupé was also given a powerful 147 kW/200 hp engine fitted with fuel injection. Thanks to a collection of lightweight components like the engine bonnet, boot lid and wings all made of aluminium, the BMW 3.0 CSL was around 200 kilograms lighter than its BMW 3.0 CS and BMW 3.0 CSi sister models. It left national and international competitors standing. The dream 3.0 CSL coupé was also a sensation on the race track. Between 1973 and 1979, it won the European Championship six times and dominated the international touring-car scene for almost a decade.
More than a century old and still a gorgeous goddess – only one flying lady can say that about herself: the radiator figurine of Rolls-Royce. Designed by sculptor Charles Sykes, the woman with the evocative name “Spirit of Ecstasy” celebrates her 110th birthday on 6 February. She is in fact better known to many by her endearing alias Emily. However, “Spirit of Ecstasy” is the official title. Eleanor Thornton is rumoured to have been the muse for the statuette. She was the lover of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, member of the British aristocracy, motor-car enthusiast and friend of company founder Charles Rolls. But conclusive evidence has never been provided for this heritage. However, one fact is absolutely certain: In 1911, Rolls-Royce was the first automobile brand to adorn all its motor cars with a generic radiator ornament. The figurine continues to be produced in an artisan process. A number of craft specialists work on each radiator mascot for about ten days in all. Stainless steel is the standard material. However, the flying lady can also be silver or gold plated on request. And because the “Spirit of Ecstasy” is not only the most famous but also the most collectable radiator ornament, the lady can be retracted into the interior of the radiator at the touch of a button since the 1980s.
Lots of interior space on a small external footprint. Space for four occupants. Agile driving style. Efficient fuel consumption and a low price. The designer of the original Mini, Alec Issigonis, followed these specifications laid down by the company management to the letter at the end of the 1950s. This principle was also applied when the brand experienced a new beginning with the market launch of the modern MINI. After the relaunch of the brand, the BMW Group presented the first premium automobiles in the small-car segment with the MINI One and the MINI Cooper. Driving fun, comfort and safety met the requirements of the 21st century, but the vehicle concept and design also reflected the genes of the original Mini. Sales of the Mini in the United Kingdom started on 7 July 2001. The market launch in Germany came two months later. A weekend shift was introduced for the first time at the MINI plant in Oxford in order to keep up with the huge demand. And the MINI is still there today. More than 300,000 MINI automobiles are now sold worldwide every year. Apart from the United Kingdom, Germany and the USA are the most important markets.