BMW loves a good homage. Or, like they spell in in their press releases, Hommage. Literary semantics aside it’s a slightly fancier way of describing a concept car that honors one of the firm’s famous models of old. Back in 2011 they unveiled the 328 Hommage that riffed its styling cues off the 1930s sports car of the same name.
And it worked pretty well. There was something Steam Punk about it. An interesting blend of pre-war futurism and 21st century technological idealism, it was the kind of car you would expect to see flaunted within the frames of a Frank Miller graphic novel.
Three years before the 328 there was the equally exciting M1 Hommage that eye-tasered all those who attended the annual Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, which, held on the shores of Lake Como, is one of the world’s most glamorous elegance competitions for classic and vintage automobiles.
Besides being a fine piece of vehicular eye-candy, aspects of this re-envisioned M1 – the BMW halo car of the 1970s – were carried through into the architecture of the recently released i8: one of the coolest plug-in hybrid sports cars the world has so far seen. So you can see why people at Bavarian Motor Works would sit down and pen these concepts every so often: they obviously have some part to play in the direction of the company’s design. No matter how small.
Having said this I really do hope that the DNA of the latest tribute special doesn’t find its way into any new BMW model anytime soon. The 3.0 CSL Hommage salutes the famous 1970’s racing car of the same name. Also known as ‘The Batmobile’ thanks to its many elaborate spoilers and air scoops, this sports coupé won everything from the European Touring Car Championship to the Nürburgring Six-Hour.
In between this model was also selected to be the first ever BMW Art Car – a tradition that continues to this day. American artist Alexander Calder painted a 3.0 CSL that took part in the 1975 Le Mans 24-Hour endurance race. Yeah it’s little wonder why the mighty Batmobile has become such a coveted classic over the years. With such pedigree, such distinctive styling you would expect the homage version to be something special. Unfortunately it isn’t. In fact I think it has to be one of the messiest, most unresolved conceptual design exercises in recent years.
From the strangely buck-toothed front apron to the weird side scoops that shroud the front quarter panels, this is a car that looks like it crawled out of a pool of toxic nuclear effluent. Even the paint, a nauseating shade of Fallout Yellow, conjures up terrifying images of nuclear power gone wrong.
Sadly BMW have missed a trick here. For even with all its aerodynamic add-ons the original car remained a pleasingly clean and simple object to behold. Behind the dominant sense of function there was still a purity of form that told your brain what the 3.0 CSL was all about – a road car made better.
Obviously built for the ostentatious tastes of Generation PlayStation this redux is, in comparison, nothing but a discordant mess of three-dimensional confusion: a discombobulated conversion of angry lines and shapes and angles that fail to meet at any common point.
It’s nothing but a grandiose demonstration of the firm’s CFRP molding might; showy art for art’s sake, which, as the novelist George Sand once so rightly pointed out, is nothing but an empty phrase. So sorry, BMW, I love a good Hommage as much as the next person but this time around I think you’ve lost the plot.