There was once a time in motorsports when race tracks were not hermetically sealed 3.5 mile circles. Many of them were run on complex strings of open roads including the likes of Spa, the Targa Florio, Le Mans, & Hockenheim. The word “run off area” hadn’t been invented yet, the cars were insanely powerful, had very little grip, crashed often (usually going 150+mph) and drivers died frequently along with spectators.
For over 50 years, the pinnacle of viewing this ludicrous display of carnage was a track hidden away in Germany called the Nurburgring Nordschleife. It is a 14 mile, 160 turn beast of a road built as a test track in the late 20’s by German auto manufacturers in order to test the extremes of their vehicles. And oddly enough, it’s open to the public.
Trying to describe the experience is fairly pointless, to drive around it quickly is to wrestle for your life at every corner. Most of the turns are blind, off camber, and the radius decreases as you get further in, with all three of these characteristics having uphill and downhill variants on constantly changing surfaces. The track is so large that it is often raining on one sector and completely dry on the rest, making tire choice that much more of a gamble. Most drivers who have set lap records seem to agree: it was the scariest 7-10 minutes of their lives.
Two particular sectors within the circuit [pictured above] used to produce a fair amount of drama, Quiddlebacher Hohe and Pflanzgarten. The first is a short downhill/uphill straightaway that used to crest so abruptly, most cars would get all 4 wheels off of the ground (especially in qualifying) in an effort to maintain speed through the long sweepers ahead. The latter is a truly frightening downhill heart-stopper with a steep dip that drops the car about 6 feet in less than a second, if you’re not careful you’ll damage your suspension and body work. Both were gradually leveled off over the years, and since Formula 1 moved across the fence it has been less of an issue. Needless to say, I still laid up the rental a bit approaching both.
Both spawned from the “New Class”, the 2002 and E9/CSL models were critical to establishing BMW as not only an international brand, but as a serious contender in automotive racing. The styling of these two cars are as good as it gets for me, on both ends of the spectrum: The 2002 is minimal, sleek, and small- while the 3.0 CSL employed much more radical styling, especially the race-bred models, making extensive use of garish aerodynamic bodywork. Both were hugely influential and paved the way for the best selling BMW in history: the ubiquitous 3-Series.
I’ve never had the priveledge of driving a CSL, but my grandmother had an imported 2002tii in lime green when I was a kid, I have awesome memories of drives through Dutchess County in that baseball glove leather interior.
There I was, minding my own business watching Sunday morning football, when these sexy pieces of design snuck up on me. Typically my brain turns off at the first sight of a car commercial, but this 2010 spot for the BMW 3 Series is a breath of fresh air. It’s great to see a company going back to their roots. Interspersed with the requisite this-is-a-car-commercial-and-we-are-driving-on-a-closed-road-that-doesn’t-exist type shots, there is some really terrific graphic design. Watch it on the BMW homepage for the highest quality version I could find (header image 2 of 5).
It’s not the first time BMW has impressed us with their design sensitivity, check out these vintage ads as well.
In keeping with my recentcarkick I thought I’d post these vintage BMW ads. The first one — created as part of BMW’s affiliation with the 1972 Munich Olympics — is vaguely reminiscent of Otl Aicher’s posters. I’m assuming this was no accident. It’s also a big enough file that you could probably get a pretty good print out of it off a nice inkjet (click image to view full size). I really wish more vintage posters like this were available in higher resolutions. With most of this advertising stuff, the owners of the copyrights have no intention of ever printing them again, it’s a shame they can’t be reproduced and enjoyed by more people.
I’ve been geeking out on ’70s supercars lately and came across these gems depicting a BMW concept from 1972. The “E25 BMW Turbo” was commissioned to celebrate the 1972 Munich Olympics. BMW tasked famed automotive designer Paul Bracq to create the concept of which only two were ever built. Honestly, I love the front angles, but not really feeling that rear end. It feels very hatchback/kit-car-ish and the doulbe logos are killing me. Thankfully some of the finer points made it into production in the form of the M1 and some others.
That first shot is just off the charts; in the background you can see BMW’s Munich headquarters which was designed by architect Prof. Karl Schwanzer shortly before his death in 1975. In the other shots you can catch the games tent and the communications tower providing apt backdrops for the Turbo.