Vink Motorsport 483bhp BMW E9 CSL Race Replica
Vink Motorsport has created some stunning cars over the years, and this BMW E9 CSL replica is one of them. We delve behind the scenes of this awesome racing machine.
VINKAND YOU’LLMISS IT… E9 CSL RACER REPLICA
Words and photos: Robb Pritchard
Built over two years from a bare shell by Vink Motorsport, this E9 CSL race replica is an absolutely epic creation that’s no garage queen.
If anyone knows anything about CSLs, it’s how hard it is to find a rust-free shell. The Karmann bodies are sadly notorious for not reacting very well to the elements and winter road treatments. This one was in such good condition as it had been a racing car for many, many years and was then kept in storage. Its pre-Vink history is a little murky, but what is known for certain, is that Italian driver Gianni Giudici, whose career included racing a works Alfa Romeo in the DTM in the early ’90s used it as a hill climb racer in his native Italian mountains. When he moved on to something a little more modern, it was sold to someone in the UK, who kept it stored in a protected environment for a long time but never raced it.
Vink Motorsport had been tasked by a client to build a replica of BMW’s first thoroughbred race car, so when company founder Ton Vink found this, he knew straight away that it was perfect for what they needed so he snapped it up. “The first thing to do was to take it back to the metal,” Ton says, “and this is usually this moment on a CSL shell where you sigh sadly at how much welding and fabricating you will have to do to cover all the rusted holes. But, this one, the more we worked on it, the more we couldn’t believe it. It was like new!” he exclaims triumphantly.
While Giudici had raced it pretty seriously in hill climb championships, it was basically just a road car shell with a rollcage, so needed all the basic preparation work, such as all the seams welding to create more rigidity in the shell, something essential for a racing car. For the Group 2 regulations that the car was being built for, some motorsport-oriented modifications were allowed, and so Ton did the same as BMW engineers had done some 50 years ago. Ton brought in Jan Buijs from a local company called Multitech for the fabrication work, and a lot of expert attention was needed around the wheel arches so that the much wider tyres would be able to fit, but, Vink Motorsport has been building classic racing BMWs for many years, so it was nothing too challenging.
Ton is also rightly proud of the exhaust tunnel, which curves under the bulkhead, over the passenger footwell and out under the door. This is usually done in three parts, as obviously, BMW fabricators wanted to get the car built as quickly and simply as possible. But for this build, Ton had a slightly different philosophy, as he wanted to build it as a show vehicle to demonstrate what Vink Motorsport is capable of. This is why it’s a single piece. Trailing over the floorpan, where the passenger seat would be on a normal road car, it looks like a work of art.
Under the bonnet, there is something special as well. Ton estimates that BMW Motorsport only made around 10 3.5-litre 24-valve M49 engines, so finding an original one is almost like looking for a unicorn. Fortunately, renowned E9 specialist Franz Ostermaier makes reproduction kits for historic racers, which include a much-modified cylinder head, cam carriers and slide throttle system.
The block is from a road car, but with the upgraded components fitted, it now puts out a very healthy 483hp, a very big increase over the original road car’s 206hp, considering that there is no turbo to simply boost the power. It’s also about 20hp more than BMW raced with originally. “The difference is not about tuning,” Ton explains. “It’s simply because the material we use these days is better, and with much more sophisticated machining than they had in the ’70s, we can make everything perfectly balanced, which makes a difference on the dyno. Modern tyres and shock absorbers make a big difference with track times, so the cars are actually quite a bit faster than they were when they first raced.”
The gearbox is a ZF homologated one, fitted with all the correct period ratios. Suspension is provided by Koni, who also made the shocks and springs for the BMW works team 50 years ago. Ton had the same factory drawings that BMW used in the period and got a guy from Koni who specialises in classic cars to fabricate a bespoke set for this car.
The Peter Auto Heritage Cup that the car was built for, is fully sanctioned by FIA, and so the cars have to be very close replicas or the originals. The homologation book Ton has, with all the technical specifications of every component, is very thick. “We built the car exactly to that homologation book, so it’s pretty much a perfect replica. And I am very proud of it,” Ton beams. The rear axle was specially made for Group 2 racing, as well as the rear trailing arms are all as the originals, and, with an aluminium bonnet and boot, it weighs only 1080kg. With Covid slowing some things down and complicating the supply chains of others, it ended up being a two-year build with some 1000 hours put into it, but this stunning car is now seeing action at some of Europe’s most prestigious race tracks. Normally, when a car has just been put together bolt by bolt from scratch, especially when it’s the first of its type the builder has done, set-up and fine-tuning can take multiple race weekends to get completely right. In this regard, the Vink Motorsport CSL far surpassed Ton’s wildest expectations, though. From the very first test when they wheeled it out of the trailer, not even a shock absorber needed adjusting. But although its owner (who would like to remain anonymous) was being careful with it in its first laps, the practice sessions were in changing conditions. On a fast part of the track that had been dry on the previous lap and was now very wet, he went off at high speed. The big front splitter, perfect for creating downforce, suddenly acted as a plough through the gravel trap and was smashed into a few pieces. They didn’t have a spare, and, so after an emergency trip to a local DIY store for a fibreglass repair kit and some heavy-duty tape, they patched it up as best they could… Which is why, despite being brand new, it looks as though it’s been in the wars in our photos.
The only proof of concept for a race car comes on a track with a full grid of rivals, though, and its first event was the first round of the well-attended and prestigious Peter Auto Heritage Touring Cup at the Mugello circuit in Italy. “We have made a certain name for ourselves in the different championships our cars race in, as our E30s and 635s always do well,” Ton says. “But with the CSL, we turned up in Italy with just a van and trailer and were laughing as we parked up next to teams with liveried-up trucks and a fleet of motorhomes. We build very nice, very competitive and reliable cars for our customers, but this is a strong field with professional teams, and as this is our first CSL, we didn’t really know where we’d be. Many more experienced teams have been running CSLs for years and know a lot about these cars, but for us, it’s a new project.”
Practice times and qualifying were promising, gravel trap trip notwithstanding, but not even Ton was expecting the car to finish third overall, and, perhaps even more surprisingly, as best BMW, behind a pair of very fast Ford Capri RS3100s. “We couldn’t believe it. A result like this is always something that you hope for in the back of your mind, but a podium straight out of the garage when we hadn’t even changed a single thing was unbelievable.” They were catching the leading Fords as well, and if the yellow flags hadn’t come out, they might even have done better than third.
The owner then had some lofty aspirations for the championship, but unfortunately, they came to nothing at the next race at the formidable Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The car once again showed its potential and was up in the top five when a contest with a Capri on the same piece of tarmac ended in a really big accident. The car was so heavily damaged that the full strip down and rebuild, as meticulous as the initial build, took several months. This was a bit too long for the owner, and so, while it was still in pieces, he sold it. It stayed in the Vink stable though, and, now, back in absolutely perfect condition, is owned by the Breitmaier family, a father and son team who, in 2024, will take on the same Peter Auto Heritage Cup that the car was racing in this year. And it will still be run and looked after by Vink Motorsports. We’ll be watching this special E9 with interest…
The straight-six makes a very healthy 483bhp. Wide-arch bodywork looks spectacular. Interior features just the essentials needed, along with the necessary safety additions.